The effects of anthropogenic global environmental change on biotic and abiotic processes have been reported in aquatic systems across the world. Complex synergies between concurrent environmental stressors and the resilience of the system to regime shifts, which vary in space and time, determine the capacity for marine systems to maintain structure and function with global environmental change. Consequently, an interdisciplinary approach that facilitates the development of new methods for the exchange of knowledge between scientists across multiple scales is required to effectively understand, quantify and predict climate impacts on marine ecosystem services. We use a literature review to assess the limitations and assumptions of current pathways to exchange interdisciplinary knowledge and the transferability of research findings across spatial and temporal scales and levels of biological organisation to advance scientific understanding of global environmental change in marine systems. We found that species‐specific regional scale climate change research is most commonly published, and “supporting” is the ecosystem service most commonly referred to in publications. In addition our paper outlines a trajectory for the future development of integrated climate change science for sustaining marine ecosystem services such as investment in interdisciplinary education and connectivity between disciplines.
Ecosystem Services and Uses
The global loss of biodiversity threatens unique biota and the functioning and services of ecosystems essential for human wellbeing. To safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services, designating protected areas is crucial; yet the extent to which the existing placement of protection is aligned to meet these conservation priorities is questionable, especially in the oceans. Here we investigate and compare global patterns of multiple biodiversity components (taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional), ecosystem services and human impacts, with the coverage of marine protected areas across a nested spatial scale. We demonstrate a pronounced spatial mismatch between the existing degree of protection and all the conservation priorities above, highlighting that neither the world’s most diverse, nor the most productive ecosystems are currently the most protected ecosystems. Furthermore, we show that global patterns of biodiversity, ecosystem services and human impacts are poorly correlated, hence complicating the identification of generally applicable spatial prioritization schemes. However, a hypothetical “consensus approach” would have been able to address all these conservation priorities far more effectively than the existing degree of protection, which at best is only marginally better than a random expectation. Therefore, a holistic perspective is needed when designating an appropriate degree of protection of marine conservation priorities worldwide.
Ecosystem Services (ES) – the direct (e.g., food and natural medicines) and indirect (e.g., cultural diversity and aesthetic values) benefits people obtain from various ecosystems – need to be assessed to aid decision makers and concerned public in creating policies that ensure continuous flow of ES to their beneficiaries (e.g., fisheries, food, income, livelihood, and traditional way of life to fishers and consumers). However, to date, ES assessments in Philippine reefs are mostly concentrated only on fisheries and tourism or on few areas in the Philippines (e.g., Pangasinan and Bohol Marine Triangle). This study fills research gaps by assessing coral reefs across 15 regions in the Philippines by estimating the following: (1) potential reef fisheries and Willingness-To-Pay (WTP) biodiversity values using underwater surveys and literature data, (2) reef fisheries value using Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and literature data, (3) tourism value using Department of Tourism (DOT) and literature data, and (4) Total Economic Value (TEV). The TEV of Philippine reefs' ES amounted to 4 billion US$/yr or 140,000 US$/km2/yr. Furthermore, in each region of the Philippines, annual TEV ranged from 100 to 800 million US$, with potential reef fisheries value contributing the most in the TEV, followed by reef fisheries, tourism, and WTP biodiversity values. In addition, the Visayas regions have the highest values of benefits from coral reefs. Although the Philippines is deriving millions to billions of dollars of economic benefits from coral reefs, the observed degradation and temporal decline in coastal ecosystems could lead to a decline in the potential reef fisheries value, subsequently the TEV. The Philippines need to improve accounting and managing the derived benefits from coral reefs to ensure the sustainability and continuous flow of these benefits for present and future Filipino beneficiaries.
- Earlier declines in marine resources, combined with current fishing pressures and devastating coral mortality in 2015, have resulted in a degraded coral reef ecosystem state at Puakō in West Hawaiʹi. Changes to resource management are needed to facilitate recovery of ecosystem functions and services.
- We developed a customised ecosystem model to evaluate the performance of alternative management scenarios at Puakō in the provisioning of ecosystem services to human users (marine tourists, recreational fishers) and enhancing the reef's ability to recover from pressures (resilience).
