Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund)

The Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme

The authors are solely responsible for the content of this report. Material included herein does not represent the opinion of the European Community, and the European Community is not responsible for any use that might be made of it.
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Ecosystem Service Assessment of TIDE Estuaries

2b. Ecosystem Services in Estuaries

Estuaries and coastal marine ecosystems are cited among the most productive biomes of the world, and serve important life-support systems also for human beings (Day et al 1989, Costanza et al 1997). Estuaries support many important ecosystem functions: biogeochemical cycling and movement of nutrients, purification of water, mitigation of floods, maintenance of biodiversity, biological production (nursery grounds for commercial fish and crustacean species) etc. (Daily et al 1997). An extensive overview can be found in Table 1.

Many estuaries, as is the case with the four TIDE estuaries, are of tremendous economic and social importance as they are the main trade hub for international shipping, attracting industrial production and transport companies, providing labor and economic growth. Typically, estuarine ecosystems are some of the most heavily used and threatened natural systems globally (Lotze et al. 2006, Worm et al. 2006, Halpern et al. 2008, Barbier et al. 2011), and their deterioration due to human activities is intense and increasing (Barbier et al. 2011). This degradation has a direct impact on the services delivered by estuaries, and thus threatens the well-being of people as well as the economic activities itself.

Due to the fact that estuaries are disappearing worldwide, assessing and valuing the ecosystem services is critically important for improving their management and for designing better policies (Barbier et al. 2011). Yet, as the review by Barbier et al (2011) has shown, many of these values are non-marketed, and efficient management of such ecosystem services requires explicit methods to measure this social value.

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