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Ecosystem services are things produced by nature that benefit to people. Some of those benefits have a well-defined economic value: a healthy ocean produces fish and attracts tourism, for instance. But the sea also produces a sense of wellbeing, which is less easily circumscribed.
Measuring all the benefits the sea provides is the business of "ecosystem service valuation" (ESV). It aims to maximize all benefits we derive from the ocean. On Tuesday, Oct. 22, it was the subject of a two-part workshop (WS2I1A and WS2I1B), co-chaired by Mahé Charles and Linwood Pendleton. They met us afterward to summarize its outcomes.
Today's workshops, Mahé Charles said, showed that MPAs put ESV to many uses:
But participants also stressed the limits of their tools: not everything can be meaningfully evaluated as one aggregate monetary value. If they are to prove useful, valuation processes must focus on specific criteria – those where change is expected or desired.
Linwood Pendleton said: "A successful valuation process is one that provides managers with the right information to enhance the well-being of populations."
ESV challenges sectoral approaches, because it only works if all stakeholders agree to cooperate – providing an incentive for more communication. It can even prove a tool to educate the public. Pendleton: "ESV proves that residents of Paris depend on the sea for their wellbeing, just like residents of Marseille do."
Mahé Charles is economist at the French MPA Agency.
Linwood Pendleton is Director of Ocean Policy at the Nicholas Institute, Duke University, North Carolina.