Mismatches between legislative frameworks and ecosystem services provision in coastal environments 

A project from a collaboration between the Universities of Aberdeen, York and Sheffield as part of the NERC-ESRC Transdisciplinary research workshops for developing the ecosystem service concept for use in coastal wetland ecosystems. The project aimed to explore the disconnect between current policy and legislation aiming to conserve and protect specific components of coastal wetland ecosystems, and the aspirations of the Ecosystem Approach.

Identifying values – we illustrated the benefits that people value from coastal wetlands and evaluated the extent to which current institutional arrangements protect these benefits using network analyses. The important components of biodiversity and related ecosystem service benefits were identified through running a workshop for local people and experts at an estuary site in Scotland.

estuary values network copy











Benefits that stakeholders derive from the Ythan Estuary (circles), how they interact, and the factors (triangles) that determine whether these interactions are positive (solid lines) or negative (dashed lines)

Outcomes – we found that cultural services are the most valued, particularly recreational activities and the enhancement of human wellbeing through a sense of belonging. Although many laws exist that relate to different components of coastal wetland areas, a diversity of organisations are responsible for their implementation, and they do not always adequately protect the benefits most valued by people. In order to successfully move towards the implementation of an Ecosystem Approach, we argue that new institutional arrangements are required. These need to encompass formal laws that protect those ecosystem processes and functions that are necessary to support valued benefits, whilst recognising the need for bridging and coordinating networks of organisations for the integrated management of coastal wetlands.

Further information: The associated journal article is available here.