- Outcomes of the continuation of current management plus five alternative management scenarios were compared under both high and low coral-bleaching related mortality over a 15-year time span.
- Current management is not adequate to prevent further declines in marine resources. Fishing effort is already above the multispecies sustainable yield, and, at its current level, will likely lead to a shift to algal-dominated reefs and greater abundance of undesirable fish species. Scenarios banning all gears other than line fishing, or prohibiting take of herbivorous fishes, were most effective at enhancing reef structure and resilience, dive tourism, and the recreational fishery. Allowing only line fishing generated the most balanced trade-off between stakeholders, with positive gains in both ecosystem resilience and dive tourism, while only moderately decreasing fishery value within the area.
- Synthesis and applications. Our customised ecosystem model projects the impacts of multiple, simultaneous pressures on a reef ecosystem. Trade-offs of alternative approaches identified by local managers were quantified based on indicators for different ecosystem services (e.g. ecosystem resilience, recreation, food). This approach informs managers of potential conflicts among stakeholders and provides guidance on approaches that better balance conservation objectives and stakeholders’ interests. Our results indicate that a combination of reducing land-based pollution and allowing only line fishing generated the most balanced trade-off between stakeholders and will enhance reef recovery from the detrimental effects of coral bleaching events that are expected over the next 15 years.
Urban development along the coastal zone involves land use changes that directly affect coastal ecosystems and services. The Bay of Cádiz, a metropolitan area in the south of Spain, is a study case in which the urban coastal occupation is clearly reflected, with the consequent loss of certain services that the ecosystems offer to the population. The research analyses urban changes in land uses and their impacts for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) proposals.
The methodology used in the research leads with the definition of the Bay of Cádiz as a Social-Ecological System, where natural and geographical characteristics converge with those social, economic and administrative, for delimiting the study area with an integrated perspective. The study of land uses evolution in the Social-Ecological System of the Bay of Cádiz, as well as the analysis of every ecosystem and their services, allows to obtain those impacts on human well-being that happen from pressures exerted. This analysis is developed through DPSIWR method, in which human well-being is incorporated to obtain ICZM responses.
Results show that land use changes in the Bay of Cádiz involves the loss of those ecosystems that offer the most important services to the population, such as tidal saltmarshes. In this sense, management responses should be focused on the conservation of these threatened services, with the coordination and cooperation among different public administrations.
Coastal ecosystems provide a number of life-sustaining services, from which benefits to humans can be derived. They are often inhabited by aquatic vegetation, such as mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes. Given their wide geographic distribution and coverage, there is need to prioritize conservation efforts. An understanding of the human importance of these ecosystems can help with that prioritization. Here, we summarize a literature review of ecosystem service valuation studies. We discuss (1) the degree to which current valuation information is sufficient to prioritize blue carbon habitat conservation and restoration, (2) the relevancy of available studies, and (3) what is missing from the literature that would be needed to effectively prioritize conservation. Given the recent focus on blue carbon ecosystems in the international conservation, there are a number of areas where research on blue forest ecosystem assessment and valuation could be improved, from enhancing available methodologies to increasing valuation of rarely studied ecosystem services and wider geographic coverage of valuation studies. This review highlights these gaps and calls for a focus on broadening the ecosystem services that are valued, the methods used, and increasing valuation in underrepresented regions.
