Scientists have catalogued over 30 ways that the sea supports human well-being, including providing a source of nutrition, supplying raw materials and supporting recreational activities.
Scientists have catalogued over 30 ways that the sea supports human well-being, including providing a source of nutrition, supplying raw materials and supporting recreational activities. Researchers from the University of Liverpool in the UK explored the different ways that European seas including North East Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea support and link to human wellbeing. It is known that marine biodiversity supports human well-being in many ways and that people benefit from links between the flora and fauna of the sea and the ‘ecosystem services’.
However, such an extensive catalogue of the links between marine ecosystems and human well-being has not previously existed. The study found 31 different ecosystem services, including providing a source of nutrition through supply of seafood, providing raw materials, for example marine plants used in cosmetics, producing oxygen, providing natural flood defences and also providing opportunities for recreation, artistic inspiration and enhancement of spiritual wellbeing.
Some of these, like seafood, have significant economic value and others enrich our lives in other essential and non-essential ways. “We rely on the sea in more ways than we often realise. Our study has tried to document all of these ways,” said Fiona Culhane, a researcher with University of Liverpool.
“This is important because these ecosystem services rely on the condition of the biodiversity that supplies them. If we don’t recognise this and protect biodiversity, we risk losing the benefits we get,” said Culhane. A key aspect of the study was the development of meaningful units in which to group marine biodiversity in relation to how they supply ecosystem services.
The service providing units (SPUs) developed include combinations of taxa with all habitats they spend time in. “The development of meaningful service providing units allows managers to fully appreciate which aspects of biodiversity underpin the sustainable supply of services that humans rely on,” said Leonie Robinson, principal investigator on the study published in the journal Ecological Applications.
“Without making the link between habitats and mobile marine taxa like whales and fish, it is likely that habitats that may seem unconnected or remote are missed when considering conservation,” said Robinson.