Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

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An economic valuation of coral reef ecosystem services in the WIO to identify specific beneficiaries, and the role of marine protected areas in ensuring that these services are sustained

Lead Institution: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Project Country:
Investigators: Christina Hicks
Project Summary:

Anthropocentric impacts, which are driven by economic forces, permeate every ecosystem and in spite of the wealth of ecological knowledge, the degradation of natural resources and the threat of species extinction remains a consequence of socio-economic circumstances that motivates human actions (Armstrong and Roughgarden, 2001, Jackson et al. 2001, McClanahan et al. 2006). Thus analysis of individual motives and values should be critical to a solution (Ehrlich and Kennedy 2005). Complex systems such as coastal areas require integrated responses through multiple-objective approaches as recognized by the Millennium ecosystem assessment. However, there remains a lack of understanding of the mechanisms and feedbacks operating between social conditions and the ecosystem values. By combining economic and social information across a gradient of ecosystem functions, set within a variety of social ecological systems perspective can provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in structuring the socio-ecological and economic systems and producing a more informed and adaptive governance system. Such an approach where governance structure, socio-ecological structures, and value systems are analyzed simultaneously will improve understanding of what dictates the flow of resources or ecosystem services. Further, this understanding will determine whether the natural capital is realized in an efficient equitable and efficient manner or whether the natural capital will be degraded and lost. This approach can help solve complex common-property problems that may require multiple levels of governance. The challenge is to build a fully communicative, deliberative, multilevel system that explicitly addresses tradeoffs between social and ecological objectives in an optimal fashion, without hindrances of disciplinary biases or the political economy of power relations (Berkes 2007, Adger et al. 2005).

What were the problems the project intended to address?:

Ecosystems provide a range of valued goods and services, both directly and indirectly, to the human economic system. In the marine environment these range from the provision of food and raw materials to existence values of cultural and communal purposes. In the Western Indian Ocean, there has yet to be a comprehensive valuation that attempts on multiple scales to address the true value of marine ecosystem services. In addition, the role of marine protected areas in preserving a range of ecosystem services has not as of yet been valued.

Project Objectives:

The project set out to achieve the following:
First, to conduct a review of the available literature, to sum up in a meta-analysis, our current state of knowledge regarding the valuation of ecosystem services.
Second, with case studies and field work in multiple communities across four countries, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and the Seychelles to conduct more in depth micro-scale analysis to measure localized valuations of goods and services.
Third to carry out multi-variate analysis on these local data with existing ecological data to measure the role of MPAs in ensuring consistent value of the marine ecosystem. Once completed, comprehensive valuation of marine ecosystems will be beneficial for a variety of policy, economic and conservation tools which will improve overall management, conservation and understanding of marine resources in the Western Indian Ocean.

Study Sites:

1. Hicks CC, Hills JM, LeTissier DA (2010) ‘Natural capital-valuing the coast’. In: Coastal Zone Management (2010). D. R. Green Ed Thomas Telford, London. pp 92-118
2. Hicks C.C. How do we value our reefs? Risks and trade-offs across scales in ‘biomass based’ economies. Coastal Management (2011). 39:358-376