Marine biological valuation

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Definition of Marine biological valuation:
The intrinsic value of marine biodiversity, without reference to anthropogenic use (Derous et al. 2007a) [1].
This is the common definition for Marine biological valuation, other definitions can be discussed in the article

Development of biological valuation approaches

Current attempts to valuate nature are based largely on two papers published by Costanza et al. (1997) [2] and Costanza (1999) [3], which set forth the foundation for assessing the value of environmental goods and services in monetary terms. However, challenges to purely economic valuations of nature were soon recognized [4]. A concept for biological valuation in the marine environment was developed by Derous et al. (2007a), based on an international workshop held in 2004 and an extensive literature review [1]. The concept was further refined based on an ENCORA and MarBEF workshop held in 2006 [5]. The purpose of marine biological valuation is to assess the intrinsic biological value of marine areas and their subzones. This can be done on a continuous or discrete value scale, e.g. high, medium and low value [1].

Biological valuation methodology

The marine biological valuation methodology is able to integrate all available biological information on an area into one indicator. This methodology can be used in every marine environment, regardless of the amount and quality of the available biological data or the habitat type. It yields relative results that allow comparisons between subzones within a study site, but no absolute values that could be used to compare different study areas [6]. In contrast to many other approaches, no single measures of biodiversity (such as species richness or occurrence of flagship or keystone species) are used in this methodology, as these would not reflect total biodiversity or would not adequately mirror the complex marine biological systems Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content [1]. For more details, see Biodiversity as a marine valuation concept. In the original methodology, five valuation criteria were selected [1] . The three first-order criteria were rarity, aggregation and fitness consequences. In addition, the two modifying criteria naturalness and proportional importance were included. After a first application of this method to the Belgian North Sea coast [7], the concept was refined in the ENCORA and MarBEF workshop mentioned before [5]. To avoid double counting, the two criteria aggregation and fitness consequences were combined in the new methodology. Moreover, the criteria of proportional importance and naturalness were excluded. The use of rarity as a valuation criteria remained unchanged in the refined method [5].

Biological valuation maps

Marine biological valuation is a tool for calling attention to subzones that have particularly high ecological or biological significance. Biological valuation maps can therefore be used as baseline maps for future spatial planning in the marine environment [1].

Biological valuation maps of areas located near three main harbours at the Belgian coastal zone: (a) Nieuwpoort (Lombardsijde); (b) Oostende (Oostende-East); (c) Zeebrugge (Baai van Heist). The subtidal and intertidal parts of the subzones were assessed separately. (Vanden Eede et al. 2014) [8].

Recent use of the biological valuation approach

After its initial development in 2007, the biological valuation method was applied in Belgium, Portugal, Poland, the UK and Denmark. Only few case studies can be found in online publications that used this methodology after 2009. At the Bay of Biscay in the Basque continental shelf, a biological valuation map was created and used to identify biodiversity hotspots in 2011 [6]. Moreover, Vanden Eede et al. (2014) [8] continued the biological valuation of the Belgian North Sea coast, this time based on an R-script developed by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ).

Biological valuation vs. ecosystem service assessments

An alternative method to valuate nature is the ecosystem service concept, which has gained strong momentum and popularity over the past 20 years [9]. Ecosystem services are commonly defined as “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems” [10] or “the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being” [11]. In contrast to the biological valuation method, which does not incorporate anthropogenic use, ecosystem services are therefore completely anthropocentric. In coastal and marine environments, the valuation of ecosystem services has become increasingly important [12]. Ecosystem service assessments are recognized to have a high potential for applications in marine spatial planning [13] or integrated coastal zone management[14]. For example, a nation-wide assessment of coastal and marine ecosystem services was recently conducted in the UK, with the aim to contribute to a decision support system for adaptive coastal management [15]. One reason why the biological valuation method is not as often applied in decision-making contexts might be that a purely biological valuation is by definition not suitable to assess impacts of human management: "Biological valuation maps give no information on the potential impacts that any human activity could have on a certain subzone, since criteria like vulnerability and resilience are deliberately not included in the valuation scheme...". (Derous et al. 2007a) [1]. Further non-biological assessments are required to allow the use of biological valuation maps as decision-support tools for marine or coastal management.

