Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Assessment of ecosystem service changes in an offshore marine protected area

Offshore ecosystems face pressures caused by competing uses and other anthropogenic drivers such as thosed related to climate change. This affects the capacity of marine ecosystems to provide goods and services to humans, ultimately impacting on our well-being. Using published scientific literature, model outputs and expert judgement this study assessed the various related effects on the provision of ecosystem services from the Dogger Bank under two contrasting scenarios. The Dogger Bank is a shallow sand bank in the southern North Sea that falls within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. It is an important commercial fishing ground, the site of a potential offshore wind farm, a candidate Special Area of Conversation (cSAC) as well as a site of cultural significance.

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A series of indicators were developed for each of the ecosystem services delivered by the Dogger Bank. Quantification and measurement of these indicators serves as a tool for assessing changes in marine ecosystem services.

A modified version of the TEEB (The Economics of Environment and Biodiversity) ecosystem service classification was used to help identify ecosystem services delivered by the marine environment. For each ecosystem service identified, indicators were developed, drawing on expert opinion and evidence from the literature. These indicators were then tailored for the Dogger Bank and quantified where possible, illustrating how ecosystem service delivery may change under differing future scenarios. The development of this set of indicators therefore contributes to the VECTORS goal of understanding the consequences of changes in marine ecosystems.

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Analysis of ecosystem service indicators for the Dogger Bank under two differing scenarios shows considerable differences for future ecosystem service provision. This highlights the potential for such assessments to inform ecosystem managers about these effects. These outputs may be crucial for supporting timely management responses to negative ecosystem service trends.

This study assessed the effects of the IPCC scenarios National Enterprise (A2) and Global Community (B1) tailored to the Dogger Bank on the future provision of ecosystem services. Drawing on published literature, model outputs and expert judgement, indicators for six ecosystem services were assessed: food provision, biotic raw materials, climate regulation, gene pool protection, migratory and nursery habitat, and leisure and recreation. Lack of data precluded the assessment of additional services. Findings suggest that the B1 scenario presents a much more positive future than A2 in terms of ecosystem service delivery from the Dogger Bank (see table).

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Development of windfarms, changes to fishing practices and the establishment of conservation/no-take zones on the Dogger Bank are expected to be the main drivers of change to ecosystem service provision.

Under the A2 scenario the Common Fisheries Policy and other EU environmental policy will be replaced by weaker national policies. This will lead to the overexploitation of the marine environment and more greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. In comparison, under the B1 scenario international environmental policies will be improved, leading to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, development of offshore windfarms (such as that proposed for the Dogger Bank) and sustainable fisheries practices. While climate change and ocean acidification may play a more important role in the longer term, changes in policy will be extremely important in the short-term provision of ecosystem services.

For a more complete assessment of ecosystem service change, indicators of ecosystem services need to be quantified together with indicators of ecosystem function and benefits. Data limitations, however, restrict the completeness of ecosystem service assessments based on secondary data. Gaps in data availability highlight opportunities for future monitoring.

The greatest challenge for indicators assessment, however, is the lack of suitable data for the marine environment, as well as limited understanding of the links between ecosystem functions, services and benefits. Out of 15 ecosystem services identified as relevant for the Dogger Bank only 6 could be assessed and taken forward in this study. While substantial bodies of information exist for the case study site, much of what has been collected does not fit with the ecosystem service concept and consequently for the ecosystem service indicators selected. For understanding the full implications and related trade-offs involved in different scenarios, complete assessments of all relevant ecosystem services are required. Collection of primary data, data obtained through modelling and interdisciplinary teams play a key role for addressing this issue in the future. Identifying applicable function, service and benefit indicators remains a challenge.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy
  • Habitats and Birds Directive
  • Marine and Coastal Access Act
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive
Further information:

Deliverable 3.2.1: Impacts of change on ecosystem services and their values

Hattam, C., Atkins, J.P., Beaumont, N., Bӧrger, T., Bӧhnke-Henrichs, A., Burdon, D., de Groot, R., Hoefnagel, E., Nunes, P.A.L.D., Piwowarczyk, J., Sastre, S., Austen, M.C. (in press) Marine ecosystem services: linking indicators to their classification.

Data availability:

Availability:  Hattam, C., Atkins, J.P., Beaumont, N., Bӧrger, T., Bӧhnke-Henrichs, A., Burdon, D., de Groot, R., Hoefnagel, E., Nunes, P.A.L.D., Piwowarczyk, J., Sastre, S., Austen, M.C. (in press) Marine ecosystem services: linking indicators to their classification.

Lead Author:

Caroline Hattam
(caro4@pmlnospam.ac.uk)
Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
Date of research: May 2014

Related articles:

Deliberative valuation and the Dogger Bank 

The link between tourism and ecosystems 

Tourist’s valuation of climate change impacts 

Dogger Bank: stakeholder and policy-maker needs 

Social economic impact assessment for the future 

The effect of windfarms and MPAs on fisheries

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The content of this website may be subject to copyright, if you wish to use any of the information or figures please contact the attributed author(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.