Embedding ecosystem services in coastal planning leads to better outcomes for people and nature


Recent calls for ocean planning envision informed management of social and ecological systems to sustain delivery of ecosystem services to people. However, until now, no coastal and marine planning process has applied an ecosystem-services framework to understand how human activities affect the flow of benefits, to create scenarios, and to design a management plan. We developed models that quantify services provided by corals, mangroves, and seagrasses. We used these models within an extensive engagement process to design a national spatial plan for Belizerqs coastal zone. Through iteration of modeling and stakeholder engagement, we developed a preferred plan, currently under formal consideration by the Belizean government. Our results suggest that the preferred plan will lead to greater returns from coastal protection and tourism than outcomes from scenarios oriented toward achieving either conservation or development goals. The plan will also reduce impacts to coastal habitat and increase revenues from lobster fishing relative to current management. By accounting for spatial variation in the impacts of coastal and ocean activities on benefits that ecosystems provide to people, our models allowed stakeholders and policymakers to refine zones of human use. The final version of the preferred plan improved expected coastal protection by >25% and more than doubled the revenue from fishing, compared with earlier versions based on stakeholder preferences alone. Including outcomes in terms of ecosystem-service supply and value allowed for explicit consideration of multiple benefits from oceans and coasts that typically are evaluated separately in management decisions.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences