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.

Valuing non-market ecosystem benefits of seagrass in the Gulf of Gdansk

Seagrass beds (Zostera marina) are an important ecosystem in the coastal environment and provide a wide range of ecosystem services which generate benefits to humans. This study employs a discrete choice experiment (DCE) to value a set of non-market ecosystem benefits provided by seagrass beds in the Gulf of Gdansk, Poland. The emphasis of the study is on the link between the ecosystem services framework for environmental management and practical stated preference valuation. Choice attributes are developed representing specific benefits that are related to clearly demarcated ecosystem service categories and cannot be valued by means of existing market or production data. The specific benefits relate to biological control, recreation and tourism and water purification. To better link the ecosystem services framework and DCE surveys each benefit category is modelled as one choice attribute.


Three types of environmental changes, which are clearly assigned to separate ecosystem service categories, are valued in this study. The survey data reveal that respondents have clear preferences for all three ecosystem benefits.

The three environmental changes which were studied are ecosystem services that seagrass beds provide:

  • controlling the amount of filamentous algae in the water,
  • providing underwater landscape to be enjoyed by swimmers and/or divers, and
  • increasing water clarity by taking up nutrients and other particles.

In DCE surveys, respondents are presented with alternative management plans for a site which lead to different outcomes in certain choice attributes. In this study, these choice attributes are the resulting levels of the three ecosystem services. The survey data reveal that respondents prefer states that lead to an increased provision of all three ecosystem services included in the study. Management plans that lead to increased provision of any of the three resulting ecosystem benefits is more likely to be preferred by survey respondents. This is evidence for the fact that respondents value the ecosystem benefits flowing from these services.


On average, respondents state significantly positive willingness to pay (WTP) for the delivery of the discussed ecosystem benefits.

Respondents state these clear preferences for all ecosystem benefits even in the face of costs related to their provision. As stated in the survey material, all management plans that indicate an improvement over the status quo come at a cost to be paid by every household. The fact that respondents are accepting this additional payment in return for improved ecosystem benefits means that WTP for each benefit can be computed. The WTP is interpreted as a quantitative indicator of the change in well-being the average households expects from enjoying the respective ecosystem benefit. It is a monetary expression of the value respondents attach to the respective ecosystem benefit and can as such be used in environmental cost-benefit analyses.

Lead Author:

Tobias Börger
Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
Date of research: May 2014

Related articles:

Changes in herring larvae and environment 1957-2010

Deliberative valuation and the Dogger Bank 

Effects of macrophyte vegetation on zoobenthos 

Fish distributions and spatial management measures 

Local nutrient loads and primary production

Modelling fishing fleets competing for space

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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.