Working Group 41: Marine Ecosystem Services (MES)
Motivation and Goals:
Marine ecosystems provide direct or indirect benefits to people. Ocean ecosystems provide human populations with ecological goods and services, such as seafood, climate regulation and air quality maintenance, storm damage prevention, waste purification, recreation and leisure opportunities, and biodiversity maintenance, among others. The accounting for anthropogenic values of marine ecosystem services (MES) in policy and management decisions has become an emergent issue recognized as critical from a social, economic, and cultural perspective, but also one that poses challenges both from a scientific and policy perspective. As a result, MES has become a hot topic of many international meetings and organizations. The United Nation (UN)’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment focuses on the change of global ecosystem services’ status and trends. Similarly, the ongoing World Ocean Assessment expresses urgent need for knowledge on marine ecosystem services. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2012. The IPBES aims to develop and use knowledge about ecosystem services and biodiversity to improve ecosystem-based management at national, regional, and global scales. PICES has already contributed to these efforts but more substantial work is needed.

Since 1992, PICES as a scientific organization has become more important in promoting marine science and better understanding of the marine environment in the North Pacific, as well as in the world. One of PICES’ strategic goals is to establish a scientific-policy integrated platform to provide sound scientific support to national and regional policy decision-making processes. To meet the demand of members from PICES, The Human Dimensions Committee (HD) was established under the PICES Science Board (SB) in November 2016. HD’s area of responsibility is to promote and coordinate interdisciplinary research that leads to increased understanding of the relationship between North Pacific marine ecosystems and the people, communities, and economies that are part of those systems and rely on the resources and services they provide. In November 2016, a Study Group on MES (SG-MES) was established by the SB to promote and coordinate research to improve MES assessment methodologies and to mainstream the MES in marine management and policy. SG-MES was also charged with developing the terms of reference for a working group that would continue these efforts.

HD and S HD have organized several topic sessions/workshops on marine ecosystem services during PICES annual meetings. One of them also attracted support from IMBER as a co-sponsor. Consequently, the importance of ecosystem services in PICES’ FUTURE program was recognized, so much so that “Ecosystem Services” was prominent in the title of the 2017 PICES annual meeting, “Environmental Changes in the North Pacific and Impacts on Biological Resources and Ecosystem Services.”

Based on the SG-MES’s one-year work, HD proposes the establishment of a working group (WG-MES) to promote studies related to science and policy of marine ecosystem services. WG-MES will facilitate exchange of information and share the experiences of case studies on MES in North Pacific waters in order to promote ecosystem service science and improve the consideration of MES in decision making related to marine integrated management. There are differences in methodology and practice of MES studies among North Pacific countries. Therefore, one of the goals of the WG-MES is to establish a set of regional technical guidelines on MES assessment and the integration and utilization of MES information in the policy process, as well as to provide technical support to national and regional bodies engaged in these activities. Formation of the WG-MES will allow PICES to attract more researchers with specific interest in MES.
Contributions to FUTURE
The WG-MES will help meet the FUTURE program Objective 1 (Understanding Critical Processes in the North Pacific) and Objective 2 (Status Reports, Outlooks, Forecasts, and Engagement). Ecosystem services represent an important dimension of the third key scientific question under FUTURE Objective 1 (How do human activities affect coastal ecosystems and how are societies affected by changes in these ecosystems?). In addition, case studies on the assessment of ecosystem services in the North Pacific ecosystem will be added as a new section in PICES’ Reports.
Terms of Reference
  1. Review MES studies of North Pacific marine ecosystems, identifying the scientific tools and methodologies employed, and the role these studies have played in policy analyses, management, or natural resource damage assessment.
  2. Develop a typology of marine ecosystem services, tools and methodologies (e.g., environmental accounting/natural capital, non-market values, replacement cost/Natural Resource Damage Assessment, productivity change methods, etc.) that can be used to analyze marine ecosystem services, and the strengths and weaknesses of those tools and methodologies.
  3. Illustrate (2) by applying two or more methods to the assessment of marine ecosystem services in identical case studies in multiple regions of the North Pacific.
  4. Collaborate with WG-36 (Common Ecosystem Reference Points) and WG-40 (Climate and Ecosystem Predictability) to explore development of an indicator-based framework to study the resilience of social ecological systems and to advance integration envisioned in the FUTURE science program.
  5. Complete a detailed technical report on the results of the analyses detailed in TORs (1), (2), and (3) and scoping requested in (4). The report should include practical recommendations for characterizing the status and trends of marine ecosystem services in the North Pacific. In addition, the WG will contribute articles on ecosystem services to PICES Press.