Partner Spotlight

'Partner Spotlight' introduces you to valuation economists and professionals from around the world. If you would like the MESP to highlight your project - please email

Partner Spotlight - February 2015


Livelihoods, Economies and Integrated
Ocean-Use Planning
Contributed by Emily Landis
By 2050, as the planet’s population swells toward 9 billion, demand for food, water and energy will strain Earth’s natural systems, especially our ocean and coastal ecosystems. To ensure these important systems keep pace with human need, we must harness the scientific knowledge, innovative thinking, new tools, and applications of marine conservation, restoration and management.

The Mapping Ocean Wealth goal is to calculate and describe—in quantitative and spatial terms—all that the ocean does for us today, so we can make smart investments and decisions affecting what the ocean can do for us tomorrow. In mapping our ocean wealth, we move from broad global averages of habitat science to specific local details, and evaluate nature as an asset. This local data then becomes actionable, translating directly into the engineering, financial and policy language that can inform and improve coastal and ocean planning, conservation, development and investment decisions.
The definition of “value” in nature must necessarily be broad. Wealth in dollar terms alone is not enough. Our aim is to under­stand and model the “production functions” that underpin ecosystem services and report those functions in terms of job creation, food security, risk reduction, tourism and so on. This scientific approach enables us to map value both on a global scale with resolution great enough to influence policy and investments, but also to the finer scales enabling us and partners to map patterns of ecosystem value around individual bays and small islands.
At a local level the MOW project focuses in Indonesia (Lesser Sunda Seascape), Micronesia (Palau and Pohnpei State), Mexico (Gulf of California), the Atlantic Coast of the USA (Gulf of Maine) and the Caribbean (Cayman Islands), purposed to provide localities in these regions with the applicable data and framework necessary to understand their own interactions with the physical attributes and ecological processes of ecosystem services. A global synthesis of ecological capital and services, such as shellfish reefs, pelagic ecosystems, fisheries, blue carbon, coastal protection and tourism, helps create a big picture vision for ocean wealth.
A Collaborative Approach
Mapping ocean wealth complements and empowers both conservation and development efforts at the multinational, regional and local level. Only when government, industry and the scientific communities collaborate, can we advance a new way to value the fundamental habitats that support our society.
The Mapping Ocean Wealth collaboration welcomes new partners and has already been strengthened by input from: Cambridge Conservation Initiative; Cambridge University; Duke University; Ecosystem Services Partnership; Global Partnership for Oceans; Natural Capital Project; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Santa Cruz; Wetlands International; Wildlife Conservation Society; and World Resources Institute.
Get Involved
For more information go to our website:
Follow us on Twitter @ocean_wealth
If you have any ideas, suggestions or further questions please contact us at
A big thank you to the MESP community who contributed to our website design survey! 


Partner Spotlight – May 2014



This month our partners at IUCN Oceania tell us about MACBIO and their plan to conduct economic assessments in the Pacific.

What is the MACBIO Project?

MACBIO stands for Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries.  Among other objectives, the project will conduct economic assessments of marine and coastal ecosystems in five partner countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. The project is aimed at helping countries to meet their commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with emphasis on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The MACBIO project is being implemented by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), with technical support from IUCN and in close collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Why focus on Marine Ecosystem Service Valuations and what do these values contribute to the region?

The Pacific Islands are areas of high biodiversity, particularly in terms of marine species. The economies of these countries depend to a large extent on their marine and coastal ecosystems; fishing and tourism are important sectors of the economy for these nations. However, national plans and strategies often do not reflect the importance of marine resources, largely due to a lack of understanding of their economic value. The economic assessments will give our partners the information they need to strengthen marine spatial planning, demonstrate effective site management, and explore options for payments for ecosystem services. 

Can you tell us more about the project’s specific objectives?

MACBIO has four objectives. They are to ensure:

  1. The economic value of marine and coastal ecosystem services is considered in national development planning.
  2. Exclusive economic zone-wide spatial planning frameworks are used to align national marine and coastal protected area systems with the requirements of ecosystem conservation.
  3. Best practices for the management of locally managed marine areas and marine protected areas, including payments for ecosystem services, are demonstrated at selected sites.
  4. Concepts and instruments that have proven successful for the sustainable management of marine and coastal biodiversity are disseminated regionally and internationally.

