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Valuing Marine Ecosystem Services – Taking into account the value of ecosystem benefits in the Blue Economy

EMB’s Future Science Brief n°5 calls for a better incorporation of the values stemming from marine ecosystem services and natural capital in marine management and policy decisions. Evaluating the impacts of human activity on ecosystem services and their social and economic consequences can highlight the trade-offs between actions to reverse the declining states of marine biodiversity and ecosystems, and possible competing economic interests. A wide array of methods and techniques for ecosystem valuation already exist, but mainstreaming, understanding and implementation of marine ecosystem valuation approaches and applications should be further developed.

This publication highlights current thinking in ecosystem service valuation for the marine environment. The purpose of ecosystem valuation is not to price-tag nature, but to help answer clearly defined marine policy questions, as it can help visualize and quantify (in monetary or non-monetary terms) the diverse direct and indirect contributions of marine ecosystem services to human well-being. Ecosystem valuation studies need to take the specific context, knowledge and spatio-temporal scale into account with the appropriate level of complexity. This requires a transdisciplinary approach and the inclusion of socio-economic drivers. Including the outcomes of marine valuation studies into marine policy decisions and marine management decisions could help to improve the long-term sustainability of the Blue Growth, and raise awareness of the importance of the marine environment to society and in the economy.

The Future Science Brief makes some recommendations on how to incorporate outputs from marine valuation studies into the traditional analyses used in resource and environmental economics and into the European marine policy landscape and related management and decision making choices. It is primarily aimed at stakeholders interested in valuation of marine ecosystem services and natural capital accounting, spanning diverse roles from commissioning, managing, funding and coordinating, to developing, implementing, or advising on, marine ecosystem service and natural capital programmes.

The publication was established under the EMB Working group ‘VALMARE’ under the lead of Prof Melanie Austin (Plymouth Marine Laboratory - PML, UK) and launched at the European Parliament on Wednesday 3 April 2019. The launch event was co-organised by the Searica Intergroup and the EMB Secretariat, and was hosted by MEP Gessine Meissner and Ricardo Serrão Santos. All the presentations from the launch event are available on the Searica website. A full picture report from the event is available on the EMB website.

On 13 May 2019, Working Group members Melanie Austen and Stephen Hynes (SEMRU-NUI Galway, Ireland) were invited to present the results of this paper to the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. It was noted that the importance of factoring in all welfare impacts of marine related policy is now more important than ever to obtain a sustainable Blue Economy.

A short factsheet for policy makers is available here.

EMB tracks the dissemination and impact of its documents for at least 2 years after publication. You can find a short summary of the dissemination and impact of this Future Science Brief here.