Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series
Edited by Davide Geneletti
Chapter 11: Ecosystem services in marine Environmental Impact Assessment: tools to support marine planning at project and strategic scales
The coastal zone supports a wide range and high density of activities including fisheries, recreation, energy, ports and shipping, communication infrastructure and aggregate extraction, which must co-exist with each other and with wider social and environmental management objectives. The ecosystem services approach has the potential to support planning as part of the assessment process for individual projects and also at a more strategic level in the development of local and regional marine plans. It remains the case that ecosystem service approaches to marine Environmental Impact Assessment have tended to consider only a small number of services, which is of limited use in project or strategic planning. This reflects the particular challenges the marine environment presents, which are principally: a lack of empirical data; limited knowledge of the links between species, habitats and ecosystem services; and poor understanding of the response of services to changes in human pressure. Nonetheless, advances are being made. There are a small but growing number of studies that have suggested practical approaches for the assessment of a larger suite of ecosystem services, with a key focus on the development of indicators that allow meaningful information on ecosystem services to be collected. These studies demonstrate that generic frameworks have only a limited application, and illustrate the importance of stakeholder involvement in the assessment process in order to understand diverse priorities and value constructs. Methods to assimilate and present a wealth of complex information are also being explored, to facilitate communication with decision-makers on how the delivery of marine ecosystem services might vary with changes in human pressures. Spatial mapping and modelling are powerful tools to raise awareness and evaluate scenarios. The use of Bayesian belief networks and geographical information systems will be illustrated with case studies that consider local and regional marine planning scenarios focusing on the development of marine protected areas and marine renewable energy installations.
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