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Valuing Our Waters: Ecological Restoration and the Hudson / Raritan Estuary

Valuing Our Waters
Reported by
Sandra Valle

Posted August 21, 2007


An ongoing ecological restoration project is underway in the Hudson–Raritan estuary, a large, semi-enclosed coastal body of water near New York City. On June 26, 2007, the Academy's Environmental Sciences Section considered this effort as an example of the complicated process of planning and evaluating ecological restoration, conservation, and pollution prevention projects.

Philosophies of ecological restoration vary depending on whether or not humans are considered to be part of the natural system and to what baseline an environment should be restored. Speakers suggested that in urban environments where humans are irreversibly a part of the natural habitat, restoration projects should have as their goal the design and improvement of the environment for the mutual benefit of nature and humans.

The talks emphasized the value of open consultation among stakeholders to define ecosystem targets and set performance metrics. They also stressed the value of ecological economics, a multidisciplinary field that addresses the dynamic interdependence between human economies and natural ecosystems that may not typically be valued in the marketplace. Speakers discussed efforts to define performance metrics for specific environmental problems in the Hudson-Raritan estuary, including nitrogen and oxygen pollution in Jamaica Bay, and high mercury levels in the New York/New Jersey Harbor.


This conference and eBriefing were made possible with support from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Web Sites

Cornell University Center for the Environment
The CFE specializes in crafting interdisciplinary collaborations among scientists and professors from Cornell and partnering institutions to apply new knowledge to environmental problems and needs around the world. At this Web site you can access the report Setting Targets for the Restoration of the Hudson–Raritan Estuary.

Earth Economics
Earth Economics is an organization that develops and uses economic tools to support projects and policies designed to protect and restore ecosystems and local economies.

Environmental Valuation & Cost Benefit News
EVCB News covers legal, academic, and regulatory developments pertaining to the valuation of environmental resources including the method for cost benefit valuation and the results of empirical studies.

Global Restoration Network
The GRN is offered by the Society for Ecological Restoration International and offers a database and Web-based portal to hard-to-find information on all aspects of restoration. GRN's mission is to link restoration projects, research, and practitioners in order to foster the creative exchange of experience, vision, and expertise.

Gund Institute for Ecological Economics
Located at the University of Vermont, the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics conducts research and develops programs on ecological economics.

The Handbook of Ecological Restoration: Volume 2 Restoration in Practice
This section of the handbook provides information on restoration and policy as it pertains to the Americas, with particular reference to the United States. For a sample chapter click here (PDF, 244 KB).

Jamaica Bay Research and Management Information Network
The JBRMIN is a repository for all research activities concerning Jamaica Bay. For more information, see the report Planning for Jamaica Bay's Future: Final Recommendations on the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan.

Society for Ecological Restoration
SER is a nonprofit organization that unites ecological restoration practitioners, and encourages research and awareness of ecological restoration management.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Principles for the Ecological Restoration of Aquatic Resources
The EPA provides general scientific and technical guiding principles for the various stages of ecological restoration.

U.S. Society of Ecological Economics
The USSEE represents academia, government agencies, businesses, nonprofit organizations, grassroots organizations, elected government officials, and concerned individuals in the field of ecological economics. The USEE holds a biannual conference on the topic of ecological economics.


Mark Bain, PhD

Cornell University
e-mail | web site

Mark Bain is director of the Center for the Environment and an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University. He uses quantitative approaches including statistics, modeling, and biological assessment to address issues of environmental conflicts, watershed management, and international conservation environmental management issues, particularly in relationship to aquatic biology. His taxonomic specializations are fish and benthic invertebrates with major system expertise concentrated on lakes, streams, and estuaries. His current research examines (i) structure and development of bay and lagoon ecosystems around Lake Ontario, (ii) behavior and ecology of sturgeon, (iii) watershed scale environmental planning, (iv) methods for assessing biotic status of aquatic and wetland habitats, and (v) impacts to the Hudson River caused by the World Trade Center destruction. Bain completed his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Brad Sewell, JD

Natural Resources Defense Council

Brad Sewell is a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council and cochair of the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan.

Marta A. Panero, PhD

The New York Academy of Sciences

Marta Panero is director for the Industrial Ecology, Pollution Prevention, and the New York / New Jersey Harbor Project of the New York Academy of Sciences. Shereceived her PhD in economics from the New School for Social Research with a concentration in sustainable economic development and environmental economics. Her work focuses on tracking down pollutants through a regional economy and the receiving environment, and she is particularly interested in technologies and practices leading to pollution prevention. Panero is a long-time steering committee member of the Environmental Sciences Section of the Academy, and in this role she has organized panels to explore the benefits and challenges of applying various technologies, for example at wastewater treatment plants (for nitrogen capture). Panero has presented at regional, national, and international conferences and has taught various classes, including as an adjunct professor of industrial ecology at the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department of Columbia University.

Sandra Valle

Sandra Valle received an MS in Energy and Environmental Analysis from Boston University. After graduating, she assisted the economics department at the University de las Americas in Mexico with a Willingness-to-Pay Study. Her career has centered on energy efficiency and sustainable design research. She is currently a research associate for the Harbor Project at the New York Academy of Sciences.


This conference and eBriefing were made possible with support from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.