Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
February 2020

GEMS Phase I Report: Oyster Reef Restoration


Billions of dollars will be spent on large-scale restoration of Gulf ecosystems over the coming decades, but there is no shared platform to guide assessment and reporting of restoration progress and effectiveness for the broad set of environmental, social, and economic goals shared by the many institutions working in the Gulf. The diversity of these goals—including habitat restoration, water quality improvement, marine resource protection, community resilience, and economic revitalization—means that a variety of metrics are needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of restoration projects. A set of common models and metrics relevant across projects, programs, and locations can facilitate effective project planning and evaluation. While there are existing efforts to collate and standardize ecological and biophysical metrics for Gulf restoration projects (GOMA Monitoring Community of Practice; NRDA Monitoring and Adaptive Management Manual), there is no current effort to do the same for the social, economic, and human well-being outcomes of restoration. This project aims to do that. 

The GEMS (Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Service Logic Models and Socio-Economic Indicators) project aims to advance standardized metrics of restoration success by developing ecosystem service logic models (ESLMs) with stakeholders from the five Gulf states, relevant federal agencies, and technical experts. ESLMs trace the effects of restoration strategies as they influence ecological and social systems to create outcomes that are important to people. The use of logic models is recommended by the National Academies of Science as best practice for monitoring plan design; these models can provide a practical and transferable approach for measuring success at different scales.

The GEMS team will develop ESLMs and metrics for a wide range of coastal restoration approaches over the course of the project. This report presents the results of the first phase of the GEMS project, which focused on oyster reef restoration. 

The Phase II report of the GEMS project identifies metrics available to monitor the social and economic outcomes of a wide variety of coastal projects funded in the Gulf, using ESLMs to illustrate how these projects’ impacts cascade through the biophysical system to result in social and economic outcomes.