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.
Ecosystem Services and Uses
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.
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.
While invasive species often threaten biodiversity and human well-being, their potential to enhance functioning by offsetting the loss of native habitat has rarely been considered. We manipulated the abundance of the nonnative, habitat-forming seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla in large plots (25 m2) on southeastern US intertidal landscapes to assess impacts on multiple ecosystem functions underlying coastal ecosystem services. We document that in the absence of native habitat formers, this invasion has an overall positive, density-dependent impact across a diverse set of ecosystem processes (e.g., abundance and richness of nursery taxa, flow attenuation). Manipulation of invader abundance revealed both thresholds and saturations in the provisioning of ecosystem functions. Taken together, these findings call into question the focus of traditional invasion research and management that assumes negative effects of nonnatives, and emphasize the need to consider context-dependence and integrative measurements when assessing the impact of an invader, including density dependence, multifunctionality, and the status of native habitat formers. This work supports discussion of the idea that where native foundation species have been lost, invasive habitat formers may be considered as sources of valuable ecosystem functions.
There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. Despite the large and growing quantity of published ecosystem services research, there remains a substantial gap between this research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. We provide illustrative examples of these gaps between research and practice and describe how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using Benefit Relevant Indicators (BRIs) and choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. We use examples primarily from the United States, including cases that illustrate varying degrees of success in closing these gaps. We include a discussion of the challenges and opportunities researchers face in adapting their work to meet the needs of practitioners.
We analyze scientific literature that report tools to spatially model ecosystem services (ES). In the 65 articles reviewed, the most used model starting in 2001 was SWAT and starting in 2009 the most commonly used was InVEST. Eighty percent of the scientific articles have been published from 2010 to 2015 suggesting that spatial modeling of ES is an emergent research field. Only 4 of the 9 tools encountered in our review are backed by papers, the others only offer grey literature. The spatial modeling of ES is mainly done in the U.S.A. and China, and the most frequently evaluated ES are related to hydrological services (water provision and quality treatment), climate regulation and soil formation. Most of the studies are done along hydrological basins, at different spatial scales and based upon different map resolution ranging from 20 to 900 m. With concern, we observe the lack of validation of the spatial models and the tools’ lack of integrated validation modules. As long as the tools used to spatially model ecosystem services continue to be used as black boxes, the models they generate will suffer from a high degree of uncertainty and will not be reliable for decision making purposes.
Large Marine Ecosystems located around the margins of the continents provide a countless number of goods and services that sustain and fulfill human life and activities: seafood; habitats; energy sources; nutrient cycling and primary production; weather and climate regulation; coastal protection; water detoxification; sediments trapping; and cultural and economic services, among others. Of 66 Large Marine Ecosystems, ten LMEs are located along the coasts of Latin America – California Current, Gulf of California, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Central American Coastal, Caribbean Sea, Humboldt Current, Patagonian Shelf, South Brazil Shelf, East Brazil Shelf and North Brazil Shelf. Each one possesses different characteristics that make it unique and essential for local populations. Unfortunately, these Large Marine Ecosystems are threatened by several factors such as coastal population growth, pollution, overexploitation and climate change, but most of all poor governance practice. The concept of Ecosystem Based Management aims to consider ecosystems health and importance in all aspects of the recovery and sustainability of LME goods and services. This chapter introduces a general description of the Large Marine Ecosystem approach to sustainable development of coastal ocean resources, presents the concept of Ecosystem Based Management, describes some goods and services provided by Large Marine Ecosystems and draws a picture of each Latin American Large Marine Ecosystem.