Embedding climate impacts into routine decision-making by applying natural capital accounting

Waves wash up a golden beach where two Monk seals sleep, with the Waikiki skyline in the distance
Hawai’i’s beautiful coastlines contribute to the local economy in many disparate ways, including the natural ecosystem services they provide, that all need to be accounted for in management decision making. (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.





Kirsten Oleson
Associate Professor of Ecological Economics, UH Mānoa


Louis Chua
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, UH Mānoa