Project Report:
Decision Support Tools to Protect Valued Ecosystem Services
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The purpose of this project is to solicit additional stakeholder input in refining our newly created Ecosystem Services Value (ESV) decision support tool that will help people around the bay balance ecological, social and economic considerations when participating in marine management and land use decisions that may impact the bay. We plan to create an online version of the decision support tool development process and reach out to stakeholders who have not yet provided input into the model. Additional input will strengthen the ESV tool and generate more buy in to the model. Then, we will develop one case study to test the efficacy of the decision support tool. By contributing input into the model and seeing how it is applied in a community context, people will be more likely to use the tool for decision making in the future.


We solicited additional stakeholder input in refining our newly created Ecosystem Services Value (ESV) decision support tool by hosting an additional stakeholder meeting on June 2nd, 2015 in Hancock, Maine. Hancock is one of the 8 municipalities that participate in our Frenchman Bay Partners initiative. By hosting this meeting in Hancock, we were able to reach business owners on the other side of the bay who had not been previously engaged with us in bay planning or identifying and prioritizing ecosystems services.

We conducted a pre-meeting survey and found that the six respondents highly valued a number of listed ecosystem services including:

• Presence of flora that prevents flooding and erosion to residential and commercial property owners.
• Water that provides opportunities for the use of boats (motorized and non-motorized) for recreation.
• Presence of the environment and flora and fauna that provide landscape for hiking and bird watching.
• Presence of the environment for providing basis of business operations (i.e. eco-tourism, diving, etc).
• Flora and fauna (i.e. edible seafood like fish, clams, mussels, lobsters) that are used for commercial use or sale.

The survey revealed that these same respondents believe it is likely or highly likely that each of the following environmental services will suffer noticeable declines in the next 20 years from human actions:

• Viewscapes
• Presence of the environment
• Fish
• Fauna (including animals and wildlife)
• Flora (including plants like flowers, trees, crops, etc)
• Water quality

The survey also revealed that respondents believe that the beneficiaries of ecosystem services in Frenchman Bay includes just about everyone:

• Outdoor enthusiasts
• Subsistence harvesters
• Visitors/tourists
• Local residents
• Local government and municipalities
• Industry
• Local businesses
• Fishermen

We gave the survey participants the opportunity to practice making choices about alternative future scenarios using trade-off questions, to prepare them for their stakeholder meeting on June 2nd. In all, 29 people participated in this stakeholder meeting, including 20 representatives of commercial and non-profit businesses and 9 facilitators.

Participants at the June 2nd, 2015 meeting were primarily members of the commercial business community on the Hancock side of Frenchman Bay. The group prioritized forest buffers along streams as the most important terrestrial ecosystem service, and marine biodiversity as the most important ecosystem service provided by Frenchman Bay, similar to results from the Walker Foundation funded November 12th, 2014 and November 13th, 2014 stakeholder meetings. All three stakeholder groups gave top priority to the same two “slices of the pie” for terrestrial ecosystem services (forested buffers and freshwater wetlands). For aquatic ecosystem services, marine harvesting, marine biodiversity, and water quality were most important for all three groups.

The priorities set by focus groups like these can be used at a later date to discuss possible futures, given a development or planning scenario where the future of Frenchman Bay could be impacted.

In evaluations of stakeholders after the meeting, three respondents thought that the Ecosystem Services Value (ESV) decision support tool could be effectively used on line, another was unsure, and one thought it was too confusing of a process to be used on line.

We are evaluating whether we want to proceed with the current version of the decision support tool, or look at other decision support tools that would also engage increasing numbers of partners and help us make good decisions for the ecologic and economic future of Frenchman Bay.

We plan to work closely with our University of Maine collaborators in Environmental Economics to explore options as we move forward with ESV-decision support tool development.

We are fortunate that our former AmeriCorps Environmental Steward, Emma Fox, decided to go to graduate school at University of Maine and major in Environmental Economics. To help us decide on next steps, she is exploring the use of the Ecosystem Service Values (ESV) participatory model for stakeholder engagement and providing feedback about the practicality of ESV in decision-support to the Frenchman Bay Partners. In this mixed-method case study she is reviewing process artifacts from our November 2014 and June 2015 stakeholder workshops (e-mails, invitations, pre-event survey data and post-event evaluations) and researcher observation notes, to make deductions based on converging evidence and participant perceptions (from participant evaluation responses). She is also interviewing key stakeholder participants to further explore perceptions about the ESV workshops. In her thesis work (which will be completed in December 2016), she plans to discuss the case study evidence both as a critical contribution to existing ESV literature and in the context of decision-support tool creation for the purpose of engaging stakeholders. We have generated a unique process for stakeholder engagement here on Frenchman Bay. Because we are working with researchers and graduate students at University of Maine, this process is being thoroughly examined through an academic lens and will be available in the research literature for others to use as guidance and implementation of best practice.

In addition, we contracted with Margaret Snell, a recent graduate from University of Maine in Environmental Economics, to review the existing ESV decision support tools in light of their applicability to a stakeholder engagement process and make a recommendation for the Frenchman Bay Partners on the most appropriate and useful decision support tool for our purposes (see uploaded report). There is a 2013 review article by Bagstad et al. in the journal Ecosystem Services entitled "A comparative assessment of decision-support tools for ecosystem services quantification and valuation". Margaret will work with Emma Fox to write a parallel paper for this journal, that will assess these tools in light of their capacity to involve stakeholders in decision making.

Frenchman Bay Partners have identified an issue on Frenchman Bay for which we plan to use an ESV decision-support tool approach for stakeholder engagement. That issue is the harvesting of rockweed. Rockweed landings in Maine have risen from less than 4 million pounds a decade ago to more than 15 million pounds in each of the past two years. With a total estimated value of $20 million per year, rockweed is one of Maine’s most valuable marine resources. It is also important habitat for a variety of marine organisms, and plays a role in carbon cycling in the bay. There is a Canadian company that has started harvesting in Frenchman Bay. We hosted an informational meeting with a panel of experts in the biology, ecology economics and legality of harvesting rockweed on April 2nd, 2016. Industry representatives were involved. We produced a technical report on Rockweed (see uploaded report). Frenchman Bay Partners held their annual meeting on May 21, 2016 and voted to add Rockweed to the Frenchman Bay Plan as a conservation target and will be developing goals and strategies in the coming months.


Investigate Causes of Economic Imbalances:
Economic imbalances exist in Frenchman Bay where eelgrass habitat has been lost, mudflats are closed due to pollution, benthic (bottom) habitats have been disrupted, and fish runs have been impeded. An important step toward correcting imbalances is engaging stakeholders in identifying ecosystem services and their values and in discussing market-based systems to efficiently sustain these values.

Explore and Develop Market-Based Solutions:
We plan to solicit additional input into an Ecosystem Services Values (ESV) decision support tool for Frenchman Bay. We will target diverse stakeholders who have not previously been involved with Frenchman Bay Partners, in particular, those who benefit most from the bay’s ecosystem services, so that they will have investment in the ESV tool and be likely to use it to make decisions. We will pilot the tool with one community planning project that is likely to result in conservation actions.


We propose to work with diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors of the community (business, education, research, conservation) to apply our ESV tool in a real-world context. The geographic scope of this project is the entire Frenchman Bay watershed; therefore, we will be engaging stakeholders in the eight towns surrounding the bay as well as towns further up in the watershed. The scope of this second year includes three steps: 1) Creating an online version of the ESV tool development process in order to reach more people 2) Recruiting additional stakeholders to identify and prioritize ecosystem services using the online process, leading to a more robust ESV tool. 3) Testing the model in a community context thus creating a case study to help educate the public about potential applications of the ESV tool and the importance of their input to community decision-making.

Information Dissemination

We have created an updated technical report on all of our work to date in developing and implementing an ESV-Values Decision Support Tool for Frenchman Bay. It can be found on our Frenchman Bay Partner website (url below). We continue to communicate with partners, now 92 strong, using social media, such as FaceBook and Instagram. We have been participating in local science symposia, like the Maine Water Conference, the Acadia National Park Science Symposium, and the Down East Research and Education Network (DEREN) Conference called Convergence.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$30,000.00 on 6/5/2015 (Check sent: 7/13/2015)

  Related Organizations
MDI Biological Laboratory  

Frenchman Bay Partners Annual Meeting 2015

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Rockweed on the coast of Maine
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Review of Ecosystem Services Valuation Tools (PDF)
Rockweek Meeting Report (PDF)

159 Old Bar Harbor Road
Bar Harbor , ME 04609

After driving onto Mt. Desert Island, bear left to stay on Route 3. Drive about 4 miles, then turn left onto Old Bar Harbor Road at sign for the Lab. Turn left again onto Biol Lab Road and continue straight to parking area.

(207) 288-9880 ext 125


Dr. Jane Disney
Eelgrass Project Co-Manager
Judy Sproule
Deputy Director of Development, Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratory

Posted 3/20/2015 12:37 PM
Updated   10/11/2016 12:59 PM

  • Nonprofit

Rockweed on the coast of Maine
Harvesting rockweed on the coast of Maine is the subject of much debate. It provides valued ecosystem services; a decision support tool will be used to prioritize those services in an up-coming stakeholder meeting.

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