15 December 2020
By Dr Olivia Langmead, University of Plymouth 

A key activity of Projects 3 and 8 has been an assessment of the potential for provision of ecosystem services by marine and coastal habitats.

This was designed to provide a common baseline for both projects and incorporate all forms of evidence, from local ecological knowledge to academic studies, on how marine and coastal habitats provide ecosystem services. The potential of different habitats to supply ecosystem services was scored, together with our confidence in the underlying evidence, by each of the case study partner teams and the UK team independently using a common method then scores were harmonised to understand regional differences and commonalities.

DSC0037.JPGThis work, to our knowledge, constitutes the first large-scale, evidence-based review of potential ecosystem service provision for tropical marine habitats, with an evidence base comprising more than 450 individual publications.

Key findings included the uneven evidence base across habitats; there are a lot more papers on mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass meadows than sedimentary, pelagic and modified habitats. Similarly, there is more information for certain ecosystem service types, such as provisioning services, with less available for regulating services and few reports for cultural services.

Of the possible habitat / service combinations, there was evidence to support the assessment of just over half (58% or 176 out of 306 combinations). Confidence scores mirrored the evidence base; services and habitats with few reports generally had lower confidence scores. Interdependencies and overlaps between services provided another challenge, for example, marine habitats provide food through fishing and income but fishing activities can also be recreational and a mechanism through which individuals teach younger generations about the marine environment. Cultural services were found especially to have interdependencies with other service types.

There are two key outputs from this work: a manuscript was submitted in September to the journal Ecosystem Services as a contribution to a special issue on 'Ecosystem Services in Asia: Examples of Applications in Planning, Management and Decision-making' and is currently in review. In addition, a longer report, outlining the evidence supporting the scoring has been reviewed by three experts in this field and will be a widely available publication from this project.

This work will underpin the work in Project 8 on assessing trade-offs in ecosystem services. Ecosystem service matrices will be used in conjunction with habitat maps of the case study sites to provide spatial representation of the ecosystem service potential by type, and also as input for the models. It will also support the governance aspects of Projects 2 and 9, provide information on ecosystem usage relevant to Projects 6 and 12, support the development of marine policy and management options in Project 11, and inform a wider integrated Blue Communities output on alignment beween community perceptions and marine resources and their threats.

To return to Blue Communities News December 2020, please click here.

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