Other Open Access
Tinch, R; Foley, N; Armstrong, C
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a planning process that uses Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) principles and focuses on the spatially explicit nature of many ocean activities and resources (TEEB 2012, p23). EBM differs from traditional approaches focused on single sectors, activities or species, by taking account of interactions, synergies and cumulative effects. MSP needs to take account of the services provided and potentially provided from different areas, the activities involved in accessing them, and the resulting cumulative effects on marine ecosystems. The planning approach should be ecosystem based and spatially explicit, and should consider human benefits and impacts, address cumulative impacts, and take account of future activities and changes, with the aim of ensuring that the collective pressure of activities remains compatible with a healthy and sustainable marine environment (Nordic Council of Ministers 2017).
Services from the deep sea are in increasing demand, and pressure to utilize more fully deep-sea products such as seafood, energy resources and minerals are on the rise (Thurber, Sweetman et al. 2014). The deep North Atlantic Ocean is now known to harbour ecosystems that support a biologically rich variety of life that perform key functions within global biogeochemical cycles (Armstrong et al, 2019a). The deep-sea ecosystems, including cold water corals, sponges, seamounts and hydrothermal vents, also provide many other ecosystem goods and services, which contribute to maritime economic activities that underpin the socio-economic well-being of Atlantic nations and their citizens (Galparsoro et al, 2014; Armstrong et al, 2019a). These services include nutrient cycling, waste absorption and detoxification, fisheries, bioprospecting and a number of cultural services related to education and science, aesthetic and inspirational contributions (Armstrong et al, 2012). However, marine ecosystems and resources are subject to significant pressures. Human activities, but also climate change effects, and natural hazards and dynamics such as erosion and accretion, can have severe impacts on marine ecosystems, leading to deterioration of environmental status, loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services (COM 2014). These pressures and impacts in turn have potentially significant consequences for marine economic development and growth. The dual recognition that human pressures directly impact on ecosystem services and that ecosystem services directly benefit human well-being has led to increasing efforts to integrate ecosystem services in policy and management (Galparsoro, Borja et al. 2014).
Achieving sustainable exploitation of marine resources in the deep sea is particularly challenging, due to the huge uncertainty around the many risks posed by human activities on these remote and relatively poorly understood ecosystems (Armstrong et al, 2019a), for which management regimes are often poorly defined, in particular in the areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). There are often difficult trade-offs to make between different possible services and the immediate and longer-term impacts of marine activities (Armstrong et al 2019a).
It is essential to consider the various pressures and their impacts in the establishment of marine spatial plans (COM 2014). So in order to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of a plan for simultaneously benefiting from and conserving marine resources, a range of ecological, socio-economic and institutional indicators need to be developed and monitored (Douvere and Ehler, 2011). These indicators must include the identification of services, their values and conflict areas, and their incorporation as important inputs to policy making, and in particular marine spatial planning (Armstrong et al, 2014).
To date, however, there is a lack of environmental baselines and assessments in relation to human interactions with the deep sea (Armstrong et al, 2019a). Consequently MSP is not well developed for the deep sea, and most existing MSP focuses on coastal waters or shelf areas. With growing anthropogenic pressures in deep-sea environments, developing sustainable plans is a priority. Better knowledge of the values provided by habitat-based sea-floor ecosystem services could help to justify further policy action, development of Marine Protected Areas, conservation, and resource use. This information could also help design responses to global change that will inevitably impact on deep-sea ecosystems and biodiversity, and the services they provide.2 The ATLAS project has started to put in place the information required for economic baselines in the North Atlantic, considering areas both inside and outside EEZs. The research includes:
Identification of ecosystem goods and services (Deliverable 5.1)
Assessment of risks to ecosystem services from diverse human drivers (Deliverable 5.2):
Ecosystem goods and services and environmental risk assessment (Deliverable 6.2):
Original stated-preference valuation surveys for two ATLAS case-study areas (Deliverable 5.4)
A Q study of decision-maker and stakeholder views on the legitimacy, validity and acceptability of monetary valuation methods and the use of values in decision support (Deliverable 5.3)
Together, the results of this work can be considered as a first step towards establishing an economic baseline for adaptive MSP in the deep North Atlantic Ocean.