Economic valuation of Baltic marine ecosystem services: blind spots and limited consistency
Economic valuation of marine ecosystem services in the Baltic Sea region has gained importance, as policy-makers are recognizing their decline and focusing on achieving good environmental status there in terms of, for example, reduced eutrophication. Parallel with this development, several initiatives have been launched, leading to a large number of economic valuation studies. However, current research indicates that neither a common approach to classifying ecosystem services nor a widely accepted methodological framework for assessing their economic value exist yet. This paper seeks to shed light on the current state of the economic valuation of ecosystem services provided by the Baltic Sea through reviewing all currently available empirical studies on the topic. The results indicate that only a few ecosystem services, including recreation and reduction of eutrophication, have been extensively monetarily valued, and still lack cross-study methodological consistency, while many other marine ecosystem services have rarely or never been valued with economic methods. The paper concludes that existing economic valuation studies provide only limited practical guidance for policy-makers intending to improve the environmental status of the Baltic Sea. There is a need for more widely shared agreement on the systematic nature of marine and coastal ecosystem services and especially on a coherent methodological framework for assessing their economic value.