Seagrass meadows support key ecosystem services, via provision of food directly for herbivores, and indirectly to their predators. The importance of herbivores in seagrass meadows has been well-documented, but the links between food webs and ecosystem services in seagrass meadows have not previously been made explicit. Herbivores interact with ecosystem services – including carbon sequestration, cultural values, and coastal protection. Interactions can be positive or negative and depend on a range of factors including the herbivore identity and the grazing type and intensity. There can be unintended consequences from management actions based on a poor understanding of trade-offs that occur with complex seagrass-herbivore interactions. Tropical seagrass meadows support a diversity of grazers spanning the meso-, macro-, and megaherbivore scales. We present a conceptual model to describe how multiple ecosystem services are influenced by herbivore pressure in tropical seagrass meadows. Our model suggests that a balanced ecosystem, incorporating both seagrass and herbivore diversity, is likely to sustain the broadest range of ecosystem services. Our framework suggests the pathway to achieve desired ecosystem services outcomes requires knowledge on four key areas: (1) how size classes of herbivores interact to structure seagrass; (2) desired community and management values; (3) seagrass responses to top–down and bottom–up controls; (4) the pathway from intermediate to final ecosystem services and human benefits. We suggest research should be directed to these areas. Herbivory is a major structuring influence in tropical seagrass systems and needs to be considered for effective management of these critical habitats and their services.
Ecosystem services have become an important component of planning discussions at local, state, national and international levels. These services have also more recently figured into discussions of community resilience to hazard events. For the majority of ecosystem services, some contribution of human capital inputs, which we term Enabling Economic Inputs (EEIs) in this paper, are necessary to convert the raw ecosystem service flow into an ecosystem service benefit obtained by people. This paper evaluates a subset of EEIs related to coastal ecosystem services associated with (1) fishing and shellfishing; (2) recreational boating; and (3) recreational beach use. After developing a conceptual approach for EEIs, this research develops a methodology for spatially evaluating EEIs. Using a hot-spot analysis of establishments based on the North American Industrial Classification System codes, nodes in the supply chain for ecosystem services within the Long Island region are identified and analyzed. The paper concludes with an evaluation of how information on the supply chain of ecosystem services may assist in resiliency planning in coastal communities. Further research is needed to fully evaluate the conveyance system that translocates ecosystem services from supply areas to demand areas, and this research is an initial step in that direction.
Land–sea ecological connectivity refers to the interaction (convenience or hindrance) of certain physical, chemical and biological processes between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Research on land–sea ecological connectivity can provide important scientific bases for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems in terrestrial and coastal areas. On the basis of a literature summary of ecological connectivity, this paper focuses on the following: (1) summarizing basic concepts, representative phenomena on multiple spatiotemporal scales, and analysis methods of land–sea ecological connectivity; (2) discussion of the applications of land–sea ecological connectivity; (3) discussion of the relationship between human activities and land–sea ecological connectivity; (4) presentation of perspectives and recommendations on ecological restoration, protection, and biodiversity research, with emphasis on the principle of land–sea ecological connectivity. On the whole, we believe such connectivity in a region varies with changes in multiple physical and artificial factors, such as climate, land cover, biotic community and human activities. Human activities such as land use, engineering construction, urbanization and industrialization have continuously increased and cause irreversible disturbance and destruction of land–sea ecological connectivity, thereby threatening biodiversity and ecosystem services at various spatiotemporal scales. Hence, achievements of theoretical research and practical experience in ecological connectivity should be fully applied in coastal areas to maintain and restore land–sea ecological connectivity and remedy various problems that arise from the blockage and damage of ecosystem services.
The concept of ecosystem services is widely used in the scientific literature and increasingly also in policy and practice. Nevertheless, operationalising the concept, i.e. putting it into practice, is still a challenge. We describe the approach of the EU-project OpenNESS (Operationalisation of Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital), which was created in response to this challenge to critically evaluate the concept when applied to real world problems at different scales and in different policy sectors. General requirements for operationalization, the relevance of conceptual frameworks and lessons learnt from 27 case study applications are synthesized in a set of guiding principles. We also briefly describe some integrative tools as developed in OpenNESS which support the implementation of the principles. The guiding principles are grouped under three major headlines: “Defining the problem and opening up the problem space”, “Considering ethical issues” and “Assessing alternative methods, tools and actions”. Real world problems are often “wicked” problems, which at first are seldom clear-cut and well-defined, but often rather complex and subject to differing interpretations and interests. We take account of that complexity and emphasise that there is not one simple and straightforward way to approach real world problems involving ecosystem services. The principles and tools presented are meant to provide some guidance for tackling this complexity by means of a transdisciplinary methodology that facilitates the operationalisation of the ecosystem services concept.