Navigating Marine Ecosystem Services and Values

By Sarah Klain
Master of Science Thesis, University of British Columbia


It is broadly recognized that local knowledge and values should play a prominent role in natural resource decision-making. This research was based on the concept of ecosystem services (ES), which are the ecological processes through which nature provides benefits to people. A primary methodological research goal was to test an interview protocol to solicit the verbal articulation, spatial identification and a quantitative measure of local monetary values, non-monetary values and threat intensities associated with marine ES.

This research identified and characterized a wide range of ways in which people value marine ecosystems in the Regional District of Mount Waddington in British Columbia, Canada to inform an ongoing marine spatial planning process. A total of 30 semi-structured interviews were conducted based on non-proportional quota sampling to target interviewees from across the district who have a variety of marine-related occupations.

The interview protocol was successful in eliciting emotive expressions of intangible benefits and values pertaining to ES. All interviewees verbally identified these benefits and values, but some (30%) refused to assign quantified non-monetary value to specific locations and others (16%) chose not to identify specific locations of non-monetary importance. Given that the spatial quantification of non-monetary values was not broadly acceptable, it is recommended that these research findings and methods complement deliberative processes to enable decision makers to more fully consider stakeholders’ non-monetary values and threats associated with ES.

When explaining values and threats across the seascape, respondents bundled various services, benefits, and values associated with ecosystems. For articulating specific values, many used metaphors quite different from the implicit ES metaphor of 'nature as service provider'. This protocol did not fully crowd out these alternative metaphors.

Based on the spatial analysis, there was significant overlap among all three pair-wise comparisons of monetary values, non-monetary values, and threat intensity values. People tended to assign greater monetary and non-monetary value closest to inhabited locations. Employment in salmon aquaculture, the most divisive marine issue in the region, correlated with the perception that the ocean does not face environmental threat associated with this industry.

1 This thesis is the product of independent research conducted by its author to meet the academic requirements of her university. It does not reflect the official views of Environment Canada or the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial governments participating in the Value of Nature to Canadians Study.