Report 491
An analysis of methodologies for defining ecosystem services in the marine environment
Atkins, J., Banks, E., Burdon, D., Greenhill, L., Hastings, E. & Potts, T.
This report provides a review of methods developed for understanding ecosystem goods and services provided by the marine environment.



Coastal and marine ecosystems provide an enormous range of services that are integral for the functioning of society. Productive inshore systems such as salt marshes and mudflats are important for a range of regulatory services including sequestering carbon, nutrient cycling, and pollutant capture and provide an enormous range of social, cultural and economic benefits. From the offshore perspective, ecosystem services have received less attention in the literature and in policy as they are remote from human populations. Offshore marine environments provide a range of regulatory and provisioning services such as deep carbon storage, regulating the climate, providing food and cultural benefits such as educational and scientific opportunities. Capturing how these services are produced by marine systems, how they are valued by individuals and society, and how they change over time, is an important scientific and policy goal that is mandated by the Ecosystem Approach. 


There are an increasing number of studies which investigate ecosystem services and the linkages between services, ecosystem functioning, and biodiversity. As legislative demands such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive place greater emphasis on delivering the Ecosystem Approach and valuing ecosystem services, there will be a strong demand for research that supports implementation.


The Ecosystem Approach is a term now frequently found in the research, management and policy literature relating to natural resource management. The approach aims to consider impacts on the wider ecosystem, rather than on a sector by sector basis and is increasingly been incorporated into policy and management documents aimed at promoting long-term sustainability of the marine environment. While definitions and interpretations of the approach are numerous, actual case studies demonstrating how the approach can be applied in the UK context are rare. This report presents a snap shot of the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach in the UK and abroad, and provides the results of an expert-led workshop on policy challenges.


There are considerable institutional and economic challenges in the valuation of ecosystem services, both in terms of methodology, data and ethics. However, understanding the complex interplay between the ecological and social components of the Ecosystem Approach at a range of scales is necessary to provide the foundations for integrated management. The challenge is to consider these dynamics within a coupled social-ecological system and develop practical applications that enable policy makers and the public to understand the contribution and importance of the marine environment to our collective wellbeing.





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A4, 115pp
ISSN 0963 8901
Please cite as: Atkins, J., Banks, E., Burdon, D., Greenhill, L., Hastings, E. & Potts, T., (2013), An analysis of methodologies for defining ecosystem services in the marine environment, JNCC Report 491, A4, 115pp, ISSN 0963 8901