Ecosystem Services

“Facts About Ecosystem Services & Dredging” describes how the value attributed to ecosystems and to dredging projects can be compared and evaluated.

Some years ago, the United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) provided a methodical, clear and compelling analysis of the state of the Earth’s ecosystems and described ecosystems as the Earth’s “life-support system”, providing humankind with essential “services” which were specifically enumerated. These Ecosystem Services are the contributions that ecosystems provide toward maintaining the well-being of people and the planet and are defined as:

– “provisioning”, that is, the products supplied from ecosystems, such as food, fresh air and water, and fuel;
– “regulatory”, the benefits that ecosystems provide because they help regulate water, erosion, flooding, climate and air quality;
– “life-supporting”, the long-term significance of nutrient cycles, photosynthesis and crop pollination; and
– “cultural”, such as educational, spiritual, aesthetic and recreational benefits.

Using these four categories as guidelines, one can calculate the value of each of these services in monetary terms. By attributing a financial value to how beneficial these ecosystem services are to people, one can also, conversely, estimate how the loss of these services will impact long-term human well-being and the preservation of the world’s biodiversity.
Comparing this value with the value of industrial developments, such as dredging infrastructure projects, gives a basis for evaluating the benefits and disadvantages of a project. It helps to weigh the value of one against the other.
At present, the general consensus is that human activities – including dredging – are having significant and not-so-positive impacts on the world’s biodiversity. For that reason, dredging projects can be perceived has being in conflict with ecosystem preservation.
To truly evaluate the positives and negatives of dredging projects a metric has been devised and adopted by many concerned parties to weigh the values of the ecosystem with construction activities that might cause a disturbance and to manage any conflicts.
Using the ecosystem services system encourages a dialogue amongst a wide variety of stakeholders and decision makers including project owners, contractors, regulatory agencies, residents and NGOs. This dialogue can result in timely solutions to avoid, mitigate or compensate for dredging impacts.

“Facts About Ecosystem Services & Dredging” answers essential questions such as:

  • What is an ecosystem?
  • Why is the preservation of an ecosystem important?
  • What is the origin of the Ecosystem Services concept?
  • What is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment?
  • What were the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment?
  • What are ecosystem services as defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment?
  • Why have ecosystem services become so important?
  • What is natural capital?
  • What further actions are being taken?
  • How does this affect the maritime industry?
  • What regulatory actions have already been taken?
  • How do ecosystem services apply to port development?
  • How are ecosystem services applied to a dredging project?
  • Can the es concept help the dredging industry?
  • What are the essential services offered by dredging?
  • How does dredging affect marine environments in general?
  • What is the long-term prognosis for Ecosystem Services concept?
  • What is the next step for the dredging industry and Ecosystem Services?