Potential application of the concept of marine biological valuation

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This article forms part of discussions centred around valuing the marine environment at a workshop held from 6 to 8 December 2006 at Ghent (Belgium). The workshop was a joint venture of the EU CA ENCORA and the EU NoE MARBEF. Both Theme 7 within ENCORA and Theme 3 within MARBEF deal with marine/coastal biological valuation and the workshop aimed to reach a consensus on this topic. It specifically considers the use of marine biological valuation maps in the evaluation process.

Visualisation of biological valuation

Once the concept of biological valuation is applied to a marine study area, the result of this process could be visualized on marine biological valuation maps (BVMs).

How to use these maps

Marine BVMs can act as a kind of baseline describing the intrinsic biological and ecological value of subzones within a study area. They can be considered as warning systems for marine managers who are planning new, threatening activities at sea, and can help to indicate conflicts between human uses and a subzone’s high biological value during spatial planning.

Inclusion of temporal scale in the concept[1]

How not to use these maps

It should be explicitly stated that these BVMs give no information on the potential impacts that any activity could have on a certain subzone, since criteria like vulnerability or resilience are deliberately not included in the valuation scheme, because the determination of the ‘vulnerability’ of a system is mainly a human value judgement. These criteria should therefore be considered in a later phase of site-specific management (e.g. selection of protected areas) than the assessment of value of marine subzones.

The BVMs could be used as a framework to evaluate the effects of certain management decisions (implementation of MPAs or a new quota for resource use), but only at a more general level when BVMs are revised after a period of time to see if value changes have occurred in subzones where these management actions were implemented. However, these value changes cannot be directly related to specific impact sources, but only give an integrated view of the effect of all impact sources in the subzone.

What 'caveats' do we need to caution HOW the valuation protocol should be used/applied?[1]
Does the production of BVMs give us a false sense of security?[1]

Possible future additions to these maps

The development of decision support tools for marine management could build on these BVMs by adding other criteria to the assessment concept. When developing a framework, suitable for the selection of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), representativeness, integrity, and socio-economic and management criteria should also be taken into account, especially when considering the need for management for sustainable use.
Derousetal Figure.jpg
What if there are there conflicts between value estimates and existing or proposed MPAs?[1]

Managers may also want to know which areas should get the highest priority. Therefore, the sites that attained the highest biological and ecological value could be screened, with the application of additional criteria like ‘degree of threat’, ‘political/public concern’ and ‘feasibility of conservation measures’. Thus, although the ultimate selection of the priority areas may be a political decision, selection can still have a solid scientific base through the use of BVMs.

An overview of the possible steps beyond the development of a marine BVM is given in the lower part of the figure at the right, which shows that, although these following steps should be founded on scientific biological valuation, they cannot be based solely on such criteria.


These paragraphs are based on the paper of Derous et al. (2007). A concept for biological valuation in the marine environment. Oceanologia 49 (1). See FLANDERS MARINE INSTITUTE web site at [1] for the full citation and to download a copy of the paper.

Related articles

Marine biological valuation

Ecosystem services


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Encora Theme 7-MARBEF Theme 3 (2007). Workshop report of the workshop on marine biological valuation. Workshop from 6 to 8 December 2006, Gent, Belgium, pp. 33. The workshop report can be downloaded at (http://www.marbef.org/documents/Theme3/GhentWS/report.pdf)