Primary production hotspots in the marine environment occur where the combination of light, turbulence, temperature and nutrients makes the proliferation of phytoplankton possible. Satellite-derived surface chlorophyll-a distributions indicate that these conditions are frequently associated with sharp water mass transitions named “marine fronts”. Given the link between primary production, consumers and ecosystem functions, marine fronts could play a key role in the production of ecosystem services (ES). Using the shelf break front in the Argentine Sea as a study case, we show that the high primary production found in the front is the main ecological feature that supports the production of tangible (fisheries) and intangible (recreation, regulation of atmospheric gases) marine ES and the reason why the provision of ES in the Argentine Sea concentrates there. This information provides support to satellite chlorophyll as a good indicator of multiple marine ES. We suggest that marine fronts could be considered as marine ES hot spots.
Ecosystem Services and Uses
A spatial-economic analysis, together with a social assessment, was used to understand the tradeoffs between different marine ecosystem services (recreation, harvestable fish, and fisheries-related cultural services) in marine protected areas (MPA), using the Brazilian MPA of Fernando de Noronha as a case study. In this MPA, tourism activities, including the profitable shark-diving activity, occur alongside small-scale fisheries that are operated by the local community in some areas, whereas in other areas tourism is the sole beneficiary of ecosystem services given that access by fishers and for fisheries is prohibited. The spatial-economic analyses suggest that tourism revenues are 10 times higher than those provided by fisheries, and would not be substantially affected were fisheries to be expanded to some parts of the MPA, even at the expense of shark-directed tourism. However, this purely economic analysis, which aims to determine how to compensate fishers for not accessing parts of the MPA, is incomplete as the study identified important cultural impacts associated with inability to easily access some parts of the MPA, resulting in the loss of place attachment, cultural heritage and identity. These losses are most felt by fishers who cannot easily switch to alternative economic activities. These findings highlight the need for an integrative approach to addressing marine ecosystem services that is capable of capturing potential types of losses brought about by competing uses of ecosystem services. Considering only the economic benefits of conflicting ecosystem services, while overlooking cultural values, may threaten the effectiveness of MPAs or of the ecosystem services themselves.
Marine space is overall under increasing pressure from human activities and in the way harming the marine ecosystems. Maritime spatial planning is one of the governance elements in the EU Integrated Maritime Policy (2007) that aims to maximise the sustainable use of the seas and oceans. Maritime spatial planning aims to ensure that the increased use of the marine space takes place in a way that are consistent with the sustainable development in the seas and oceans. According to the MSP Directive it is required to follow an ecosystem-based and thus holistic approach. For this to happen, tools are needed, and some tools are available but with various advantages and disadvantages. The aim of the current research has been to develop a comprehensive package of tools to assess the environmental impacts of societal activities under different maritime spatial planning proposals.
The ecosystem approach to aquaculture (EAA) considers ecosystem services (ES) important, but does not provide a conceptual framework or a typology to integrate and assess them. To supplement the EAA, a literature review of the ES conceptual framework and ES typologies was combined with selected criteria from the EAA and ES literature. Eight criteria of transition from a conventional approach to aquaculture to the EAA were used as selection criteria to choose a conceptual framework of ES relevant with the EAA. To select a typology, we determined that ES must be distinguished from benefits, be a part of nature, be usable directly and indirectly, and not contain support or habitat ES. The conceptual framework of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is the most compatible with the EAA but does not provide an ES typology. The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) provides the ES typology most consistent with EAA criteria to supplement the conceptual framework. We identified 10 provisioning ES, 20 regulation and maintenance ES, and 11 cultural ES. Integration of the IPBES conceptual framework with the CICES typology preserves the generic approach of the EAA. This integration could highlight the main interactions among an aquaecosystem, its ES supply, its management, and its relevant stakeholders at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Moreover, it fulfils the three main goals of the EAA by identifying them in a clear and common framework.
