Australia’s developed coasts are a heavily competed space, subject to urban, industrial and agricultural development. A diversity of habitats, such as mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrasses, comprise Australia’s coastal seascape and provide numerous benefits including fish productivity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, coastal protection and recreation. Decision makers need to be able to weigh up the relative costs and benefits of coastal development, protection or repair and to do this they need robust, accessible and defensible data on the ecological function and economic value of Australia’s coastal seascapes. We reviewed the published literature, with a focus on saltmarsh as a vulnerable ecological community, to determine the availability of information on key ecological functions that could inform ecosystem service valuation. None of the publications we reviewed quantified nutrient cycling, coastal protection or recreation functions. Only 13 publications presented quantitative information on carbon sequestration and fish productivity. These were limited geographically, with the majority of studies on sub-tropical and temperate saltmarsh communities between south-east Queensland and Victoria. This demonstrates a lack of quantitative information needed to substantiate and communicate the value of Australia’s saltmarshes in different locations, scales and contexts. Research should focus on addressing these knowledge gaps and communicating evidence in a relevant form and context for decision-making. We discuss four principles for research funding organisations and researchers to consider when prioritising and undertaking research on key ecological functions of Australia’s saltmarshes, and coastal seascapes more broadly, to support sustainable coastal development, protection and repair for long-term economic and community benefit.
Ecosystem Services and Uses
With the increasing use of environmental valuation methods in coastal, marine and deep-sea settings, there is a growing need for the collaboration of natural scientists and environmental economists. Stated preference valuation methods in particular need to be based on sound natural science information and translate such information to be used in social surveys. This paper uses three applications to make explicit the flow of information between different disciplines in the preparation and implementation of stated preference studies. One approach for facilitating this flow is to increase knowledge and understanding of natural scientists on these methods. To address this, this paper highlights key opportunities and pitfalls and demonstrates those in the context of three case studies. It therefore provides guidance on stated preference valuation for natural scientists rather than for economists.
The ecosystem services approach is widely recognised as a concept, but more attention must be given to the development of tools to facilitate practical implementation if the approach is to become more widely used to support decision-making. A key component of natural resource management is understanding the implications of changing levels of pressures on ecosystem components, which is achieved through sensitivity assessment. This paper examines how sensitivity assessment could be applied to ecosystem services, as opposed to the underlying habitats and species, by considering the relationship between the sensitivity of a service to the sensitivity of the habitat responsible for its supply. The method is illustrated using a UK case study of supporting and regulating services provided by subtidal sedimentary habitats within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in North Devon.
Continued anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are acidifying our oceans, and hydrogen ion concentrations in surface oceans are predicted to increase 150% by 2100. Ocean acidification (OA) is changing ocean carbonate chemistry, including causing rapid reductions in calcium carbonate availability with implications for many marine organisms, including biogenic reefs formed by oysters. The impacts of OA are marked. Adult oysters display both decreased growth and calcification rates, while larval oysters show stunted growth, developmental abnormalities, and increased mortality. These physiological impacts are affecting ecosystem functioning and the provision of ecosystem services by oyster reefs. Oysters are ecologically and economically important, providing a wide range of ecosystem services, such as improved water quality, coastlines protection, and food provision. OA has the potential to alter the delivery and the quality of the ecosystem services associated with oyster reefs, with significant ecological and economic losses. This review provides a summary of current knowledge of OA on oyster biology, but then links these impacts to potential changes to the provision of ecosystem services associated with healthy oyster reefs.
The Ecosystem Services Toolkit is a technical guide to ecosystem services assessment and analysis that offers practical, step-by-step guidance for governments at all levels, as well as for consultants and researchers. The approach is fully interdisciplinary, integrating biophysical sciences, social sciences, economics, and traditional and practitioner knowledge. It provides guidance on how to consider and incorporate ecosystem services analysis in a variety of different policy contexts such as spatial planning, environmental assessment, and wildlife management, among others. It contains numerous innovative tools and resources designed to enhance users’ understanding of ecosystem services and to support analysis and decision-making. Canadian examples are featured throughout the guide.
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes are proliferating but are challenged by insufficient attention to spatial and temporal inter-dependencies, interactions between different ecosystems and their services, and the need for multi-level governance. To address these challenges, this paper develops a place-based approach to the development and implementation of PES schemes that incorporates multi-level governance, bundling or layering of services across multiple scales, and shared values for ecosystem services. The approach is evaluated and illustrated using case study research to develop an explicitly place-based PES scheme, the Peatland Code, owned and managed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s UK Peatland Programme and designed to pay for restoration of peatland habitats. Buyers preferred bundled schemes with premium pricing of a primary service, contrasting with sellers’ preferences for quantifying and marketing services separately in a layered scheme. There was limited awareness among key business sectors of dependencies on ecosystem services, or the risks and opportunities arising from their management. Companies with financial links to peatlands or a strong environmental sustainability focus were interested in the scheme, particularly in relation to climate regulation, water quality, biodiversity and flood risk mitigation benefits. Visitors were most interested in donating to projects that benefited wildlife and were willing to donate around £2 on-site during a visit. Sellers agreed a deliberated fair price per tonne of CO2equivalent from £11.18 to £15.65 across four sites in Scotland, with this range primarily driven by spatial variation in habitat degradation. In the Peak District, perceived declines in sheep and grouse productivity arising from ditch blocking led to substantially higher prices, but in other regions ditch blocking was viewed more positively. The Peatland Code was developed in close collaboration with stakeholders at catchment, landscape and national scales, enabling multi-level governance of the management and delivery of ecosystem services across these scales. Place-based PES schemes can mitigate negative trade-offs between ecosystem services, more effectively include cultural ecosystem services and engage with and empower diverse stakeholders in scheme design and governance.
Historical tipping of vast quantities of colliery spoil at various foreshore locations in NE England has changed the morphology and sedimentology of large areas of the shoreline and nearshore sea bed, and has impacted adversely upon the ecology and amenity use of the area. Tipping started early in the 20th Century, well before statutory controls to regulate impacts of activities on the marine environment came into force in the UK in 1974, and ended with the closure of the last colliery in 2005. The spoil tipping acted as a form of artificial sediment recharge to the foreshore, akin to conventional beach recharge schemes that use sand or shingle to replenish foreshores for coastal defence and amenity purposes, but creating a legacy of contaminated beaches and prograding (advancing) shores. Since closure of the collieries, however, the foreshores have received no artificial supply of material, and the shoreline in all former tipping areas has since been in retreat due to natural erosion. This has caused problems where assets are present at the rear of the spoil beaches, requiring coastal defence structures for their protection. As well as collating and analysing historical maps, records, literature and data relating to colliery spoil tipping, the coastal changes that have occurred since its cessation have been assessed by reference to more recent maps, literature, aerial photographs and new and up-to-date beach profile transect survey data from contemporary coastal monitoring programmes. It is envisaged that where sea cliffs are protected by colliery spoil beaches, and hence currently are dormant, they could become re-activated by erosion and start to retreat at short term rates of several metres per year and longer-term rates of up to 0.3 m/year in the foreseeable future.
Habitat fragmentation impacts ecosystem functioning in many ways, including reducing the availability of suitable habitat for animals and altering resource dynamics. Fragmentation in seagrass ecosystems caused by propeller scarring is a major source of habitat loss, but little is known about how scars impact ecosystem functioning. Propeller scars were simulated in seagrass beds of Abaco, Bahamas, to explore potential impacts. To determine if plant-herbivore interactions were altered by fragmentation, amphipod grazers were excluded from half the experimental plots, and epiphyte biomass and community composition were compared between grazer control and exclusion plots. We found a shift from light limitation to phosphorus limitation at seagrass patch edges. Fragmentation did not impact top-down control on epiphyte biomass or community composition, despite reduced amphipod density in fragmented habitats. Seagrass and amphipod responses to propeller scarring suggest that severely scarred seagrass beds could be subject to changes in internal nutrient stores and amphipod distribution.
Climate change is having a significant impact on ecosystem services and is likely to become increasingly important as this phenomenon intensifies. Future impacts can be difficult to assess as they often involve long timescales, dynamic systems with high uncertainties, and are typically confounded by other drivers of change. Despite a growing literature on climate change impacts on ecosystem services, no quantitative syntheses exist. Hence, we lack an overarching understanding of the impacts of climate change, how they are being assessed, and the extent to which other drivers, uncertainties, and decision making are incorporated. To address this, we systematically reviewed the peer-reviewed literature that assesses climate change impacts on ecosystem services at subglobal scales. We found that the impact of climate change on most types of services was predominantly negative (59% negative, 24% mixed, 4% neutral, 13% positive), but varied across services, drivers, and assessment methods. Although uncertainty was usually incorporated, there were substantial gaps in the sources of uncertainty included, along with the methods used to incorporate them. We found that relatively few studies integrated decision making, and even fewer studies aimed to identify solutions that were robust to uncertainty. For management or policy to ensure the delivery of ecosystem services, integrated approaches that incorporate multiple drivers of change and account for multiple sources of uncertainty are needed. This is undoubtedly a challenging task, but ignoring these complexities can result in misleading assessments of the impacts of climate change, suboptimal management outcomes, and the inefficient allocation of resources for climate adaptation.
The overarching goal of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) is to sustain the long-term capacity of marine ecosystems to deliver a range of ecosystem services (ES). Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can be considered as a part of the efforts made towards EBM focusing in area planning. The implementation of MPAs with the objective of assuring the flow of ES and its benefits towards society is currently in its initial stages due to lack of specific information about the operation and value of the ES offered by MPAs. In Mexico, MPAs represent one of the main conservation and management tools of the territory and its resources. In order to identify the level of legal protection of ES provided by the federal decrees that create MPAs, in this article we present as a case study the analysis of the specific protection of ES in MPAs in this country. We compiled the creation decrees of the 66 Mexican MPAs. Our analysis adopted three perspectives: ES explicitly mentioned in the decrees, ES indirectly mentioned in the decrees, and ES actually present in each MPA. The analyzed MPA decrees recognize that these areas provide four types of ecosystem functions (provision services, regulation services, support services, and cultural services). Of all existing Mexican MPAs, more than half of them (54.5%) have decrees of creation in which an ES is directly mentioned as a cause of their creation. 39.3% of the MPAs decrees contain paragraphs or words describing an ES. All the MPA categories actually provide a larger number of ES than those mentioned or alluded to in official decrees. We conclude that although there are legal frameworks for the protection of specific elements of marine and coastal ecosystems, MPAs represent the legal tool allowing for their integration under the ecosystem approach. In the Mexican case, there are voids to be filled in order for MPAs to fulfill the function assigned to them by Mexican laws.