The global decline in estuarine and coastal ecosystems (ECEs) is affecting a number of critical benefits, or ecosystem services. We review the main ecological services across a variety of ECEs, including marshes, mangroves, nearshore coral reefs, seagrass beds, and sand beaches and dunes. Where possible, we indicate estimates of the key economic values arising from these services, and discuss how the natural variability of ECEs impacts their benefits, the synergistic relationships of ECEs across seascapes, and management implications. Although reliable valuation estimates are beginning to emerge for the key services of some ECEs, such as coral reefs, salt marshes, and mangroves, many of the important benefits of seagrass beds and sand dunes and beaches have not been assessed properly. Even for coral reefs, marshes, and mangroves, important ecological services have yet to be valued reliably, such as cross-ecosystem nutrient transfer (coral reefs), erosion control (marshes), and pollution control (mangroves). An important issue for valuing certain ECE services, such as coastal protection and habitat––fishery linkages, is that the ecological functions underlying these services vary spatially and temporally. Allowing for the connectivity between ECE habitats also may have important implications for assessing the ecological functions underlying key ecosystems services, such coastal protection, control of erosion, and habitat––fishery linkages. Finally, we conclude by suggesting an action plan for protecting and/or enhancing the immediate and longer-term values of ECE services. Because the connectivity of ECEs across land––sea gradients also influences the provision of certain ecosystem services, management of the entire seascape will be necessary to preserve such synergistic effects. Other key elements of an action plan include further ecological and economic collaborative research on valuing ECE services, improving institutional and legal frameworks for management, controlling and regulating destructive economic activities, and developing ecological restoration options.
Ecological Monographs – Ecological Society of America
Published: May 1, 2011
Keywords: Key words : coral reef ; economic value ; ecosystem service ; estuarine and coastal ecosystem ; mangrove ; salt marsh ; sand beach and dune ; seagrass ; seascape .
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