The degradation of ecosystems and the natural world resulting from human pressure has become a major concern. In response to this degradation, systems based approaches to management (e.g. ‘the ecosystem approach’) have been developed with the UN sponsored Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, at the turn of the century, helping to set the agenda.
More than 10 years on, a range of initiatives have advanced this agenda. Example actions include: greatly increased scientific research on ecosystem services; and redesigned policy frameworks, particularly in national accounting, planning and incentives.
In the UK, the 2011 National Ecosystem Assessment strengthened the valuation of natural capital and ecosystem service provision. Ecosystem services and natural capital are also being integrated into UK national accounting through the Office for National Statistics, and UK Treasury value for money guidance for public spending now includes natural capital.
However, despite widespread commitment to embrace natural capital and ecosystems concepts, their use in a marine context is lagging behind terrestrial ecosystems. Notwithstanding a number of difficult practicalities, recent studies have explored ecosystem services as they relate to marine environments.