Watershed Ecosystem Service Research

Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment is working closely with researchers at Dartmouth College to develop and implement a method for evaluating and valuing the ecosystem services (benefits from nature provided to humans) provided by New Hampshire’s Watersheds. We are also collaborating closely with aquatic science modelers at the University of New Hampshire to connect the latest models and science with economic and social data and conditions. This exciting and interdisciplinary challenge is combining that latest research in ecological economics to develop an investigative process that is community based and involves key stakeholders throughout the study. Some of the broad research questions we are interested in exploring are:

  • How do New Hampshire residents & visitors use and value various water related ecosystem services?
  • What are the tradeoffs among watershed & terrestrial ecosystem services?
  • How can non-economic ecosystem services be valued?
  • How do various land use scenarios impact watershed ecosystem services?


We are employing a variety of research tools and methods to explore these questions as well as others that are generated through the stakeholder process. Our approach includes:

  • We are looking at particular ecosystem services in particular places.
  • Our mixed methods approach places an emphasis on valuation through participatory and regional case studies throughout the state. This includes interviews, workshop/focus groups, and surveys,
  • Economic data calculation may be done with existing models and approaches (e.g., avoided costs, benefit transfer).
  • We hope to utilize multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) to compare stakeholder values and management alternatives.
  • We may collaborate with the Natural Capital Project & experimentation with InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services & Tradeoffs) software.
  • Our overall emphasis is on generating processes and data that will be useful for decision makers.

Additional areas of interest include:

  • Incorporating social and cultural values into ecosystem service valuation studies
  • Integrating ecosystem services into natural resource management decisions
  • Evaluating the role of social capital and social networks in managing for watershed ecosystem services
  • Viewshed valuation

NH’s Citizens Value & Use Water in Many Ways


Case Study Outcomes:

  • Great Bay Estuary from Great Bay Discovery Center in Greenland, NH. Photo by Chelsea Berg

    Great Bay Estuary from Great Bay Discovery Center in Greenland, NH. Photo by Chelsea Berg

    Great Bay: New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary is a valuable resource that provides a host of ecosystem services, the goods and services that nature provides humans. It is one of the 28 estuaries of National significance recognized in the Clean Water Act. Visitors and residents benefit from the healthy estuary socially, ecologically, and economically. Unfortunately, the health of the Great Bay Estuary is declining, and the publicly owned wastewater treatment plants in the watershed are facing the costs of upgrading facilities to the limits of technological innovation in order to reduce nitrogen loads into the estuary. We modeled and valued the amount of nitrogen that land conservation efforts across the watershed could remove under stakeholder-driven future scenarios.

  • WorkbookMtg_JLoosConnecticut River Upper Valley: Inland flooding is one of the most damaging natural hazard events each year in New Hampshire and the United States, the risk of which can be influenced by changes in land use and climate. Initiatives toward climate adaptation are increasingly interested in the use of ecosystem provided capital and infrastructure in preparing for climate impacts such as flooding. While ecosystem-based adaptation offers a new way of responding and preparing for future flood, little is known on how stakeholders perceive ecosystem-based alternatives versus more traditional built options. Through the use of stakeholder engaged decision scenarios and a multi-criteria framework for decision analysis, we aim to understand what drives preferences for flood mitigation and adaptation alternatives and the perceived value of ecosystem-based projects in these selections. This was completed through a four-step process that included: 1) Identification of issues and stakeholder groups, 2) Stakeholder engagement and value gathering, 3) Construction of decision scenarios and project matrices, and 4) Workshop implementation and evaluation.Results: We find that attributes of effectiveness and environmental impact are most important to consider in comparing flood mitigation and adaptation alternatives by stakeholders we engaged with. While ecosystem services are not always the most highly valued attributes of different alternatives, we found strong preference for some ecosystem-based flood mitigation and adaptation methods such as soft-bank stabilization techniques and wetland conservation. We conclude that for ecosystem-based flood preparation options to be selected at the municipal level, they must be demonstrably effective and technically achievable. Lasting impacts and experiences from recent and highly damaging flood events in New Hampshire and Vermont are thought to be playing a determining role in motivating stakeholders to value effectiveness of flood mitigation and adaptation efforts. This methodology is relevant and reproducible for many types of local decision makers across the United States and abroad.
  • Squam Lakes: Information coming soon!

For further information, please contact Dr. Shannon H. Rogers, assistant professor.

Contact Us

Contact Us

January 9th, 2013 by Michael

Center for the Environment

Plymouth State University
Samuel Read Hall Building, 2nd Floor
MSC #63, 17 High Street
Plymouth, NH 03264

phone (603) 535-3179
fax (603) 535-3004