What is MACBIO working on right now?

MACBIO started in June 2013 and will support partner countries over a five-year period through May 2018. In close collaboration with governments and stakeholders, the MACBIO team is currently conducting national-scale ecosystem service valuations in each of the five partner countries. The resulting reports will inform national planning and support national development policies.  The MACBIO team is also reviewing national policies and approaches to locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs) and working with partners in the countries to determine the availability of spatial data that can be used in support of marine spatial planning.

Where can I find out more about MACBIO?

You can visit:

Or contact:

GIZ: Jan Henning Steffen

IUCN Oceania: Leanne Fernandes

SPREP:  Stuart Chape


Partner Spotlight – September 2013

This month Pete Wiley and Bob Leeworthy, economists at NOAA, give their insights on the use of ecosystem services valuation in a government agency.

Tell me about NOAA and its role in utilizing ecosystem services information in the management of coastal resources.

 It’s challenging to describe NOAA as a whole because it is made up of a diversity of distinctive programs and functions. NOAA’s purview includes space, air, land and sea, and its roles for these areas vary widely. However, there are common needs for information, tools, and analysis that cross agency boundaries, and ecosystem services is one of these needs. Although the applications of ecosystem services information differ between functions, the approach, methodologies and data are often similar. As a steward of coastal and ocean ecosystems, NOAA must seek to understand the relationship between the health and function of these ecosystems and the well-being of the public, businesses and other stakeholders who rely on the services they provide.

How does NOAA, as a science agency, achieve a balanced approach toward ecosystem services research?

In the past, NOAA has focused its energies on the natural sciences; only addressing social science for specific legal requirements. Over the past 20 years or so, NOAA’s attitude has evolved to understand that humans are an integral component of ecosystems and that the agency cannot fully address issues related to ecosystem management without including those aspects related to humans, the impacts they have, and the benefits they derive. Ecosystem research projects at NOAA increasingly incorporate social science elements and integrate those elements in the planning, execution and results of projects.

Additionally, there are a variety of working groups and committees in NOAA that are addressing ecosystem research, integrated ecosystem assessments, ecological forecasting, and related topics from the perspective of ecosystem services. For example, ecosystem research was identified as one of four “Science Challenge” topics in NOAA. The committee that is addressing this topic is organizing all ecosystem research in the agency within the framework of ecosystem services. In other words, those who conduct ecosystem research in NOAA must show how it relates to what is important to people.

What are some of the specific applications NOAA has for ecosystem services information?

NOAA’s purview includes a variety of areas in which ecosystem services information plays a vital role. One of the most significant is its management of marine fisheries. NOAA manages fishery species directly through regulation, but they also approach the topic from the perspective of habitats and the services they provide in terms of fish and other services.

Another example is NOAA’s response and restoration function. When ecosystems are damaged or otherwise impaired, NOAA, along with its co-trustees, assess the damages in terms of loss of ecosystem services. While the ecosystem is impaired, it is unable to provide services on which other parts of the ecosystem and the public rely (such as fish nursery habitat or recreational use).

NOAA also manages 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and one National Monument.  Each site has its own legislation and set of regulations.  Some of the sites extend into state waters and are co-managed with the states.  Each site produces a variety of ecosystem services, and because they are all sites of National significance, one of the most important economic values of the ecosystem services is what economists refer to as “non-use” or “passive economic use value” or the value that people have for protecting and/or restoring resources in a certain condition even though they will never directly use the resources.

Does NOAA work closely with partners in conducting and applying ecosystem valuation research?

Absolutely. NOAA works closely with partners in our ecosystem services work, including partnerships related to stakeholders, in cases of shared responsibility, and for purposes of funding efficiency. It also makes sense for NOAA to work closely with partners for the purposes of shared experiences, to better understand lessons learned, and to take advantage of the extended networks of our partner organizations.

NOAA’s ecosystem partners include a variety of organizations including government, the private sector and NGOs. Of particular note is the ongoing process facilitated by Duke University and the MESP, which seeks to develop a more consistent approach for estimating the production, supply and value of final ecosystem goods and services across the federal community. In addition, NOAA works with the state coastal management communities, industry partners, and environmental advocacy groups toward shared goals.

Where can I learn more about NOAA and its ecosystem services work?

More information about how NOAA develops and utilizes information about ecosystem services and their value can be found at the following sites.

