Who Benefits from National Estuaries? Applying the FEGS Classification System to Identify Ecosystem Services and their Beneficiaries

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jul 3;16(13):2351. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16132351.


In spite of their perceived value, the widespread implementation of ecosystem services assessments has been limited because of perceptions of being too technical, too expensive, or requiring special expertise. For example, federal estuary management programs have widely used ecosystem services concepts to frame management issues and communicate with stakeholders. Yet, indicators assessed, monitored, and reported in estuarine management still have traditionally focused on ecological conditions, with weak connections, if any, to social or economic outcomes. Approaches are needed which expand the range of ecosystem services that can be considered, link ecosystem services explicitly to different stakeholder groups, facilitate effective communication with economists and other social scientists, and expand the array of available valuation techniques. We applied the concept of final ecosystem goods and services to review the broad suite of ecosystem services and their beneficiaries relevant to the management of two federal programs for estuary management, the National Estuary Program (NEP) and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). The Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Classification System provided a structured framework for connecting ecosystem services to their beneficiaries and the environments providing them. Document analysis of management plans assessed the degree to which these programs consider ecosystem services, their beneficiaries, and habitats within the estuarine watershed. The hierarchical list of final ecosystem goods and services generated from document analysis serves as a tool for defining management goals, identifying stakeholders, developing meaningful indicators, and conducting valuation studies in estuarine management planning efforts. Though developed here for estuarine management, the keyword hierarchy and final ecosystem goods and services approach have broad applicability and transferability to other environmental management scenarios.

Keywords: beneficiaries; document analysis; estuary management; final ecosystem goods and services.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem*
  • Estuaries / classification*
  • Humans