Coastal habitats in the United States provide significant environmental, social, and economic benefits, including shoreline protection, carbon sequestration, food provision, and recreational and cultural services. At the same time, they face substantial threats from coastal development, waste management, overharvesting, dredging and drilling, and climate change. Healthy coastal habitats support resilient coastal communities. They maintain stable shorelines, recreational fishing and boating, fish and shellfish harvest, and cultural heritage. As such, it is essential that we maintain, protect, and restore them.
Coastal habitat health is largely determined by the design, implementation, and enforcement of a unique and interwoven combination of federal, state, and local policies. A dedicated research team made up of Nicholas Institute experts and Duke graduate students is identifying policies that directly or indirectly affect four different coastal habitats (mangrove, oyster reef, salt marsh, and seagrass) in six U.S. states (Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, California, and Washington). The team is assessing the effectiveness of these policies in improving habitat health.
This work will support decision-makers who are wrestling with questions like:
- Which policies are proven to be particularly innovative and effective?
- What are the barriers to improving protection, maintenance, and restoration of coastal habitats?
- How can we draw on lessons in these states when designing policies elsewhere?
This analysis of coastal habitat policy in six US states—California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington—aims to identify promising policy approaches for improved protection and restoration of oyster reefs, mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass.