Gulf Islands Case Study

Full Title: Decision support for multi-species coastal habitat management on properties with multi-use objectives

The objective of the proposed project is to provide a transparent decision support framework to make optimal recommendations for listed species with conflicting habitat needs while also considering landowner objectives using a case study at the Gulf Islands National Seashore complex.

Lead Investigator: Sara Zeigler, United States Geological Survey, szeigler@usgs.gov

Natural Resource Manager: Patty Kelly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Project Team: James Flocks, Julien Martin, Davina Passeri, and Simeon Yurek (U.S. Geological Survey) 

Collaborators: Raya Pruner and Emily Evans (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission); Kelly Irick (National Park Service – Gulf Islands National Seashore);  and Summer Waters (Florida Park Service—Panhandle Region)

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (frank.parker@noaa.gov)

Award Amount: $97,200

Award Period: This project began in September 2021 and will end in August 2022.

Why it matters: Following historic hurricane seasons, many landowners throughout the Gulf of Mexico—including project partners from the National Park Service Gulf Islands National Seashore—are faced with a complex suite of decisions regarding where to rebuild coastal roads and other infrastructure, where to place overwashed sediments cleared from roads and parking lots, and where to plant native vegetation that would improve dune stability and beach mice habitat. Project partners, including Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, desire a framework that allows them to make recommendations regarding restoration projects and their impacts on federally and state-listed species like sea turtles, beach mice, and shorebirds in a manner that is sensitive to landowner needs and conflicting species-specific habitat needs. 

What the team is doing: The project team will work together through a structured decision-making (SDM) process, where stakeholder objectives, mandates, values, preferences, and risk attitudes will be clearly articulated. Potential alternatives to activities related to road realignment and/or dune restoration projects will be identified, and the team will quantify likely consequences associated with each alternative activity for each species. Strategies in the SDM toolkit will be used to identify tradeoffs and optimal decisions. The resulting prototype decision support framework will be used by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue recommendations that promote habitat restoration and preservation for beach mice, sea turtles, and shorebirds while considering the objectives of National Park Service staff at Gulf Islands. 
Expected outcome: Partners on this project will seek a transparent decision-making process that allows them to improve/minimize negative impacts on listed sea turtle, beach mice, and shorebird species in designs of road realignment and/or dune restoration projects at Gulf Islands National Seashore. The project is designed to support the short-term, post-hurricane case study decision(s) at Gulf Islands, while also providing a generalized framework that could be used to support future long-term decisions related to sea level rise and climate change.