Assessing marine ecosystem services of the German coastal waters

Ecosystem Services is, nowadays, one of the most popular research topics bringing together environmental, social and economic disciplines. With the objective to assess and quantify the value of the contribution of the environment to human wellbeing, ecosystem services are usually defined as “all outputs (tangible and intangible) that the environment provides that contribute to human development and welfare”. Despite the popularity of this topic, its application to marine ecosystems is still very undeveloped. The European Union in 2010 committed to develop and put in place the Biodiversity 2020 Strategy, which aims at halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU and helping to stop global biodiversity loss by 2020. One of the targets of this strategy requires Member States to understand and assess ecosystem services of their territory, but to do this they need tools and approaches to carry out this task in a comprehensive way. Having this point in mind, in 2016 the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) approved the funding of the second phase of the research project “The Service of Sediments in German Coastal Seas” (SECOS Synthesis: In this project one of the work packages is dedicated to develop a methodology and approach to assess the ecosystem services of German coastal waters.

This process already started and a tool, called “Ecosystem Services Assessment Tool”, tailored for the assessment of marine ecosystem services is already in place. The main focus is to be a user-friendly and easy to apply tool, that can be used by users without a high expertise level. The tool is based on the difference in services provision through time (and representing different ecological statuses of a system). Up to now the tool comprises 54 indicators (some from the European Project “Mapping and Assessment and Ecosystems and their Services: that represent 31 ecosystem services (following the Common International Classification in Ecosystem Services:, assessing all categories: Provisioning Services, Regulating & Maintenance, Cultural Services.

The novelty of the approach and the tool is to assess the change in services supply over time, producing comprehensive graphs that can be presented to a wide range of end-users. The same approach can be done with possible hypothetical management scenarios for a certain area, making it a tool that can be used in Coastal Zone Management and Marine Spatial Planning.

Up to now the tool was applied to Szczecin (Oder) Lagoon and Pomeranian Bay, giving results about how much services have changed from the past to present. At the moment, the tool is being applied to Schlei system (SH), Darss-Zingst (MV) and Curonian Lagoon in Lithuania. In SECOS we will perform the assessment to the coastal waters and incorporate the results in the Baltic Sea Atlas (which is also part of this project).

Contact: Miguel Inácio,

Find more information about the SECOS Project under