Conservation and restoration of marine biodiversity
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This article provides a description of an approach to to the conservation of coastal and marine habitats ecosystems involving biodiversity evaluation. It reflects the discussion and conclusions, which took place at a workshop to develop a biological valuation strategy. A summary of the aspirations of the workshop and the issues covered are presented here. Some of the concepts are applicable to the coastal terrestrial and transitional areas but the main focus of the workshop was the development of a marine evaluation protocol.
The workshop was held from 6 to 8 December 2006 at Ghent (Belgium). It was a joint venture of the EU CA ENCORA (http://www.encora.org) and the EU NoE MARBEF (http://www.marbef.org). 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.
Theme 7 deals with the restoration and preservation of coastal biodiversity
Theme 7 Biodiversity of coastal and marine habitats and ecosystems includes the conservation and restoration of coastal and marine habitats and ecosystems. It aims to provide an integrated view on nature’s intrinsic value. Biological value is here defined as the value of biodiversity, without any reference to anthropogenic use. As such, the biological value complements the social and economic valuation Theme 1 within Decision Support Systems (DSSs). Unlike the terrestrial coastal environment until now, the biological value of marine areas was basically assessed through an unguided procedure, primarily based upon a (the available) best expert judgement. Such extremely subjective and arbitrarily procedure largely contributed to the general ignorance of biological value within current DSSs. A marine biological valuation strategy, in contrary, should ideally be (1) scientifically widely acceptable, to avoid an uncontrolled proliferation of valuation strategies (i.e. broad scientific support), and (2) widely applicable, to maximise its applicability (e.g. stakeholder involvement). Only when both criteria are fulfilled, the valuation strategy might be taken into DSSs to quantify nature’s intrinsic value.
Theme specific issues
- During a first environmental scientists workshop, the already existing, national and international strategies for the ecological valuation of the terrestrial as well as the marine part of the coastal zone were used as a baseline for developing a concept and protocol for European ecological valuation in the coastal environment.
- A selected set of case studies along the European gradients in biogeography, in knowledge (well- versus poorly known) and in preservation (e.g. preserved, restored and degraded systems) were used to evaluate the applicability of the protocol and will thus render information necessary to upgrade the protocol (this can be done during a second environmental scientists workshop.
- Stakeholders in the European coastal zone were invited to test the usefulness of the protocol for European Ecological Valuation, rendering information needed to finalize the protocol into a final ecological valuation protocol during the concluding environmental scientists workshop.
The concept of marine biological valuation
In order to develop management strategies for sustainable use and conservation in the marine environment, reliable and meaningful, but integrated ecological information is needed. Marine biological valuation maps that compile and summarize all available biological and ecological information for a study area, and that allocate an overall marine biological value to subzones, can be used as baseline maps for future spatial planning at sea. This paper provides a concept for marine biological valuation which is based on a literature review of existing valuation criteria and the consensus reached by a discussion group of experts. The valuation criteria that were selected for this concept are rarity, fitness consequences, aggregation (as first-order criteria), naturalness and proportional importance (as modifying criteria).
- Introduction to the concept
- Definition of marine biological value
- Selected valuation criteria
- Potential application of the biological valuation concept
A protocol for marine biological valuation
To be updated later...
The valuation protocol comprises several steps
- Definition of study area
- Data collection and analysis
- Assessment questions
- Mathematical algorithms
- Scoring system
- Reliability of values
- Marine biological valuation maps
Discussion of the biological valuation concept and protocol
During the workshop the concept and protocol of marine biological valuation was discussed and adjusted when necessary. The workshop made use of the expertise and thoughts on this subject of the participants (see files at the right side for list of participants). Only such wide and interactive cooperation might lead to a protocol that is widely accepted and applicable.
The main objectives of the workshop were therefore:
- To have a general discussion on the prototype valuation protocol, with emphasis on the applicability in marine/coastal habitats
- To come to a preliminary consensus on the biological valuation protocol
- To agree on the project outline and timing for the coming years
- To select case study areas for protocol testing and to make practical arrangements on these tests.
The ENCORA community mainly consists of coastal scientists, practitioners and policy makers. By inviting members of the MARBEF Theme 3 community, which also deals with marine biological valuation (next to the goods and services valuation of marine biodiversity), the expertise present during the workshop was drastically increased. MARBEF also doesn’t focus only on the coastal area, but enlarges the field of study to the entire marine system.
Cooperation between ENCORA and MARBEF in this initial phase of the development of a biological valuation methodology will lead to a methodology which is acceptable for a broader marine/coastal community. As ENCORA focuses on end-users, participation from this network could bring in the indispensable input of practitioners and stake holders as well as their experience with decision support systems in the coastal area.
The discussions and conclusions of this workshop are linked to the corresponding paragraphs on the concept and protocol for marine biological valuation.
Testing the concept on case study areas
During the last ENCORA Theme 7-MARBEF Theme 3 workshop it was agreed to test the proposed concept and protocol on several case study areas. Case study areas which will be valuated both biologically and socio-economically within the MARBEF Theme 3 consortium are:
- Flamborough Head Area (NE UK)
- Isles of Scilly (SW UK)
- Pico-Faial Channel (Azores, Portugal)
- Belgian-Dutch coast (Belgium – the Netherlands)
- Sylt-Romo area (Denmark)
- Gulf of Gdansk (Poland)
There’s no even distribution of these case study areas over European marine waters as no case study areas are located in the Mediterranean Sea, along the Atlantic coast of France and Portugal and in the northern Scandinavian area. It would be nice if these areas could be covered as well by selecting new case study areas there in the framework of ENCORA Theme 7.
There are also no beach areas analyzed in the current case study areas, so maybe these environments could be covered as well. Here we want to launch an open invitation to all ENCORA members will to propose new case study areas to test the protocol on.
These case study areas will be used to test the biodiversity valuation protocol. Several tests can be performed.
Note the links to the case studies have yet to be established The results of the biological valuation of these case study areas will be presented here as soon as the test are done.
- 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. (http://www.marbef.org/documents/Theme3/GhentWS/report.pdf)
- 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., Degraer S. (2007). A concept for biological valuation in the marine environment. Oceanologia 49 (1). See FLANDERS MARINE INSTITUTE web site at  to download a copy of the paper.