Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Oceanography and Coastal Sciences
The ecosystem services (ES) framework is a tool to communicate the value of natural environments to human well-being by monetizing services that natural environments provide to humans. The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan uses the ecosystem services provided by the Mississippi River Delta as rationale for why coastal Louisiana should be protected. Here, I am interested in determining how the ecosystem services framework is used to communicate nature-society relationships in coastal Louisiana. I conducted a meta-analysis and spatial analysis to understand the spatial relationships of ecosystem services in the wetlands of coastal Louisiana. I then conducted a survey of residents of coastal Louisiana to determine how and why people place value on nature and the utility of the ecosystem services framework. The meta-analysis included over 100 ecosystem service valuations for Louisiana wetlands and found that freshwater wetlands provide $11,000 per acre of ES annually, brackish wetlands provide $5,000 per acre annually, and saltwater wetlands provide $12,000 per acre annually. Using ArcGIS Pro to determine the current spatial distribution of ecosystem services, I found that the wetlands in coastal Louisiana provide over $36.26 billion annually. I also used CPRA’s predicted land change data for the next 50 years to estimate how ES provisioning will change under coastal land loss and restoration. I found that a future with coastal restoration will provide a higher level of ES provisioning than a future without coastal restoration. However, in all future scenarios, ES annual provisioning will decrease. Survey results provided an understanding of how one’s relationship to one’s community and nature influenced their value of nature and the use of the ES framework to communicate that value. Specifically, I found that place attachment, community identity, and interactions with the coast and wetlands in Louisiana drive how people place value on nature. Additionally, I found that residents of coastal Louisiana prefer the conceptualization of ES rather than the monetary valuations of ES to communicate that value. By conducting a mixed methodological interdisciplinary study, I determined whether cultural value or economic value of Louisiana’s wetlands resonates more with coastal residents and how that methodology can be used as science communication approaches for policy strategies in the future, specifically with coastal restoration.
van Heerden, Vanessa, "Communicating Nature-Society Relationships in Coastal Louisiana: An Evaluation of the Ecosystem Services Framework" (2023). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 6200.
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