Integrating Ecosystem Services in Marine Spatial Planning (PhD project)

The world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems are severely threatened and continue degrading facing impacts by multiple marine sectors as fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, energy (oil, gas and renewable) and tourism. Current use levels are considered unsustainable and there is evidence that the capacity of marine ecosystems to provide services is decreasing. Policy makers in Europe increasingly recognize this problem and its implications and efforts are made to address this issue. For instance, in 2008 the EC Marine Strategies Framework Directive (MSFD; Directive 2008/56/EC) became operative to protect marine ecosystems and their biodiversity. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is considered as one tool to implement the EU MSFD and is currently developed by the member states. Although the MSFD asks for an ecosystem approach to achieve integrated marine management, current MSP approaches and frameworks insufficiently consider ecosystem services and their values in the planning process.

Project objectives

Since Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a relatively new and dynamic field, this PhD thesis aims to contribute to this process by focussing on the application of the ecosystem approach in the implementation of MSP and will explore options to integrate ecosystem services consistently into the planning procedure.

Methodology and (expected) results

Steps forward in methodology and knowledge base related to the integration of ecosystem services in Marine Spatial Planning will be achieved by:

  1. Developing a theoretically consistent and practical typology of marine ecosystem services.
  2. Developing an application-oriented framework for integrating consideration of ecosystem services along the MSP process.
  3. Estimating the impacts of different ecosystem-based management measures on marine ecosystem service provision in Europe using market values.
  4. Measuring the importance of cultural ecosystem services in European marine areas.
  5. Integrate ecosystem services in a tradeoff analysis and in decision support tools for MSP.