What can indicators of good environmental status tell us about ecosystem services?: Reducing efforts and increasing cost-effectiveness by reapplying biodiversity indicator data
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires member states to manage their marine ecosystems with the goal of achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) of all European Seas by 2020. Member states assess GES according to 11 descriptors set out in the MSFD, and their associated indicators.
An ecosystem service approach is increasingly being advocated to ensure sustainable use of the environment, and sets of indicators have been defined for ecosystem service assessments. We considered whether a selection of GES indicators related to biological descriptors, D1 Biodiversity, D2 Non-indigenous species, D4 Food webs and D6 Seafloor integrity, may provide information relevant to ecosystem services, potentially allowing use of collected environmental data for more than one purpose. Published lists of indicators for seven selected marine ecosystem services were compared to 296 biodiversity-related indicators included within the DEVOTOOL catalogue, established for screening marine biodiversity indicators for the MSFD. We concluded that 64 of these biodiversity indicators are directly comparable to the ecosystem service indicators under consideration. All 296 biodiversity indicators were then reassessed objectively to decide which of them could be useful as ecosystem service indicators. To carry out this step in a consistent and transparent manner, guidelines were developed among the co-authors that helped the decision making process for each individual indicator. 247 biodiversity indicators were identified as potentially useful ecosystem service indicators. By highlighting the comparability between ecosystem service and biodiversity indicators it is hoped that future monitoring effort can be used not only to ensure that GES is attained, but also that ecosystem service provision is maximised. It is recommended that these indicators should be tested across EU regional seas to see if they are useful in practice, and if ecosystem service assessments are comparable across regional seas.