NOAA Office of Habitat Conservation

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration

NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Partner Spotlight – July 2013

Center for the Blue Economy


This month we interviewed Jason Scorse, director of the Center for the Blue Economy (CBE)   and Judith Kildow director of CBE’s National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP), in order to learn more about the valuable work they’re doing in producing and disseminating ocean and coastal value data.

Can you tell us more about the Center for the Blue Economy and the National Ocean Economics Program?


Jason: The CBE combines professional graduate education and research to promote the sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources. The CBE focuses on the human dimensions of ocean and coastal resource management--the economics, business, and social factors. We are data-driven, international, and strive to work across all sectors--government, NGO, business, and the citizenry.

Judy: NOEP began in 1999 as a response to the absence of evidence based time series data for managing the coasts, inhibiting the formation of theories and making it difficult to make rational decisions about ocean and coastal management.  The program has grown and expanded ever since to serve 10s of thousands of visitors/annually. 

We collect data on the Coastal Economy, population and demographics, natural resource production and value data for fisheries, aquaculture, oil and gas and sand and gravel, federal expenditure data on annual spending on the oceans, all aspects of ports and cargo data, and most importantly, we maintain a non-market heavily annotated and queriable bibliography on recreational and environmental assets and services, a website that is heavily used.

What does the Center offer marine and coastal management professionals?

Jason: Our students are educated to be leaders in ocean and coastal resource management from the moment they graduate and we hope that they soon fill the ranks of the top marine organizations and businesses in the world. Our NOEP program offers the best US ocean and coastal economic data, and we are in the process of a massive expansion program to improve NOEP's analytical capabilities and make the database truly international in scope.


Judy: Here are a few things unique about what we offer to the marine economics community:

  • Providing the volume and revenue generated by fisheries and oil and gas allows the user to determine the use of natural resources as a net loss to our natural assets and gives those who want net numbers for the oil and gas industries and the fishing industries something to use for estimates. 
  • These two types of natural resources are often also in competition for ocean space, so the renewable resource over time vs. the non-renewable resource in real time can be calculated with better discount rates to provide more reasonable estimates for fish.
  • For management purposes, allowing the user to see the increase in federal waters production and decrease in state waters also demonstrates that revenue and risk are in different places, with the states bearing the risks and not getting the revenue from oil and gas production.
  • Our non-market bibliography provides a foundation for building a time series for environmental asset values over time, using constant or chained dollars so that users can see the basic changes in value for particular assets over time as they become more scarce.  I don’t believe anyone has done this.


Have you seen your values used on the ground? Any success stories?

Jason: NOEP data has been cited and used by 1000s of stakeholders over the years and has been a central component of efforts to conserve coastal and marine environments around the country. Countries around the world now based their ocean economic accounts on NOEP methodology and many countries without their own ocean and coastal accounts want us to help them develop them.

Judy: At the Federal level, Congress uses our work (as their Bible) to help them determine budgets and priorities according to several congressional representatives and their staffs.  Our state summaries have been guides for most of the coastal states.  Our non-market collection and site are frequently used by organizations of all kinds to complete important research for policy input.  Finally, our data has been requested by FEMA and other agencies and organizations, and has contributed to decisions after major hurricanes (e.g. Sandy and Katrina), during the BP oil spill to determine probable losses, and been used as a basis for understanding climate induced risks of possible losses to estuaries and coastlines by several NGOs, EPA and NOAA

How can valuation help the management community?

Jason: Valuation is in some ways the foundation for management in that it helps set priorities and can illuminate values that many might otherwise take for granted. I don't think every single aspect of the ocean and coastal environment should or can be reduced to dollar amounts, but without a pretty detailed sense of the economic and social values these resources provide management will likely be very inefficient and not provide the level of public benefits it should. 


 Judy: The values we offer for all aspects of the coastal and ocean economy are useful as a foundation for marine spatial planning which sorely needs economic data as one piece of their puzzle toward ocean zoning.  Evaluating Marine Protected areas is difficult without economic data to determine before and after values for the natural assets that are being protected.  Our data helps to inform those questions.

As SLR becomes increasingly challenging, our range of sites reflecting values of non-market assets through our summaries of reports and the bibliographic query page we offer, provides users with the newest and best knowledge about the natural assets at risk as well as the more commercial and residential economy that anchors both the coasts and the overall economy.

