Research Projects 2022-2024

Using natural capital accounting to embed climate impacts into routine decision-making

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Kirsten Oleson
Research Track: Interdisciplinary

A view across mild waters towards built up skyline of Waikiki, while a monk seal basks on the beach
Hawaiian beaches, coastal and marine ecosystems supply substantial services, representing hidden values often overlooked, although this monk seal seems to appreciate them! (Photo: Bix Oliver)

Traditional economic indicators underestimate the value of marine ecosystems, despite their importance to people as sources of food, livelihood, and recreation. This undervaluation often leads to coastal management decisions that endanger sources of prosperity. This project will use natural capital accounting—a method of systematically assessing the economic importance of nature by treating its goods and services as assets—to evaluate how coastal ecosystems contribute to resilience and the Hawaiian economy, with an aim to inform management decision-making related to coastal adaptation and broader economic policy. The team will quantify and map various accounts of the state’s natural assets to rigorously measure economic tradeoffs involved with coastal development and protection measures, and use scenario modeling and targeted policy analyses to identify priority areas for conservation and adaptation interventions. A diverse advisory group, including decision-makers and indigenous knowledge holders, will guide the project. Progress and findings will be disseminated in numerous ways, from formal classroom lessons and peer-to-peer trainings, to scientific presentations and community talks, to online interactive tools and a public platform with materials and data.