Related articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Derous, S., Agardy, T., Hillewaert, H., Hostens, K., Jamieson, G., Lieberknecht, L., Mees, J., Moulaert, I., Olenin, S., Paelinckx, D., Rabaut, M., Rachor, E., Roff, J., Stienen, E.W.M., van der Wal, J. T., van Lancker, V., Verfaillie, E., Vincx, M., Weslawski, J.M. and Degraer, S. (2007a): A concept for biological valuation in the marine environment. Oceanologia 49(1), pp. 99-128
  2. Costanza, R., D’Arge, R., de Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburg, K., Naem, S., O’Neil, R.V., Paruelo, J., Raskin, R.G., Sutton, P. and van den Belt, M. (1997): The value of the world ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387, pp. 253-260
  3. Costanza R. (1999): The ecological, economic and social importance of the oceans. Ecological Economics 31, pp. 199-213
  4. Daily, G. (Ed.). (1997). Nature's services: societal dependence on natural ecosystems. Island Press, Washington DC
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Derous, S., Austen, M., Claus, S., Daan, N., Dauvin, J.-C., Deneudt, K., Depestele, J., Desroy, N., Heessen, H., Hostens, K., Marboe, A.H., Lescrauwaet, A.-K., Moreno, M.P., Moulaert, I., Paelinckx, D., Rabaut, M., Rees, H., Ressurreicao, A., Roff, J., Santos, P.T., Speybroeck, J., Stienen, E.W.M., Tatarek, A., Hofstede, R.T., Vincx, M., Zarzycki, T. and Degraer, S. (2007b): Building on the concept of marine biological valuation with respect to translating it to a practical protocol: Viewpoints derived from a joint ENCORA-MARBEF initiative. Oceanologia 49(4), pp. 579-586
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pascual, M., Borja, A., Eede, S.V., Deneudt, K., Vincx, M., Galparsoro, I. And Legorburu, I. (2011): Marine biological valuation mapping of the Basque continental shelf (Bay of Biscay) within the context of marine spatial planning. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 95(1), pp. 186-198
  7. Derous, S., Courtens, W., Cuvelier, D., Deckers, P., Deneudt, K., Hillewaert, H., Hostens, K., Mees, J., Moulaert, I., Stienen, E., van Lancker, V., Verfaillie, E., Vincx, M. and Degraer, S. (2007c): BWZee - A biological valuation map for the Belgian part of the North Sea. Belgian Science Policy, Brussels
  8. 8.0 8.1 Van den Eede, S., Laporta, L., Deneudt, K., Stienen, E., Derous, S., Degraer, S. And Vincx, M. (2014): Marine biological valuation of the shallow Belgian coastal zone: A space-use conflict example within the context of marine spatial planning. Ocean and Coastal Management 96, pp. 61-72
  9. Costanza, R., de Groot, R., Braat, L., Kubizewski, I., Fioramonti, L., Sutton, P., Farber, S. and Grasso, M. Twenty years of ecosystem services (2017): How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? Ecosystem services 28 pp. 1-16
  10. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MAE) (2005): Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC
  11. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) (2010): The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: mainstreaming the economics of nature: a synthesis of the approach, conclusions and recommendations of TEEB (No. 333.95 E19). UNEP, Ginebra
  12. Barbier, E.B. (2012): Progress and Challenges in Valuing Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 6(1), pp. 1-19
  13. Böhnke-Henrichs, A., Baulcomb, C., Koss, R., Hussain, S.S. and de Groot, R.S. (2013): Typology and indicators of ecosystem services for marine spatial planning and management. Journal of Environmental Management 130, pp. 135-145
  14. Elliff, C.I. and Kikuchi, R.K.P. (2015): The ecosystem service approach and its application as a tool for integrated coastal management. Natureza y Conservação 13 (2), pp. 105-111
  15. National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) (2011): UK National Ecosystem Assessment : Technical report. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge

The main authors of this article are Meike Wege, Simone Krüger and Marion Kruse