Norfolk windfarms.  Photograph: Kelvin Boot

Is valuing biodiversity a useful way to manage and conserve marine resources?

 

Intensifying pressures from resource exploitation, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change are driving widespread declines in marine biodiversity. Concurrently, valuing ‘ecosystem services’, the benefits that people gain from ecosystems, is gaining popularity as a conservation tool. 

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, examines how well this is working in several marine systems using examples from three regions: the tropical Pacific, the Southern Ocean and the UK.

PML scientists, Stefanie Broszeit and Melanie Austen, who contributed the UK section of the study said “Although the UK has already developed approaches and the expertise to assess marine ecosystem services and their benefits, continued efforts to integrate these approaches into the conservation and management of resources throughout the UK are essential to ensure continued provision of ecosystem benefits for future generations”.

The paper highlights the dearth of studies exploring the links between biodiversity and ecosystem value, and reveals a tendency to focus on specific ‘services’ (mainly harvested species). The authors propose embedding biodiversity-ecosystem services relationships into the core of decision-making, allowing wider trade-offs (including implications of biodiversity changes), to be considered explicitly and routinely in marine policy and management.

This paper forms part of a special feature on “The Value of Biodiversity in the Anthropocene” which examines the ever-increasing challenge of meeting the needs of the Earth’s human population while maintaining biological diversity on the planet.  Despite bold international commitments, biodiversity continues to decline. One potential solution rapidly gaining momentum—as well as opposition—is to incorporate the economic value of biodiversity into mainstream decision-making.

The Special Feature covers a broad range of perspectives on this topical issue, synthesizing recent research advances on marine and terrestrial environments, at scales ranging from microbes to tropical rainforests and polar oceans. Key findings are captured within an interdisciplinary framework that recognizes the foundational role of biodiversity in sustaining the value of ecosystems to humanity.

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