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      Current Status and Future Prospects for the Assessment of Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Services: A Systematic Review

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          Research on ecosystem services has grown exponentially during the last decade. Most of the studies have focused on assessing and mapping terrestrial ecosystem services highlighting a knowledge gap on marine and coastal ecosystem services (MCES) and an urgent need to assess them.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          We reviewed and summarized existing scientific literature related to MCES with the aim of extracting and classifying indicators used to assess and map them. We found 145 papers that specifically assessed marine and coastal ecosystem services from which we extracted 476 indicators. Food provision, in particular fisheries, was the most extensively analyzed MCES while water purification and coastal protection were the most frequently studied regulating and maintenance services. Also recreation and tourism under the cultural services was relatively well assessed. We highlight knowledge gaps regarding the availability of indicators that measure the capacity, flow or benefit derived from each ecosystem service. The majority of the case studies was found in mangroves and coastal wetlands and was mainly concentrated in Europe and North America. Our systematic review highlighted the need of an improved ecosystem service classification for marine and coastal systems, which is herein proposed with definitions and links to previous classifications.


          This review summarizes the state of available information related to ecosystem services associated with marine and coastal ecosystems. The cataloging of MCES indicators and the integrated classification of MCES provided in this paper establish a background that can facilitate the planning and integration of future assessments. The final goal is to establish a consistent structure and populate it with information able to support the implementation of biodiversity conservation policies.

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          Most cited references 7

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          Managing ecosystem services: what do we need to know about their ecology?

           Claire Kremen (2005)
          Human domination of the biosphere has greatly altered ecosystems, often overwhelming their capacity to provide ecosystem services critical to our survival. Yet ecological understanding of ecosystem services is quite limited. Previous work maps the supply and demand for services, assesses threats to them, and estimates economic values, but does not measure the underlying role of biodiversity in providing services. In contrast, experimental studies of biodiversity-function examine communities whose structures often differ markedly from those providing services in real landscapes. A bridge is needed between these two approaches. To develop this research agenda, I discuss critical questions and key approaches in four areas: (1) identifying the important 'ecosystem service providers'; (2) determining the various aspects of community structure that influence function in real landscapes, especially compensatory community responses that stabilize function, or non-random extinction sequences that rapidly erode it; (3) assessing key environmental factors influencing provision of services, and (4) measuring the spatio-temporal scale over which providers and services operate. I show how this research agenda can assist in developing environmental policy and natural resource management plans.
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            An operational model for mainstreaming ecosystem services for implementation.

            Research on ecosystem services has grown markedly in recent years. However, few studies are embedded in a social process designed to ensure effective management of ecosystem services. Most research has focused only on biophysical and valuation assessments of putative services. As a mission-oriented discipline, ecosystem service research should be user-inspired and user-useful, which will require that researchers respond to stakeholder needs from the outset and collaborate with them in strategy development and implementation. Here we provide a pragmatic operational model for achieving the safeguarding of ecosystem services. The model comprises three phases: assessment, planning, and management. Outcomes of social, biophysical, and valuation assessments are used to identify opportunities and constraints for implementation. The latter then are transformed into user-friendly products to identify, with stakeholders, strategic objectives for implementation (the planning phase). The management phase undertakes and coordinates actions that achieve the protection of ecosystem services and ensure the flow of these services to beneficiaries. This outcome is achieved via mainstreaming, or incorporating the safeguarding of ecosystem services into the policies and practices of sectors that deal with land- and water-use planning. Management needs to be adaptive and should be institutionalized in a suite of learning organizations that are representative of the sectors that are concerned with decision-making and planning. By following the phases of our operational model, projects for safeguarding ecosystem services are likely to empower stakeholders to implement effective on-the-ground management that will achieve resilience of the corresponding social-ecological systems.
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              Habitat loss, trophic collapse, and the decline of ecosystem services.

              The provisioning of sustaining goods and services that we obtain from natural ecosystems is a strong economic justification for the conservation of biological diversity. Understanding the relationship between these goods and services and changes in the size, arrangement, and quality of natural habitats is a fundamental challenge of natural resource management. In this paper, we describe a new approach to assessing the implications of habitat loss for loss of ecosystem services by examining how the provision of different ecosystem services is dominated by species from different trophic levels. We then develop a mathematical model that illustrates how declines in habitat quality and quantity lead to sequential losses of trophic diversity. The model suggests that declines in the provisioning of services will initially be slow but will then accelerate as species from higher trophic levels are lost at faster rates. Comparison of these patterns with empirical examples of ecosystem collapse (and assembly) suggest similar patterns occur in natural systems impacted by anthropogenic change. In general, ecosystem goods and services provided by species in the upper trophic levels will be lost before those provided by species lower in the food chain. The decrease in terrestrial food chain length predicted by the model parallels that observed in the oceans following overexploitation. The large area requirements of higher trophic levels make them as susceptible to extinction as they are in marine systems where they are systematically exploited. Whereas the traditional species-area curve suggests that 50% of species are driven extinct by an order-of-magnitude decline in habitat abundance, this magnitude of loss may represent the loss of an entire trophic level and all the ecosystem services performed by the species on this trophic level.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                3 July 2013
                : 8
                : 7
                [1 ]Water Resources Unit, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
                [2 ]Land Resource Management Unit, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
                [3 ]Maritime Affairs Unit, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
                National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Marine Fisheries Service/Southwest Fisheries Science Center, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CL CP EGD LG SK AC BE. Performed the experiments: CL CP EGD LG SK AC BE. Analyzed the data: CL CP EGD LG SK AC BE. Wrote the paper: CL CP EGD LG SK AC BE.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 15
                The views expressed in this document are purely those of the authors and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission (EC). The funders (EC) had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Ecological Environments
                Marine Environments
                Coastal Ecology
                Conservation Science
                Ecological Economics
                Ecological Metrics
                Environmental Protection
                Marine Biology
                Marine Conservation
                Marine Ecology
                Earth Sciences
                Environmental Sciences
                Environmental Economics
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Marine Biology
                Marine Ecology
                Marine Geology



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