(VALMER) was an eleven partner, €4.7 million project co-funded by the INTERREG IV A Channel programme through the European Regional Development Fund, which aimed to examine how improved marine ecosystem services assessment could support effective and informed marine management and planning. The project ran from 1st September 2012 to 31st March 2015.
MBA developed one of the case studies conducting ecosystem services assessment in the marine part of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve, as well as providing data and GIS support for the entire project. The case study involved a large data collation exercise, focussing on ecological data (seabed species and habitats, nursery and spawning areas for commercially important fish species and reported catch); human activities (distribution and intensity across the case study area); and management (existing spatial measures including MPAs and fisheries restrictions) that were incorporated into a geodatabase. A composite habitat map was developed using recent surveys together with historic records and modelled data, grouping Level 3 and 4 habitats into broad classes with similar characteristics. The ecosystem services assessed were nursery provision, carbon burial and waste remediation, which were evaluated using literature reviews of juvenile habitat preferences, sediment mud content and bioturbation from empirical data respectively. Socio-ecological models (Bayesian belief networks) were constructed to show changes in ecosystem service importance for each of the services under the current and three alternative management scenarios that were developed with stakeholders. The models were informed by sensitivity information and the linkages between habitats and ecosystem services to elaborate changes in service flows under each scenario condition. This was spatially represented across the case study area and presented to the stakeholder group to evaluate how ecosystem services assessment could inform sustainable management.