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A conceptual framework for assessing the ecosystem service of waste remediation: In the marine environment
- Watson, Stephen C.L., Paterson, David M., Queirós, Ana M., Rees, Andrew P., Stephens, Nicholas, Widdicombe, Stephen, Beaumont, Nicola J.
- Ecosystem services 2016 v.20 pp. 69-81
- assets, ecosystem services, ecosystems, humans, marine environment, markets, remediation, social welfare, wastes
- In the marine environment, the ecosystem service of Waste Remediation (WR) enables humans to utilise the natural functioning of ecosystems to process and detoxify a large number of waste products and therefore avoid harmful effects on human wellbeing and the environment. Despite its importance, to date the service has been poorly defined in ecosystem service classifications and rarely valued or quantified. This paper therefore addresses a gap in the literature regarding the application of this key, but poorly documented ecosystem service. Here we present a conceptual framework by which the ecosystem service of WR can be identified, placed into context within current ecosystem classifications and assessed. A working definition of WR in the marine context is provided as is an overview of the different waste types entering the marine environment. Processes influencing the provisioning of WR are categorised according to how they influence the input, cycling/detoxification, sequestration/storage and export of wastes, with operational indicators for these processes discussed. Finally a discussion of the wider significance of the service of WR is given, including how we can maximise the benefits received from it. It is noted that many methods used in the assessment, quantification and valuation of the service are currently hampered due to the benefits of the service often not being tangible assets set in the market and/or due to a lack of information surrounding the processes providing the service. Conclusively this review finds WR to be an under researched but critically important ecosystem service and provides a first attempt at providing operational guidance on the long term sustainable use of WR in marine environments.