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Scientific Report of the ICES Working Group on Resilience and Marine Ecosystem Services (WGRMES)


Villasante, S. et al. (2021).


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Executive summary


The Working Group on Resilience and Marine Ecosystem Services (WGRMES) aims to improve scientific understanding and capacity to design data collection networks and methodologies in order to analyze the ecological, economic, social, and institutional dimensions of marine ecosystem services.


The group made progress in relation to five objectives:

  • (a) testing a resilience framework to operationalize resilience for policy makers;
  • (b) analyze approaches and methods to capture multidimensional monetary and non-monetary values of ecosystem services;
  • (c) investigating the role of natural, social and manufactured capital for the co-production of marine ecosystem services;
  • (d) examine tipping points and social transformations of marine social-ecological systems; and
  • (e) investigate the role of Marine Protected Areas in their contribution to the human dimension and well-being of coastal communities.


WGRMES integrated the three Rs (resistance, recovery and robustness) into a heuristic for resilience management that the group applies in multiple management contexts to offer practical, systematic guidance about how to realize resilience. In the context of multidimensional valuation of marine ecosystem services, we show that cultural (non-material) well-being dimensions sup- port the notion of people valuing non-human nature relationally. Although ecosystem services frameworks have depicted mainly the benefit flows that humans receive from nature, our research results suggest a bidirectional human-nature relationship. The notion of relational values about nature challenges the pervasive dichotomy between instrumental (nature’s utility) and intrinsic values (nature’s inherent worth) that has been guiding environmental ethics and biodiversity conservation. We also provide scientific advances in the understanding of the role of social media in capturing the importance of cultural ecosystem services. The use of Graph Theory on social media data is a promising approach to identify emergent properties of the complex physical and cognitive interactions that occur between humans and nature, in particular to show
the benefits of blue natural areas for human health.


The challenge of inclusion of human dimensions of the oceans in the Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs) provides an opportunity to create synergies between the current research by the ICES and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). WGRMES developed a new Ocean’s Benefits to People (OBP) framework that em- braces the blue economy, equity, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supports the Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) for the oceans. Within the framework we link drivers, enabling conditions, human activities (e.g., aquaculture, fisheries, tourism, etc.) to pressures and states by including the need to empirically test the IEAs to ocean benefits, including intrinsic, relational instrumental values of ecosystem services and the local traditional knowledge perspective. We also show that sustainability transformations need to consider who, where and how profound changes in the structures, processes, rules, and norms of ocean governance are currently underway to foster desirable pathways.


Future work aims to: develop multidimensional analysis of marine ecosystem services (IPBES, 2019), including material and non-material benefits from ecosystem services (nature contributions to people); identify thresholds and tipping points of marine social-ecological services; further research on sustainable and equitable distribution of ocean benefits.



2021, Technical Reports