Using Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis to Value Shallow Water Ecosystem Services in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator:

Fellow: Megan Munkacsy

Start/End Year:

2020 - 2022


University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science


Strategic focus area:

Resilient communities and economies


In the Chesapeake Bay, resource managers are currently struggling with how to develop policy to inform aquaculture (AQ) industry expansion while supporting environmental Bay goals. Specifically, the recent expansion of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) into and near oyster AQ leases is creating tension between definitions of Bay resilience. To inform policy decisions that consider ecosystem service values, I propose applying a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) of in-water and nearshore ecosystem services in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Through this analysis, stakeholder values associated with the Bay will be incorporated into a hierarchical decision support framework that integrates ecological and economic models to evaluate management options, including AQ regulation alternatives and near-shore spatial planning. The project will use pre-established, field tested models to project biophysical outcomes of policies and then produce a matrix of policy outcomes quantified via stakeholder weights. From this process, a geospatial decision tool representing policy alternatives (e.g., area restrictions), expected service outcomes, and stakeholder benefits will be developed and shared with policymakers. This approach will allow policymakers to visualize benefits of alternative spatial planning policies in terms of tradeoffs among user groups to promote policies that balance in-water activities, including AQ.

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