What’s been most challenging/rewarding?

Jason: The non-market valuation is and always has been the most challenging as getting people to accept and understand the values that don't show up directly in the market is very difficult. But it's absolutely critical as many of these values actually trump market values and recognizing them is key for long-term conservation. My biggest goal is to mainstream non-market valuation and create more mechanisms for its inclusion in policy and business decisions in the U.S. and across the globe.

Judy: One of the most challenging parts of providing our products to users is data access, e.g. keeping up with changing government regulations on access to economic data.  Also, our desire to maintain a consistent and comparable data system over time is hampered by the government changing its strategies for data collection from time to time, changing categories, etc, hampering continuity.  Another challenge is to keep the enterprise going.  Data collection as we do it is not a sexy activity and thus funders are not easily found to achieve our more expansive goals.  A final challenge is to provide guidance for our users and future users about how best to use our information for their purposes.  We are currently working on a program to provide training materials and on-line training for that very purpose.

The ultimate reward is that after more than a decade and a half, we are still offering the marine community something useful.   


What’s next for you in the valuation community?

Jason: I think the next big step is showing how climate change demands serious action in the coastal zones right now. We're going to need to make big changes everywhere but nowhere more than in the coastal zones and we're not anywhere near where we need to be right now. In fact, more and more economic activity and people are becoming concentrated in the coastal zones at just the time when we need to rethink how much activity they can sustainably handle. Making it clear that our current management strategies in the coastal zones are economically, socially, and also ecologically unsustainable and using this data to prompt action is the key challenge right now. If we don't do it, the U.S. and the other countries are going to go broke reacting to climate change, when they should have been proactive decades ago. Good coastal planning right now is the ultimate in "fiscal responsibility".


Judy: We have several goals: 

First, we want to connect the various types of data we already offer.  We are in the process of figuring out how to connect, natural resources datasets with their market sectors datasets, and somehow connect those data with the non-market data we have on natural capital and recreation that provides the foundations for the market economy.  These connections are poorly made in general, and we hope to be a leader in connecting the dots.

Second, we want to lend greater robustness to the non-market data by finding a useful way to provide consistency and continuity to the non-market data over time, to bring it closer to market economy data to make it more useful in policy decisions. 

The third goal is to work with the international community to achieve continuity among nations to make all national ocean and coastal accounts comparable, despite the differences in economies and economic activities. 

Finally, we hope to provide some selected scientific information about ocean threats in time series to link with the economic data.  The scientific data is essential to determining the benefits derived from natural assets and services.  Bottom line, it is time to connect the dots between scientific information and economic information and between non-market and natural resource information and market data. 

Partner Spotlight - March 2013

 TEEB-OC Knowledge Portal


What is TEEB-OC?

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Oceans and Coasts (TEEB-OC) is building on the original TEEB study to expand theory into policy and practice. TEEB for Oceans and Coasts is looking for real world examples in order to show decision makers at all levels, as well as civil society stakeholders, how new policies, practices, markets and agreements could improve the ecological and economic productivity and sustainability of marine ecosystems around the world. 

In order to achieve this, TEEB-OC willbridge the gaps in knowledge on ocean ecosystem services and functions and support the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem considerations into both national policymaking and broader societal perspectives.

What is the Knowledge Portal? And can I use it?

The Knowledge Portal is a web-based platform to monitor, over the long term, the changes in value of ocean and coastal ecosystem services around the world. It will also promote information and knowledge sharing, assist capacity building facilitation and provide a platform for continued knowledge development. The aim of the portal is to help provide end-users with a resource to explore, evaluate, synthesize, and learn about ocean and coastal ecosystem valuation at multiple levels of details.

The Knowledge Portal will provide datasets and synthesis products produced by TEEB-OC. And, yes, anybody can visit the portal to explore its Document Library or stay updated on the project.

Can you tell me more about TEEB-OC before I visit the portal?

TEEB for Oceans and Coasts will carry out its mission through the use of Five Components.

