As part of their strategy to meet total maximum daily load restrictions in the Chesapeake Bay, managers have developed nutrient trading markets to curb nitrogen and phosphorus flows into the estuarine system. Historically, nutrient trading programs have been restricted to credits between point sources or for agricultural mitigation technologies, such as the planting of cover crops. However, the denitrification and nutrient sequestration associated with oyster reefs has recently been a topic of much biological research. We investigate the role that nutrient credits for ecosystem services provided by restored oyster reefs can play in optimally managing oyster reef complexes by developing a coupled bioeconomic model of oyster reef growth and harvest. Our findings suggest that, along with harvest, the regulating services of denitrification and nutrient sequestration lead to positive net benefits in a majority of scenarios analyzed, although local environmental conditions play a prominent role in the ultimate outcomes.
JEL Codes: Q22, Q57, Q53.