Description of the ecosystem services provided by broad-scale habitats and features of conservation importance that are likely to be protected by Marine Protected Areas in the Marine Conservation Zone Project area
This source preferred by Roger Herbert
Authors: Fletcher, S., Saunders, J., Herbert, R.J.H. and Roberts, C.
Publisher: Natural England
Place of Publication: Peterborough
The purpose of this research project is, through a literature review, “to describe the ecosystem services provided by broad-scale habitats and features of conservation importance that are likely to be protected by Marine Protected Areas in the Marine Conservation Zone Project area”. Ecosystem services have been defined in many ways, but the common link between them is the emphasis placed upon the role played by ecosystems in enhancing or maintaining human wellbeing. The classification of ecosystem services used in this study has been adapted from a model developed through ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB) project (Balmford and others 2008). The TEEB ecosystem service classification is based on a distinction between the beneficial ecological processes and the services experienced by humans. Since the ecosystem services are considered separately from their underpinning ecosystem processes, it eliminates the risk of double counting and facilitates effective economic valuation of ecosystem services. The literature review was conducted using a systematic search method based on an agreed set of keywords that reflected the ecosystem services identified within the adapted TEEB classification. UK-specific peer-reviewed research was prioritised as the evidence base for this study, but where unavailable, alternative sources were used. The habitats and species likely to be protected in the Marine Conservation Zone Project area (known as ‘marine features’) were each reviewed in order to identify the beneficial ecosystem processes and services it provides. Each feature review has four main sections: 1) a summary of the beneficial ecosystem services the feature provides; 2) a summary of the ecological character of the marine feature; 3) a review of the beneficial ecosystem processes provided by the marine feature; and 4) a review of the beneficial ecosystem services provided by the marine feature. Overall, the review found that the evidence base for the existence of beneficial ecosystem processes and services is inconsistent, with some features offering the potential for relatively strong conclusions regarding the beneficial ecosystem processes and services available, whereas others offered little or no evidence, making conclusions extremely tentative and potentially unreliable. Therefore when interpreting this report, it is important for the reader not to equate insufficient evidence with the provision of no beneficial ecosystem services. Of the evidence available, substantially more was related to habitats than species, with the evidence base stronger with respect to beneficial ecosystem processes than beneficial ecosystem services. In particular, a strong evidence base was identified for the beneficial ecosystem processes of primary and secondary production, larval/gamete supply, food web dynamics, formation of species habitat, and species diversification. Within the habitat reviews, commercial fisheries were the beneficial ecosystem service with the strongest evidence base. For individual species, the evidence base for beneficial ecosystem processes and services was very limited, with no evidence available at all for many species. As with the habitat evidence base, a majority of the evidence available for species-specific beneficial ecosystem services was focused upon commercial fisheries. All features were considered to provide spiritual, cultural, research and education benefits, although these were difficult to quantify.
Despite the limited evidence base, the report identifies that most marine features likely to be protected by the Marine Protected Areas in the Marine Conservation Zone Project area have both beneficial ecosystem processes and services, and therefore provide a clear link to aspects of human wellbeing.