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Establishing the links between marine ecosystem components, functions and services: an ecosystem service assessment tool

Ocean and Coastal management


The study provides an assessment tool that links marine ecosystem components, functions, and services, and graphically represents the assessment process and its results. The tool was developed to ensure a better application of Ecosystem Services (ES) principles for policy support, particularly in relation to Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP). The tool was applied to assess the relative contribution of marine ecosystem components to the supply of ecosystem services in the Latvian marine waters. 

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • Which tool can be implemented for ecosystem services assessment?
  • Why is the evaluation of ecosystem services relevant for maritime spatial planning?
  • How to improve the ecosystem services assessment included in maritime spatial planning?

Implementation Context:

Although the concept of ecosystem services has been in use for many decades, its application for policy support is limited, particularly with respect to marine ecosystems. Gaps in the assessments of ecosystem services supply prevent its empirical application.

Aspects / Objectives:

This study aims at developing an assessment tool to quantitatively describe the contribution of marine habitats and species in the supply of Ecosystem Services (ES) and to improve the way complex interrelations are communicated to MSP practitioners.


The paper is based on the Latvian case study and gathered a group of five scientists for a semi-structured, interdisciplinary group discussion to identify regionally relevant Ecosystem Services. This ES assessment is based on the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services V5.1 (CICES) and the ES cascade framework developed to link ecosystems and human well-being. It defines a tool composed of (i) a matrix following the ecosystem services cascade structure for quantifying the contribution of ecosystem components in the provision of ecosystem services; (ii) and a linkage diagram for visualising the interactions between the elements.

Main Outputs / Results:

The study provides a tool to facilitate the quantification of the relative importance of marine habitats in the supply of ecosystem services. This tool, if it is tested by planners, could be an opportunity for a better analysis of ES, particularly in maritime spatial planning.


Although this practice focuses on the Latvian case study, the tool developed by the authors is intended to be disseminated to others MSP processes. 

Responsible Entity:

Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology, Riga, Latvia

Funding Source:

The study has been supported by the “Baltic Sea Spatial Planning for sustainable Ecosystem Services” BONUS BASMATI) project, which has received funding from BONUS (Art. 185), jointly funded by the European Union, Innovation Fund Denmark, Swedish Research Council Formas, Academy of Finland, Latvian Ministry of  Education and Science and Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany.

Contact person:

Aurelija Armoškaitė (aurelija[dot]armoskaite[at]lhei[dot]lv)