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Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Interest in using ecosystem services to integrate considerations of people and the environment continues to grow in federal agencies. One method that can help agencies incorporate ecosystem services into decision making is the use of ecosystem services conceptual models, which link changes in biophysical systems caused by an intervention to socio-economic and human well-being outcomes. Evidence-based ecosystem services conceptual models can provide efficiency and consistency in application, transitioning ecosystem services from an interesting concept to an actionable approach for natural resource management. Despite the potential usefulness of these models, there are few examples available to build from and little published detail on how to implement them. This report provides an illustrative ecosystem services conceptual model for salt marsh restoration at National Estuarine Research Reserve System sites. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, which is closely associated with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, wants to protect and restore coastal ecosystems while reinforcing local social and cultural systems. Developed by staff at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the ecosystem services conceptual model captures the potential outcomes of a salt marsh habitat restoration. An accompanying evidence library provides a summary of the currently available evidence for each relationship in the model and an assessment of the strength of that evidence.