Integrating Ecosystem Services

Integration of Ecosystem Services into Development Planning

Ecosystem services are “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Oceans and coasts provide humanity with a myriad of valuable goods and services such as food, medicine, coastal protection, climate regulation, nutrient cycling and recreation.

The valuation of ecosystem services has become an increasingly applied tool to quantify benefits or loss of existing or decreasing services. Through The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative, new methods and tools are being developed to valuate and integrate the socio-economic values of biodiversity and ecosystem services in development planning to inform decision-making processes. The integration of ecosystem service values into development planning helps to achieve a balance between economic and social development goals, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

Ecosystem Services
Categories of Ecosystem Services

  • Provisioning services are the products people obtain from ecosystems.
  • Regulating services are the benefits people obtain from the regulation of ecosystem processes.
  • Supporting services include provision of habitats, primary productivity, nutrient cycling and soil formation.
  • Cultural services represent the spiritual, educational, recreational enjoyment derived from healthy ecosystems.

(Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005)

Examples of Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Services

  • Securing food: Fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 128 million tonnes of fish for consumption in 2010. Marine capture fisheries alone (theoretically) put one fillet per week on every person’s plate.
  • Enabling income and employment: When all aspects of fisheries are taken into account, including packaging, boat construction and maintenance, fisheries support the livelihoods of an estimated 660–820 million people. Especially small-scale fisheries, which employ more than 90 per cent of the world’s capture fishers, are vital to food and nutrition security and poverty alleviation.
  • Providing habitats: Healthy coral reefs can yield an average of 15 tonnes of fish and other seafood per square kilometre each year. 1.2 percent of the world’s tropical coral reefs nourish up to 1 billion people. Estuaries, mangroves, seagrass beds and kelp forests are home to a large variety of species.
  • Protecting coasts: Coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds reduce coastal erosion, provide protection from floods, stabilise land by trapping sediments and buffer land from storms.
  • Regulating climate: Marine ecosystems play an important role in climate regulation due to their ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Enabling recreation: Coastal tourism provides a livelihood for many coastal communities. It relies on pristine beaches, clean water, healthy ecosystems and abundant wildlife.
  • Catalysing innovation: Marine life provides a huge variety of creative “technology” that inspires innovations in engineering from swimsuits to oil-tankers.
  • Providing medicine: Many new pharmacological compounds have been discovered in marine ecosystems.
  • Cycling services: Re-mineralization and nutrient cycling are indispensable to life. Mangroves, salt marshes and sea grass beds are important habitats for cycling nutrients and filtering water of pollutants.