|dc.description.abstract||One of the greatest challenges for sustaining the ecosystem services that we, as a society, derive from marine ecosystems is to minimize the knowledge gap relating to marine ecosystem values. That is, identifying, eliciting and understanding the economic value of the ecosystem services that marine systems provide for societies world-wide is key to ensuring sustainable resource use and environmental management of these ecosystems. This is particularly problematic for the ecosystem services derived from the deep sea as a tremendous knowledge gap exists for the many marine ecosystems that comprise the deep sea. Addressing this gap in knowledge may, directly and indirectly, facilitate actionable strategies for successful climate change adaptation and reduce the degradation of these important marine ecosystems.
Estimating values for certain types of marine ecosystem services in particular the deep sea is imperative for understanding the economic trade-offs associated with human actions and resource use of marine resources. Identifying, exploring and understanding the economic benefits and costs associated with the human resource use of marine systems is also crucial for circumventing irreversible damage to ecosystems, and for addressing the growing problem of ecosystem degradation of marine ecosystems. However, a knowledge gap remains in terms of eliciting and understanding how vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and the deep-sea, generate economic value to local economies, and for societies on a global scale.
By employing a variety of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, this thesis explores the economic value of the ecosystems of coral reefs and the deep-sea, respectively. The thesis investigates various aspects of the economic contribution of these ecosystems, namely: (i) the local economic contribution of ) Fiji's coral reefs to tourism; and ii) the economic value of the deep- sea's ecosystems to human societies, globally. Moreover, it discusses the importance of exploring the social and non-monetary value of coral reefs to human well-being in the South Pacific Island Countries (SPICs). The research of this thesis therefore constitutes a genuine contribution to understanding how changes in these marine ecosystems impact on economies and human well-being, now and in the future. Although the full extent to which ecosystem degradation of marine ecosystems will impact economies and societies globally remains uncertain, its impacts are already being witnessed, e.g. through ocean acidification, sea-level rise, reduced fish stocks and changing environmental conditions. In turn, these impacts affect human survival and well-being by negatively impacting fishery incomes, food security and coastal protection in many countries around the world. Action and investment plans for reducing the ecosystem degradation of marine systems are urgently needed to protect the value of those ecosystem services to human societies. Deepening our understanding of marine ecosystems' economic contributions constitutes a crucial component of facilitating action plans and investments for sustainable resource use and development.
Valuation of vulnerable marine ecosystems is important for several reasons. First, valuation of an ecosystem's contribution to society demonstrates the importance of that ecosystem for social stability, economic growth and human well-being, thereby
improving public awareness of that ecosystem's significance. Second, ecosystem valuation can inform policy and decision-making for future conservation programs and legislation pertaining to the human use of marine resources. Third, ecosystem valuation
creates important incentives to invest in the protection of marine systems as it outlines the connection between the ecological functioning of marine systems on the one hand, and economic output and stability on the other hand. Fourth, ecosystem valuation can also raise awareness about the importance of protecting biodiversity. Finally, ecosystem valuation of marine ecosystems is especially important for supporting decision-making related to the resource-use of marine ecosystems for which very limited information exists on their economic contribution.
The thesis starts with an introduction and a literature review of the main themes and concepts along with the problems, challenges and opportunities associated with the ecosystem valuation of coral reefs and the deep-sea. Subsequently, the research studies of this thesis, which constitutes chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 are presented. Specifically, chapter 2 explores the economic impacts of future (hypothetical) deep-sea mining activities on Fiji's tourism industry, through a contingent behaviour study; chapter 3 discusses the need for developing non-monetary and social ecosystem valuation methodology in order to elicit marine ecosystems' importance for human well-being in the SPICs; chapter 4 explores current knowledge about the deep-sea's economic value through a systematic review and meta-analysis; and chapter 5 identifies the four main priorities for future
ecosystem valuation, policy-making and research pertaining to the deep-sea.
This thesis makes a small but significant contribution to the knowledge base of the economic value of the ecosystems of coral reefs and the deep-sea, respectively, and to developing future ecosystem valuation by means of introducing the social willingness-to commit (Social WTCommit) technique. Finally, this thesis can contribute to policy-making, decision-making and legislation pertaining to the deep-sea and coral reefs, locally and globally.||