It has been 20 years since two seminal publications about ecosystem services came out: an edited book by Gretchen Daily and an article in Nature by a group of ecologists and economists on the value of the world’s ecosystem services. Both of these have been very highly cited and kicked off an explosion of research, policy, and applications of the idea, including the establishment of this journal. This article traces the history leading up to these publications and the subsequent debates, research, institutions, policies, on-the-ground actions, and controversies they triggered. It also explores what we have learned during this period about the key issues: from definitions to classification to valuation, from integrated modelling to public participation and communication, and the evolution of institutions and governance innovation. Finally, it provides recommendations for the future. In particular, it points to the weakness of the mainstream economic approaches to valuation, growth, and development. It concludes that the substantial contributions of ecosystem services to the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature should be at the core of the fundamental change needed in economic theory and practice if we are to achieve a societal transformation to a sustainable and desirable future.
Ecosystem Services and Uses
This work carries out a landscape analysis for the last 60 years to compare the degree of preservation of two areas on the same Italian coastline characterized by different environmental protection levels: a National designated protected areas and a highly tourist coastal destination. The conversion of natural land-covers into human land uses were detected for protected and unprotected coastal stretches highlighting that the only establishment of a protected area is not enough to stem undesirable land-use outcomes. A survey analysis was also conducted to assess attitudes of beach users and to evaluate their perception of natural habitats, beach and coastal water quality, and coastal dynamic over time. The results of 2071 questionnaires showed that there is similarity between subjective and objective data. However, several beach users perceived a bad quality of coastal water in the legally unprotected coastal area. The implications from a planning and management perspective are discussed.
Artificial reefs are increasingly being used around the globe to attract recreational divers, for both environmental and commercial reasons. This paper examines artificial coral reefs as recreational ecosystem services (RES) by evaluating their attractiveness and effectiveness and by examining divers' attitudes toward them. An online survey targeted at divers in Israel (n = 263) indicated that 35% of the dives in Eilat (a resort city on the shore of the Red Sea) take place at artificial reefs. A second study monitored divers' behavior around the Tamar artificial reef, one of the most popular submerged artificial reefs in Eilat, and juxtaposed it with divers' activities around two adjacent natural reefs. Findings show that the average diver density at the artificial reef was higher than at the two nearby natural knolls and that the artificial reef effectively diverts divers from natural knolls. A third study that examined the attitudes towards natural vs. artificial reefs found that the artificial reefs are considered more appropriate for training, but that divers feel less relaxed around them. By utilizing the RES approach as a framework, the study offers a comprehensive methodology that brings together the aesthetic, behavioral, and attitudinal aspects in terms of which artificial reefs can be evaluated.
The recent years have witnessed a rise in interest in the ocean economy. To cover a more sustainable dimension, terms such as ‘blue economy’ and ‘blue growth’ have been coined, and are increasingly used in international contexts and academic literature. However, there are no generally accepted definitions of these ‘blue’ concepts. In particular, it is not clear what connotation of sustainability and what role of natural environment is linked to these terms. The objective of this study is to retrace the meaning of the concepts of blue economy and blue growth and include them in a coherent environmental accounting framework. Starting from the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting of the United Nations, a set of assumptions is proposed to link blue economy/growth and ecosystem services, including the creation of an adjusted measure of value added, while considering the depletion and degradation of the environment and the value of non-market benefits provided by the ecosystem. Finally, an example of this approach in the case of the Mediterranean Sea is presented.
This paper reviews literature on aesthetics and describes the development of vista and landscape aesthetics models. Spatially explicit variables were chosen to represent physical characteristics of natural landscapes that are important to aesthetic preferences. A vista aesthetics model evaluates the aesthetics of natural landscapes viewed from distances of more than 1000 m, and a landscape aesthetics model evaluates the aesthetic value of wetlands and forests within 1000 m from the viewer. Each of the model variables is quantified using spatially explicit metrics on a pixel-specific basis within EcoAIM™, a geographic information system (GIS)–based ecosystem services (ES) decision analysis support tool. Pixel values are “binned” into ranked categories, and weights are assigned to select variables to represent stakeholder preferences. The final aesthetic score is the weighted sum of all variables and is assigned ranked values from 1 to 10. Ranked aesthetic values are displayed on maps by patch type and integrated within EcoAIM. The response of the aesthetic scoring in the models was tested by comparing current conditions in a discrete area of the facility with a Development scenario in the same area. The Development scenario consisted of two 6-story buildings and a trail replacing natural areas. The results of the vista aesthetic model indicate that the viewshed area variable had the greatest effect on the aesthetics overall score. Results from the landscape aesthetics model indicate a 10% increase in overall aesthetics value, attributed to the increase in landscape diversity. The models are sensitive to the weights assigned to certain variables by the user, and these weights should be set to reflect regional landscape characteristics as well as stakeholder preferences. This demonstration project shows that natural landscape aesthetics can be evaluated as part of a nonmonetary assessment of ES, and a scenario-building exercise provides end users with a tradeoff analysis in support of natural resource management decisions.
