Systemic Insights into the Management of Ecosystem Services in the Marine Environment

Jonathan P Atkins, Daryl Burdon, Mike Elliott, Amanda J Gregory


This paper centres on the application of The Ecosystem Approach in the management of the marine environment, involving the identification of multi-stakeholder needs and uses of ecosystem services. The Ecosystem Approach provides ‘a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way’, while ecosystem services are ‘the conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfil human life’. Ever increasing and diverse use of the marine environment is leading to human-induced changes in marine-life, making necessary the development of a marine policy formation process that recognises and takes into consideration the full range of stakeholders and results in policy that addresses current, multiple, interacting uses (e.g. the EU’s Maritime Policy and Marine Strategy Framework Directive). Taking a systemic approach, incorporating an understanding of marine ecosystem structure and functioning, we identify the diversity of stakeholders and their uses of the marine environment within the framework of ecosystem services (production, regulation, cultural and over-arching support services). Informed by the DPSIR (Drivers – Pressures - State Change – Impact - Response) approach - a framework for assessing the causes, consequences and responses to change – we assess the outcomes of competing human uses and emerging pressures on the marine environment, the complexity of decision making in this area, and provide a process for informing choices in conflict resolution involving a diversity of stakeholders. Case studies include the management of (i) marine aggregates extraction in UK waters and (ii) coastal biodiversity at Flamborough Head, UK.


The Ecosystem Approach; DPSIR; ecosystem services; complex adaptive system

Full Text: