ETC/ICM Report 2/2019: EU Policy-Based Assessment of the Capacity of Marine Ecosystems to Supply Ecosystem Services

04 Nov 2019

In recent years, the realisation of the diversity of direct outputs the marine ecosystem delivers to people (i.e. marine ecosystem services), and the fragility of most of these to human pressures, has led to the development of the ‘ecosystem approach’ as a more holistic way to manage human activities. The ecosystem approach considers all aspects of the system including sustainable human use, multiple sectors, multiple biological aspects, ecosystem services and the interaction between these parts (Crain et al., 2009). Further, multiple management objectives and trade-offs which may occur between ecological, social and economic factors are also considered (Knights et al., 2014). This approach is increasingly accepted as the solution to managing ever-greater human activity in the marine environment and the resulting complex interaction of multiple impacts between system components (e.g. Crain et al., 2009; Tallis et al., 2010, Halpern et al., 2012). Ecosystem-based management is firmly embedded in the environmental policies of the EU and the marine centred policies of the Integrated Maritime Policy (EC, 2007), in particular in its ‘environmental pillar’: The Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
A framework that can link marine ecosystem components with all the marine ecosystems services they have the potential to supply is essential in progressing towards an ecosystem approach to management. Thus, the aim of this Report is to provide an EU-level marine ecosystem-based assessment approach (i.e. a concept, framework and method) that considers how ecosystem state affects its capacity for the supply of ecosystem services. The outcomes of this assessment can indicate whether marine, and other, natural capital is being managed sustainably, and so whether marine ecosystem capital (its biotic component) is being renewed as needed to ensure the continued supply of these services to, and their associated benefits for, people. The approach here is framed by and based on certain EU policy instruments so that the outcomes of the assessment can serve to support their implementation.
This Report describes an approach for a Marine Ecosystem Capacity for Service supply Assessment (MECSA) following on from preliminary work by the European Environment Agency and its European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters. It first describes the key elements considered to be a prerequisite for such an assessment, it then explains how these elements led to the development of an assessment method and, finally, it describes and tests the assessment method itself. The approach starts from the perspective that the state of marine ecosystem components can inform us on the state of marine ecosystem services (specifically on the sustainability of marine ecosystem service supply) through indicating the capacity of marine ecosystems to supply these services (supply-side assessment approach). In designing this approach, we set out to present a flexible method that could capture the complexity of the system, but would not be reliant on data-driven or spatially resolved information

Prepared by:
Lead authors: Fiona Culhane (UoL), Christopher Frid (UoL), Eva Royo Gelabert (EEA), Leonie Robinson (UoL)
EEA project manager: Eva Royo Gelabert (EEA)
Contributors: Bethany Stoker (JNCC), Lydia White (UoL), Gerjan Piet (WMR), David Miller (WMR), Harriet van Overzee (WMR), Luca Doria (JNCC), Hannah Jones (UoL), Paul Scott (UoL)
Acknowledgements: Jan-Erik Petersen (EEA), Markus Erhard (EEA), Irene Del Barrio Alvarellos (EEA), Eleni Tryfon (EEA), Carlos Romao (EEA), Monika Peterlin (EEA), Stéphane Isoard (EEA), Ronan Uhel (EEA), Arjen Boon (Deltares), Anna-Stiina Heiskanen (SYKE), Kari Saulamo (SYKE), Harri Kuosa (SYKE), Annuka Eriksson (SYKE), Soile Oinonen (SYKE), Giulia Mo (ISPRA), Leonardo Tunesi (ISPRA), Sabrina Agnesi (ISPRA), Olga Maschina (SYKE), Peter Chaniotis (JNCC), Charlotte Islev (EEA), Benjamin Boteler (Ecologic), Franziska Stuke (Ecologic), Manuel Lago (Ecologic), Sophie Condé (MNHN), Joona Salojärvi (SYKE), Elina Seppälä (SYKE), Anna Tainio (SYKE), Petteri Vihervaara (SYKE), Cristina Vina-Herbon (JNCC)
Coordination: Claudia Neitzel (ETC/ICM, UFZ)
English check: Bethany Stoker (JNCC)
Layout: F&U confirm, Leipzig

Published by: ETC/ICM, November 2019, 263 pp.