Tropical countries have island and continental ecosystems of great value for tourism, fisheries and also for their conservation development potential. These natural habitats, including among other beaches, seagrass beds, mangrove forests and coral reefs can dissipate wave energy acting as barriers against high waves and high water levels to eventually protect coastal infrastructure and communities. However, in recent decades, they have been subject to strong anthropic pressure and extreme events due to natural causes as well as to climate change. Therefore, the global trend is to understand the eco-systemic services that these natural environments can provide and their economic value in terms of reducing damages caused by coastal erosion and flooding. A methodological framework is presented in order to quantify the impact of natural ecosystems in coastal protection and their environmental assessment based on numerical models available in the literature. In addition to the methodology, a study of a typical Caribbean fringing coral reef and its response to different sea level rise and extreme events scenarios was conducted. The contribution of these efforts from a technological and scientific point of view, lies in the integration of different disciplines required to combine the physical properties of hydrodynamic studies with biological factors as an input to provide practical socio-economic and environmental solutions in those regions in which these ecosystems predominate. Furthermore, a numerical modeling tool to study wave energy dissipation, focusing the analysis on the impact of natural ecosystems (coral reefs) on coastal erosion and flooding was implemented. This information will help coastal managers and decision-makers understand the coastal protection services provided by nearshore habitats in order to improve and design new coastal development strategies under global change scenarios.
Portfolio selection is a flexible tool that can be used to support natural resource decision-making to optimize provision of ecosystem services. The natural resource portfolio literature includes applications in fisheries, forestry, agriculture, spatial planning, invasive pest and disease surveillance, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity conservation, among others. We contribute to this growing literature by proposing a set of essential questions to guide the development and implementation of empirical portfolios for natural resource management that deal with (1) the nature and objectives of the portfolio manager, (2) the definition of assets to be included in the portfolio, (3) the way in which returns and risk are measured and distributed, and (4) the definition of constraints in the programming problem. The approach is illustrated using landings data from the Colombian Pacific, a data limited fishery, to set catch limits in fisheries at the ecosystem level. We also develop a set of constraints in the programming problem to simulate potential policy options regarding resource sustainability and social equity. The resulting efficient catch portfolios can be used to optimize the flow of provisioning ecosystem services from this fishery.
Marine and coastal ecosystems are among the most productive environments in the world and their stocks of natural capital offer a bundle of vital ecosystem services. Anthropogenic pressure seriously threatens health and long-term sustainability of marine environments. For these reasons, integrated approaches capable of combining ecological and socio-economic aspects are needed to achieve nature conservation and sustainability targets. In this study, the value of natural capital of the Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area (EI-MPA) was assessed through a biophysical and trophodynamic environmental accounting model. The emergy value of both autotrophic and heterotrophic natural capital stocks was calculated for the main habitats of the EI-MPA. Eventually, the emergy value of natural capital was converted into monetary units to better communicate its importance to local managers and policy-makers. The total value of natural capital in the EI-MPA resulted in 1.12·1021 sej, equivalent to about 1.17 billion of euros. In addition, using Marxan software, the results of the environmental accounting were integrated with spatial data on main human uses. This integration took into account the trade-offs between conservation measures and human exploitation by means of two different scenarios, with and without considering human uses in the EI-MPA. The comparison between the scenarios highlighted the importance of taking into account human activities in marine spatial planning (MSP), allowing the identification of key areas for natural capital conservation. In conclusion, this study showed the importance of integrating environmental accounting with conservation planning to support effective strategies for ecological protection and sustainable management of human activities. The results of this study represent a first benchmark useful to explore alternative nature conservation strategies in the EI-MPA, and, more in general, in Mediterranean MPAs.
The connected nature of social-ecological systems has never been more apparent than in today's globalized world. The ecosystem service framework and associated ecosystem assessments aim to better inform the science–policy response to sustainability challenges. Such assessments, however, often overlook distant, diffuse and delayed impacts that are critical for global sustainability. Ecosystem-services science must better recognise the off-stage impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services of place-based ecosystem management, which we term 'ecosystem service burdens'. These are particularly important since they are often negative, and have a potentially significant effect on ecosystem management decisions. Ecosystem-services research can better recognise these off-stage burdens through integration with other analytical approaches, such as life cycle analysis and risk-based approaches that better account for the uncertainties involved. We argue that off-stage ecosystem service burdens should be incorporated in ecosystem assessments such as those led by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Taking better account of these off-stage burdens is essential to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of cross-scale interactions, a pre-requisite for any sustainability transition.
Local, regional, and global policies to manage protect and restore our oceans and coasts call for the inclusion of ecosystem services (ES) in policy-relevant research. Marine and coastal ES and the associated benefits to humans are usually assessed, quantified, and mapped at the ecosystem level to inform policy and decision-making. Yet those benefits may reach humans beyond the provisioning ecosystem, at the regional or even global level. Current efforts to map ES generated by a single ecosystem rarely consider the distribution of benefits beyond the ecosystem itself, especially at the regional or global level. In this article, we elaborate on the concept of “extra-local” ES to refer to those ES generating benefits that are enjoyed far from the providing ecosystem, focusing on the marine environment. We emphasize the spatial dimension of the different components of the ES provision framework and apply the proposed conceptual framework to food provision and climate regulation ES provided by marine and coastal ecosystems. We present the different extents of the mapping outputs generated by the ecosystem-based vs. the extra-local mapping approach and discuss practical and conceptual challenges of the approach. Lack of relevant ES mapping methodologies and lack of data appeared to be the most crucial bottlenecks in applying the extra-local approach for marine and coastal ES. We urge for more applications of the proposed framework that can improve marine and coastal ES assessments help fill in data gaps and generate more robust data. Such assessments could better inform marine and coastal policies, especially those linked to equal attribution of benefits, compensation schemes and poverty alleviation.