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Coastal Ecosystem Services

About the project

Research carried out as part of the National Ecosystem Assessment, Follow-On phase on Coastal and marine ecosystem services has promoted the Balance Sheet approach as a pragmatic format for collating, interrogating and presenting evidence.

It is both a process and a tool which addresses the complexity of real world decision-making and trade-offs. It captures economic, ecological and social/deliberative perspectives in trade-off assessments.



Coastal zones in the UK include some of our most diverse habitats such as salt marshes and seaweed beds, beaches and sand dunes, estuaries and lagoons. These support hundreds of coastal specialist plants and animals. These habitats and the encompassing ecosystems provide a range of ecosystem services of significant benefit (value) to the economy and society.

A number of these services can and have been valued in monetary terms although significant gaps remain. But coasts are in a constant state of flux, as environmental change drivers and pressures, both land and marine based, serve to alter the composition and volume (species and habitats) of the coastal service provision.

Large areas of coastal habitat have been lost or damaged in recent decades due to coastal urban/industrial and tourism development, coastal protection such as cliff stabilisation and sea defence works and changes in agricultural practices.

There is a strong precautionary case for action to be taken despite the uncertainties that exist, and that flexibility will be a key feature of an adaptive management approach in coastal areas.

Read the summary and full reports, published June 2014.

For more details see the UK NEA website.

Contact: Kerry Turner


AHRC, ESRC, NERC, Defra, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Environment Agency.