A global review of ocean ecosystem accounts and their data: Lessons learned and implications for marine policy

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Abstract

Given the ocean ecosystem's contribution to the environment, economy and human wellbeing, its condition and value need to be accounted for in decision making for a healthy and sustainable society. Ocean accounting aims to incorporate the ocean environment into national accounts by tracking natural assets, the services they provide, and their links to our economies, and social wellbeing. Around the world, adoption of National Ocean Accounts is gathering momentum, taking national accounts “Beyond GDP” to produce more holistic statistics to inform ocean policy. We conducted the first review of publicly available ocean ecosystem accounts, including ten case studies to identify key opportunities and challenges. The spatial scale, scope, methods, and reporting quality of data within the case studies varied greatly and poor data documentation generally hindered the review. Case studies typically focussed on ecosystem assets that were inherently easy to map (e.g., nearshore or intertidal areas) and excluded deeper continental shelf waters, pelagic and offshore deep-sea ecosystems. The focus on easy to map ecosystems suggests that ocean accounts will have difficulty representing national marine jurisdictions with large extents of deeper continental shelf waters, pelagic and offshore deep-sea ecosystems. Ecosystem extent accounts consistently had limited transparency of methods and absent reporting on uncertainty or data variance. We recommend future ocean ecosystem account case studies should consider 1) open science 2) FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability) data principles 3) reporting error around data. By addressing these points, ocean ecosystem accounts will be more robust, and comparability of case studies through space and time will be improved, making future case studies better tools for decision makers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105636
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Policy
Volume153
Early online dateApr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

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