Marine and coastal CES knowledge repository

Marine and coastal CES knowledge repository

Marine and coastal cultural ecosystem services knowledge repository

​​​​​The Working Group on Resilience and Marine Ecosystem Services (WGRMES)​ has developed a new global knowledge repository about cultural marine and coastal ecosystem services​​​.

Marine ecosystem services (thereafter, ES) are the benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems that support, directly or indirectly, their survival and quality of life in the planet, which also contribute to the development of the global economy (Daily, 1997). Human always have benefited from marine ecosystems, either obviously in the form of food resources, or more subtly in the form of cultural and recreational opportunities (Rodriguez and Villasante, 2016).

Global oceans provide a wealth of ecosystem benefits that span all categories of ES identified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting ES. Provisioning ES include the high-profile marine ES such as food from capture fisheries, aquaculture and wild foods. The ocean may provide an important energy sources, biofuels from algae and power generation from wave and tidal energy have the potential for more widespread use. Marine systems also are responsible for a wide range of regulating services. Most prominent of these is natural hazard regulation. Other regulating services provided by the oceans include the transformation, detoxification and sequestration of wastes (Peterson and Lubchenco, 1997) . Rich cultural ES are also provided by marine systems. Human coastal communities –native and non-native- around the world often define their identities in relation to the sea (Khan et al. 2012).

Cultural ecosystem services (CES) reflect peoples' physical and cognitive interactions with nature and are increasingly recognised for providing non-material benefits to human societies. Whereas coasts, seas, and oceans sustain a great proportion of the human population, CES provided by these ecosystems have remained largely unexplored. Therefore, the objectives of the dataset developed by the University of Santiago de Compostela with members of the WGREMS was (1) to analyse the state of research on marine and coastal CES, (2) to identify knowledge gaps, and (3) to identify research priorities and pinpoint the move forward. To accomplish these objectives, the database includes the results of a systematic review of the scientific literature which synthesised a subset of 72 peer-reviewed publications.

Results published by García-Rodrigues et al. (2017) show that research on marine and coastal CES is scarce compared to other ecosystem service categories. It is primarily focused on local and regional sociocultural or economic assessments of coastal ecosystems from Western Europe and North America. Such research bias narrows the understanding of social-ecological interactions to a western cultural setting, undermining the role of other worldviews in the understanding of a wide range of interactions between cultural practices and ecosystems worldwide. Additionally, we have identified clusters of co-occurring drivers of change affecting marine and coastal habitats and their CES. Our systematic review highlights knowledge gaps in: (1) the lack of integrated valuation assessments; (2) linking the contribution of CES benefits to human wellbeing; (3) assessing more subjective and intangible CES classes; (4) identifying the role of open-ocean and deep-sea areas in providing CES; and (5) understanding the role of non-natural capital in the co-production of marine and coastal CES. Research priorities should be aimed at filling these knowledge gaps. Overcoming such challenges can result in increased appreciation of marine and coastal CES, and more balanced decision-supporting mechanisms that will ultimately contribute to more sustainable interactions between humans and marine ecosystems.

The repository links variables such as CES categories, classification, type of methodologies and indicators to quantify, map and value CES, country and scale of case study, synergies and trade-offs between CES, drivers of change affecting CES, links between habitats, CES, and human wellbeing; countries of case studies, among others. The detailed number and type of variables are shown in Garcia-Rodrigues et al. (2017).

How to contribute

Contributions from colleagues in the ICES scientific community and around the globe are also welcome. If you want to receive more information about the project or are interested to contribute to, please contact Proferssor Sebastian Villasante and Joao Garcia Rodrigues


Chan, K. et al. (2012) PNAS 109(23): 8812-8819.

Daily, G. (1997) Nature's Services, Island Press, Washington, DC.

Garcia-Rodrigues, J. et al. (2017) One Ecosystem 2:e.12990.

Peterson, C., Lubchenco, J. (1997) Marine ecosystem services. In: Daily, G. Ed., Nature's services. Island Press, Washington DC.

Rodríguez, S., Villasante, S. (2016) Marine Policy 66: 104-113

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Marine and coastal CES knowledge repository

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