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Understanding and valuing ecosystem services provided by the Baltic Sea

On 7 – 8 November a regional workshop on the valuation of marine and coastal ecosystem services in the Baltic Sea took place in Stockholm, bringing together a range of experts and decision-makers around the Baltic Sea area. The workshop was organised by a number of key organisations responsible for promoting sustainable management of the Baltic Sea, including Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), UNEP Regional Seas programme, Nordic Council of Ministers, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Swedish Environmental Ministry.

Despite of the recent advances in appreciating the value of nature, information on the functioning and socio-economic value of ecosystem services provided by the Baltic Sea is considered limited. Consequently, the aim of the workshop was to establish a common understanding of the Baltic Sea ecosystem services and exchange information and ideas on how the valuation of these services could be used to support ecosystem-based marine management. Topics addressed included, for example, the ecology and socio-economy of the Baltic Sea underpinning the provisioning of ecosystem services, including human impacts influencing these services. In particular, the meeting focused on exploring how the valuation of ecosystem services could help to address regional environmental problems in the Baltic Sea area and support the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Marianne Kettunen, Senior Policy Analyst in IEEP’s Biodiversity Programme, gave a presentation on the global perspectives on valuation of coastal and marine ecosystem services, supported by a number of key insights from the TEEB Nordic study. In her presentation, Marianne emphasised that economic valuation, and monetary indicators of value in particular, only capture a part of the true value of ecosystem services. What is required instead is an understanding and appreciation of the broader socio-economic value of Baltic Sea ecosystem services, supported by a range of qualitative, quantitative and monetary indicators. Furthermore, she also advocated against carrying out socio-economic valuations simply for their own sake and underlined that the most appropriate way to use socio-economic valuation in the context of decision-making is to have a clear predetermined objective for the valuation.

Lively discussions took place during the two-day workshop on the possible role of ecosystem services could play in the future of the Baltic Sea. There seemed to be a general consensus among the participants that ecosystem services can provide a useful framework for the protection and management of Baltic Sea resources, provided that systematic links were established with the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan and EU Marine Strategy Directive. Increasing the understanding of ecosystem services through socio-economic valuation was seen as an important focal area for future action, both for the purposes of awareness raising and improving the effectiveness of concrete policy measures. It is therefore hoped that the outcomes of the workshop will now pave the way for appropriately mainstreaming the consideration of ecosystem services in both national and regional decision-making around the Baltic Sea.

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