Removal and Restoration: Social, Economic and Ecological Dynamics of Invasive Spartina in San Francisco Bay

Many invasive species have strong negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function and attempts to control or reverse their spread can be costly and require coordination among multiple institutions. This project integrates biological, mathematical, economic and political science tools to answer several critical and interrelated questions surrounding the invasive and high impact Eastern Smooth Cordgrass, Spartina spp, in San Francisco Bay. Two ways in which human intervention can mitigate the impact are to eradicate the invader and to restore the habitat. This is a complex problem with spatial linkages arising from the biology and impact of Spartina, and the spatial mosaic of governing agencies and responsible authorities. The project will focus on three questions: 1) What are the dynamics of eradication of an invasive species and subsequent restoration? 2) How can a program of eradication of an invasive species and subsequent restoration be designed taking into account both economics and ecology? 3) How do eradication and restoration policies depend on collective action on the part of multiple governmental and non-governmental stakeholders? This project will develop general models that will apply to a wide range of systems where an invasive species can have long lasting effects on the biotic and abiotic environment and to a much wider range of natural systems which are affected by humans and in which potential irreversibilities can occur.

The eradication of invasive Spartina is one of the top priorities recently identified in the West Coast Governor's Agreement on Ocean Health, which provides a mandate for its eradication from the Pacific Coast by 2018. The project will provide specific guidance for control and restoration efforts in San Francisco Bay, and in other west coast estuaries, and will provide interdisciplinary research training for several graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Outreach will provide information to the public about Spartina and invasive species more generally. The tools developed and lessons learned can be applied broadly to the wide range of ecosystem management projects with feedbacks between natural and human systems, including invasive species management, fisheries, endangered species protection, forest management, and the provision of ecosystem services more broadly.

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