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From ecosystem services to benefits of the Baltic Sea - indicators and threats

image of From ecosystem services to benefits of the Baltic Sea - indicators and threats

Eutrophication, oil spills, and invasive species. Indicators and human benefits from ecosystem services of the Baltic Sea. These were the token of discussion at the ”Nordic Workshop on Economic Analysis of the State of the Baltic Sea, NorWEBS” in Helsinki on 19-20 November 2009, arranged by MTT Agrifood Research Finland. A joint researcher team of economists and marine experts assembled at the workshop to discuss the three main threats to the ecology of the Baltic Sea and find respective indicators of the state of Baltic Sea to be used in economic valuation. Economic valuation of the ecosystem services is required for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis on protective measures. Based on the presentations and discussions held in the NorWEBS-workshop we propose a framework for deriving the combined benefits from the Baltic Sea ecosystem services.

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Conclusions

The economic value is a commensurable measure which allows different kinds of ecosystem services and different types of pressures on the Baltic Sea to be compared and aggregated. The aggregation is not a simple task as the sea is connected to many human activities, which are often inter-related and substitutable. Understanding how anthropogenic pressures such as eutrophication, oil spills and invasive alien species affect the services, and ultimately the benefits, requires knowledge of the ecological processes that provide the services. These underlying processes can be seen as supporting and regulating ecosystem services as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment demonstrates. However, for the purpose of aggregation of benefits we need to focus on the intermediate and final services, which produce human wellbeing (Fisher et al. 2009). Including the underlying ecological processes as evaluated services will lead to double-counting of benefits (Boyd & Banzhaf 2007). Instead, the regulating and supporting services (processes) will need to be modelled in such way that their significance is represented quantitatively in the quality of the provisioning and cultural services, i.e. in the benefits of these more direct services.

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