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Quantifying the use and availability of marine ecosystem services for humans

A large shoal of fish in the ocean
Oct 05 2016

The seas provide a wealth of ecosystem services that support the economy and human well-being, including food provision, climate regulation, coastal protection from storms, water purification and recreational activities. To date, sustainable management of these services has been hampered by the fact they are difficult to quantify. A JRC-led article published recently in Scientific Reports proposes a new approach to assessing the use and supply of marine ecosystem services, which could provide effective support for Blue Growth and European maritime policies.

The study shows that ecosystem and biophysical modelling can be used to evaluate marine ecosystem services, which could fill information gaps and benefit the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Indicators that quantify capacity, flow and demand can help analyse the sustainability of marine and coastal ecosystem services.

The study measured five different marine and coastal ecosystem services provided by the Mediterranean Sea over time. Researchers found that the region's natural capacity to provide ecosystem services is declining, while in parallel the flow of those services to humans is growing.  This imbalance could eventually decrease the well-being of those who benefit from these services.

The authors call for the integration and clear identification of ecosystem services assessments in the present revision of the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive implementation. They also recommend that the effect of human activities and pressures on ecosystem services be analysed and modelled, and that different management strategies be evaluated.