Defining marine biological value

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This article considers different ways of defining the value of biodiversity including ‘marine biological value’. It suggests value can be directly linked to the objectives behind the process of valuation (e.g. whether for conservation, sustainable use, preservation of biodiversity, etc.). It also considers how the two approaches might be combined into one Decision Support System (DSS).

Nature conservation values

  • Many approaches try to highlight only the most important sites in a region in order to designate priority sites for conservation. These priority sites are often chosen on the basis of the hotspot approach, which is used to select sites with high numbers of rare/endemic species or high species richness.[1][2]

Socio-economic values

  • Discussions on the value of marine biodiversity almost always refer to the socio-economic value of biodiversity (i.e. the so-called value of the goods and services provided by marine ecosystems, or the value of an area in terms of importance for human use), and attempts to attach a monetary value to the biodiversity in an area.[3][4][5]

Relative value versus monetary value

Although techniques to attribute monetary units to intrinsic value have been developed, mapping both the intrinsic biological value (relative, non-monetary value) and the Goods & Services value (absolute, monetary value) and comparing them is preferred.

Combining biological and socio-economic valuation in one DSS?

  • At the moment, there is no single Goods and Services (G&S) protocol that is accepted by all environmental economists, so it is difficult to know how the G&S protocol could be combined with the biological/biodiversity valuation protocol in the future.
  • A future DSS could be composed out of 3 different layers: one layer being the G&S valuation map, another layer being the biological valuation map and a third ‘impact’ layer showing the costs/damage of human activities on biodiversity.
  • Caution should be exercised so that no elements are double counted by both protocols.


These paragraphs reflect the main discussion outcomes of the ENCORA Theme 7-MARBEF Theme 3 workshop on marine biological valuation (6-8 December 2006, Gent, Belgium). [6] The workshop was held from 6 to 8 December 2006 at Ghent (Belgium). It was a joint venture of the EU CA ENCORA ( and the EU NoE MARBEF ( Both Theme 7 within ENCORA and Theme 3 within MARBEF deal with marine/coastal biological valuation and the workshop aimed to reach a consensus on this topic.

This article includes paragraphs based on the paper by Derous et al. (2007). A concept for marine biological valuation in the marine environment. Oceanologia 49(1). See FLANDERS MARINE INSTITUTE web site at [1] for the full citation and to download a copy of the paper.

See also

Multifunctionality and Valuation in coastal zones: concepts, approaches, tools and case studies


  1. Myers N., Mittermeier R.A., Mittermeier C.G., da Fonseca G.A.B., Kent J. (2000). Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403, 853 - 858.
  2. Breeze H. (2004). Review of criteria for selecting ecologically significant areas of the Scotian Shelf and Slope: a discussion paper. Ocean and Coastal Management Report 2004-04, prepared for Oceans and Coastal Management Division, Oceans and Habitat Branch, Maritimes Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography.
  3. de Groot R.S., Wilson M.A., Boumans R.M.J. (2002). A typology for the classification, description and valuation of ecosystem functions, goods and services. Ecol. Econ. 41, 393-408.
  4. Turpie J.K., Heydenrych B.J., Lamberth S.J. (2003). Economic value of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the Cape Floristic Region: implications for defining effective and socially optimal conservation strategies. Biological Conservation 112, 233-251.
  5. Beaumont N.J., Austen M.C., Atkins J.P., Burdon D., Degraer S., Dentinho T.P., Derous S., Holm P., Horton T., van Ierland E., Marboe A.H., Starkey D.J., Townsend M., Zarzycki T. (2007). Identifcation, definition and quantification of goods and services provided by marine biodiversity: Implications for the ecosystem approach. Marine Pollution Bulletin 54, 253-265.
  6. ENCORA Theme 7-MARBEF Theme 3 (2007). Workshop report of the workshop on marine biological valuation. Workshop from 6 to 8 December 2006, Gent, Belgium, pp. 33.