Changing uses and values of marine ecosystem services in the Norwegian Arctic

How global changes and human activities affect the use and importance of ecosystem services (ES) spatially and across groups of people?

Marine ecosystem services are under increasing pressure from competing human uses, such as aquaculture, shipping, energy production, conservation, fishing, tourism and recreation. Climate change causing sea level rise and warming put additional pressures on these systems, but also cause spatial redistribution and thus change in commercial and other human activities. With these changes there is a need for new knowledge and new management approaches. Traditionally, national, regional and local agencies have managed marine resources sector-by-sector, with little focus on connections between and within human and ecological systems. Trade-offs arising from management choices in each of these sectors change the distribution of ecosystem services and cause conflicts among users. For example, a fish species like the Norwegian coastal cod, is crucial for commercial coastal fisheries, marine fishing tourism and domestic recreational fisheries. Currently, commercial fisheries are managed separately, whereas tourism and recreational fishing are little monitored and insufficiently regulated. In a changing world, where non-market ecosystem services become increasingly important for our welfare, we need management systems taking into consideration ecological interactions between the ecosystem services that are of crucial importance for social welfare, including non-market ecosystem services.

Figure 2

Simultaneously, inhabitants in northern Norway, including the indigenous people Sámi and Kven, have long traditions in exploiting marine and coastal ecosystem services for subsistence, occupation and recreation. Knowledge about ecosystem services and their values forms the basis for understanding actual and perceived trade-offs between different uses and users of marine resources. This in turn provides input to planning and policy design.


Presently, some of the most commercially important species in the traditional fisheries, such as cod and halibut, are also target species in the growing marine fishing tourism industry, especially in northern Norway. These species are also important for recreational fishing among local inhabitants.

It is important to emphasize on the myriad of benefits that people and industries obtain from marine resources. They include various provisioning services such as food (e.g. wild and farmed fish), supporting and regulating services (e.g. primary production and nutrient circulation) and a range of cultural services (e.g. recreation, tourism, education and spiritual well-being). The oceans and coastal areas also provide abiotic services such as minerals and energy. Implementation of ecosystem-based management requires an understanding of the production of marine ecosystem services; how human activities rely on and effect these services; and how to assess their value.

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