European thoughts on economics of coastal management

D&WR readers involved in environmental studies for seawater desalination plants may be interested in a series of briefings just published via the European Union’s Science for Environmental Policy website under the heading Coastal Management.

Prof Raimonds Ernsteins 
of the University of Latvia, Riga, says in a preface, “We need to better understand the ongoing processes in this complex and sensitive system of nature-human interactions and to reduce the negative impacts of coastal change. To achieve this we must draw on research expertise, not only from natural sciences and engineering, but also increasingly and pressingly from social sciences and economics, with clear and effective stakeholder engagement to develop participatory and integrated policies.”

Two studies in particular seem worth looking up, as both are concerned with economic values for environmental factors:

Putting a price on the Catalan coastal ecosystems
The study estimated the monetary value of 14 services provided by natural and semi- natural coastal ecosystems in Catalonia, Spain (the site of a number of desalination plants) for which no economic markets exist. Services with an existing market value, such as fisheries and agriculture, were not included. Some examples of services evaluated are the regulation of freshwater, erosion control, soil formation and atmospheric gas and climate regulation.

The monetary values of the services provided by the different types of environment present along the Catalan coast were derived from previous studies and a total value was calculated.

Dest: Brenner, J, Jiménez, JA, Sardá, R & Garola, A (2010). An assessment of the non-market value of the ecosystem services provided by the Catalan coastal zone, Spain. Ocean & Coastal Management. 53: 27-38.
: [email protected]

Time to take stock of marine and coastal assets
This study highlights the economic importance of coastal and marine areas and the urgent need to develop concrete methods for assessing their value. Strong methods for valuing marine and coastal environments can help decision makers measure what economies could stand to lose under climate change, and minimise loss.

The authors of the new study claim that there is still no appropriate valuation data for decision making in ocean management and an international effort is needed to include ocean valuations in political and planning processes. Using the contribution of the ocean to national economies does not consider values that cannot be accounted for in monetary terms.

Economists do have ways of estimating the value of environmental assets, such as estuaries, wetlands and mangroves, but these values are often ignored in the decision-making process. The researchers say that it is time to prioritise the development of a framework which allows decision makers to account for these values, given the potential impacts of climate change on marine and coastal environments.

Dest: Kildow, J.T. and McIlgorm, A. (2010). The importance of estimating the contribution of the oceans to national economies. Marine Policy. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2009.08.006.
Contact: [email protected] and [email protected]