Sustainable development of the ocean is a central policy objective in Europe through the Blue Growth Strategy and globally through parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Achieving sustainable exploitation of deep sea resources is challenged due to the huge uncertainty around the many risks posed by human activities on these remote ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. We used a Delphi approach, an iterative expert-based survey process, to assess risks to ecosystem services in the North Atlantic Ocean from climate change (water temperature and ocean acidification), the blue economy (fishing, pollution, oil and gas activities, deep seabed mining, maritime and coastal tourism and blue biotechnology), and their cumulative effects. Ecosystem services from the deep sea, identified through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework, were presented in an expert survey to assess the impacts of human drivers on these services. The results from this initial survey were analyzed and then presented in a second survey. The final results, based on 55 expert responses, indicated that pollution and temperature change each pose a high risk to more than 28% of deep-sea ecosystem services, whilst ocean acidification, and fisheries both pose a high risk to more than 19% of the deep-sea ecosystem services. Services considered to be most at risk of being impacted by anthropogenic activities were biodiversity and habitat as supporting services, biodiversity as a cultural service, and fish and shellfish as provisioning services. Tourism and blue biotechnology were not seen to cause serious risk to any of the ecosystem services. The negative impacts from temperature change, ocean acidification, fishing, pollution, and oil and gas activities were deemed to be largely more probable than their positive impacts. These results expand our knowledge of how a broad set of deep-sea ecosystem services are impacted by human activities. Furthermore, the study provides input in relation to future priorities regarding research in the Atlantic deep sea.
This paper explores the ecosystem services provided by anadromous brown trout (often termed sea trout) populations in Norway. Sea trout is an important species in both freshwater and marine ecosystems and provides important demand-driven ecological provisioning and socio-cultural services. While the sea trout once provided an important provisioning service through a professional fishery and subsistence fishing, fishing for sea trout in the near shore coastal areas and in rivers is today a very popular and accessible recreational activity and generates primarily socio-cultural services. The recreational fishery contributes to local cultural heritage, its folkways and lore, to the development and transfer of local ecological knowledge and fishing experience to the young and to human well-being. As a salmonid species, the sea trout is sensitive to negative environmental conditions in both freshwater and marine coastal areas and is in general decline. A recent decision to expand production of farmed salmon may increase pressure on stocks. Good management of recreational fishing is accordingly important for the species to thrive, but knowledge of what fishers value with respect to fishing sea trout and what management measures they will accept is limited. Researchers sought to capture information about non-extractive direct use value (non-monetary) of the sea trout recreational fishery using questionnaire surveys targeting Norwegian anglers around the country. Results indicate that the most important ecosystem services delivered by recreational sea trout fisheries are social-cultural ecosystem services at the level of individual fishers; fishing sea trout most likely also has important social functions. Fishers are prepared to accept stricter management measures that reduce catches and allow fishing to continue but they oppose paying higher fees.
The aspirations for natural capital and ecosystem service approaches to support environmental decision-making have not been fully realised in terms of their actual application in policy and management contexts. Application of the natural capital approach requires a range of methods, which as yet have not been fully tested in the context of decision making for the marine environment. It is unlikely that existing methodologies, which were developed for terrestrial systems and are based on land cover assessment approaches, will ever be feasible in the marine context at the national scale. Land cover approaches are also fundamentally insufficient for the marine environment because they do not take account of the water column, the significant interconnections between spatially disparate components, or the highly dynamic nature of the marine ecosystem, for example the high spatial mobility of many species. Data gaps have been a significant impediment to progress, so alternative methods that use proxies for quality information as well as the opportunities for remote sensing should be explored further. Greater effort to develop methodologies specifically for the marine environment is required, which should be interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral, coherent across policy areas, and applicable across a range of contexts.
Traditional ecological research has focused on taxonomic units to better understand the role of organisms in marine ecosystems. This approach has significantly contributed to our understanding of how species interact with each other and with the physical environment and has led to relevant site-specific conservation strategies. However, this taxonomic-based approach can limit a mechanistic understanding of how environmental change affects marine megafauna, here defined as large fishes (e.g., shark, tuna, and billfishes), sea turtles, marine mammals, and seabirds. Alternatively, an approach based on traits, i.e., measurable behavioral, physiological, or morphological characteristics of organisms, can shed new light on the processes influencing structure and functions of biological communities. Here we review 33 traits that are measurable and comparable among marine megafauna. The variability of these traits within the organisms considered controls functions mainly related to nutrient storage and transport, trophic-dynamic regulations of populations, and community shaping. To estimate the contributions of marine megafauna to ecosystem functions and services, traits can be quantified categorically or over a continuous scale, but the latter is preferred to make comparisons across groups. We argue that the most relevant traits to comparatively study marine megafauna groups are body size, body mass, dietary preference, feeding strategy, metabolic rate, and dispersal capacity. These traits can be used in combination with information on population abundances to predict how changes in the environment can affect community structure, ecosystem functioning, and ecosystem services.
This study was implemented in the context of the emerging concept of aesthetic ecosystem services (AES) of coastal protected dunes and forests. The main problem addressed was that many coastal management research case studies focusing on AES still rely on the objectivist paradigm, eliciting aesthetic values based on objective sets of criteria independent from human perception ‘here and now’. This doesn't use the knowledge accrued from several decades of psychophysical studies in landscape aesthetics using photographs as visual stimuli, due to the complexity of the psychophysical approach. The study bridges this major research gap by eliciting the preferences for and the attractiveness of coastal landscapes that are founded in the landscape's physical attributes. An innovative ‘quali-quantitative’ methodology was applied, combining both quantitative (paired comparison survey) and qualitative (semi-structured in-depth interviews) methods for valuation and interpretation of coastal AES. The main aim of the study was to test a ‘quali-quantitative’ methodology for the valuation of AES of protected coastal dunes and forests, using the Curonian Spit (Lithuania) as a case study. The key finding of the quantitative survey was that domestic summer visitors found the open landscapes of the Curonian Spit most attractive, especially 1) White mobile dunes; 2) White dunes with grey dunes in the background; 3) Grey dunes with white dunes in the background. The main result of the qualitative survey was that local stakeholders living on the Curonian Spit consider the concept of visual coherence as best explaining the aesthetic appeal of the dune and forest landscapes on the spit. The main associated policy recommendation to coastal management policymakers on the Curonian Spit, and in other protected coastal dune areas, is to pay more attention to AES along with the care for biodiversity conservation and for other tangible dune ecosystem services.
Natural ecosystems hold great place within the hearts and lives of people, particularly those within which people live and work. However, whether people equally value natural ecosystems that they regularly frequent is effectively unknown. Such knowledge would greatly assist natural resource managers to better understand what they are protecting, why and for whom. In this paper we look at the different values that people hold for different ecosystems within the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). We test the relationship between eight different cultural values (using ecosystem services framing), and the use of seven different ecosystems (beaches, creeks and estuaries, islands and cays, inshore reefs, mid-shelf and outer reefs, open water, and shipwrecks) from face-to-face surveys of 1934 residents living within the GBR. We also look at whether the relationships that people have with each ecosystem inspires them to; (i) do more to help protect the GBR, (ii) learn more about the GBR, and (iii) feel personally affected if the health of the GBR declines. Results suggest that there are common reasons why all ecosystems are valued. All seven ecosystems were valued because they provide identity, quality of life and well-being, and inspired people to do more to help protect the GBR. Many were valued for their desirable and active way of life, learning about the environment through scientific discoveries, and learning about the condition of the GBR. However, some ecosystems were valued for special reasons. People that used beaches tended to have more pride in the World Heritage Area status of the GBR and appreciated the aesthetics of the GBR. People that used the mid-shelf and open-water areas were more likely to value biodiversity and aesthetics qualities. People that used inshore reefs were more likely to value economic benefits from the GBR. All residents said that they would be personally affected if the health of the GBR declined, except for those that used beaches, creeks and estuaries. Levels of concern for each of the ecosystems within the GBR varied, where people were more concerned about inshore areas than they were about coral reef condition. Specifically, people were most concerned about the level of rubbish on the beaches in their region and least about mangroves. These results suggest that, even though the GBR is valued in its entirety for many reasons, the GBR is not perceived as an entire ecosystem, but that people have different relationships within it. We discuss how environmental sustainability might be optimised through understanding and incentivising the multi-functionality of landscapes.