These are:

  1. Participatory Design: Collaborative project mapping and design will be used to secure the long-term engagement of relevant stakeholders and key partners in the policy, governance, industry and community/civil society
  2. Knowledge: Building upon the original TEEB, this project will build the capacity of coastal and ocean decision-makers, so that they are able to take ecosystem service values into account in their decision-making. This component will develop an ecosystem services framework to bridge knowledge gaps.
  3. Prototyping: A minimum of four site-specific valuation exercises are planned (sites to be determined) as case studies to demonstrate how holistic valuation approaches can be adapted to respond to specific national policy questions. The objective is to create valuation methodologies that might be adopted in regions/countries/communities with similar sites or ecosystems.
  4. Policy Integration: Two workshops will be held to present the holistic ecosystem services framework alongside an outline of the costs and benefits of implementation at two workshops with regional decision-makers. The workshops will promote the use of the tested framework in order to design cost-effective policy instruments and to ensure real policy implementation.
  5. Communication and Outreach: TEEB for Oceans and Coasts will communicate information about the economics of ocean biodiversity and ecosystem services in a holistic, flexible fashion, across a wide variety of societal sectors. The project will make use of the media, print publications, in person communication, social media, and online tools, including a web-based knowledge portal to engage in targeted outreach and awareness-raising about ecosystem valuation.

Where can I learn more about this project?

Read more about this project at their Knowledge Portal and check out the embedded MESP map on their site!



Partner Spotlight - January 2013

Lauretta Burke: Senior Associate, World Resources Institute

Lauretta Burke is a Senior Associate in the People and Ecosystems Program of the World Resources Institute (WRI). She’s also a member and co-founder of the MESP. Her recent work with marine valuations includes the Coastal Capital project, which valued the contributions of corals and mangroves to five countries in the Caribbean.

  • Tell us more about your project!

We launched the Coastal Capital project in 2005 with the goal of providing decision-makers in the Caribbean with information and tools that link the health of coastal ecosystems with the attainment of economic and social goals. Along with local partners, we have conducted economic valuation studies of coral reefs and mangroves at national and subnational levels in five countries: Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. We are using the results to identify and build support for policies that help to ensure healthy coastal ecosystems and sustainable economies.

  • Have you seen your values used on the ground?

Yes, we have. In Belize, for example, our partners successfully used our estimates of the economic value of coral reefs to advocate for a ban on fishing for parrotfish, protection of grouper spawning sites and requirements that a small skin patch be left on all fish filets, so the species can be identified. In addition, shortly after our results were released, a cargo ship grounded on the Belize Barrier Reef. The government used our results in the damage claim, supporting the largest damage award in the history of Belize.

People have also used our methods and tools to conduct their own valuations, resulting in on-the-ground change. In 2009, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation’s Tadzio Bervoets downloaded WRI’s fisheries and tourism valuation tools from our website ( and used them to collect and analyze data on the economic value of tourism and fisheries within the proposed Man of War Shoal Marine Park in St. Maarten. In 2010, the Nature Foundation shared the valuation results with the government and the media. This outreach resulted in a negotiation process which ultimately convinced the government to establish the marine park—St. Maarten’s first national park.

  • What has been the most challenging/rewarding part of your project?

Typically, the hardest part of the project is getting accurate data to use as input for the valuation, such as number of fishermen, fish landings by species, or on tourist activities (and how many tourists are engaged in reef-related activities). In some countries good data is available from government agencies, such as tourism boards and fisheries departments. In many locations, however, we spent a good deal of time working with local experts to improve the data.

The most satisfying part of the projects is working with people dedicated to coral reef conservation, and learning how information on how much coral reefs are contributing to the economy can influence change.

  • Is valuation the best tool for advancing marine conservation and sustainable management?

Only under some circumstances. Valuation can help to inform choices – it can make explicit the costs and benefits of different scenarios, such as development or management options under consideration. It can highlight the economic contribution of ecosystems to the economy, and what can be gained from improved management (or lost through neglect). But, there are costs associated with conducting a valuation. Our recent working paper, Influence of Coastal Economic Valuations in the Caribbean: Enabling Conditions and Lessons Learned, highlights when valuation is likely to be most useful, as compared to other conservation and management strategies.

  • What’s next for you in the valuation community?

Building on these Coastal Capital studies, WRI is now working with a broad partnership to develop a standardized framework for coastal ecosystem valuation in the Caribbean, related to specific policy questions. This framework will be a guide to conducting coastal valuations using best practices, yielding comparable and credible valuation results that should be more likely to influence policy-making and improve the conservation and management of coastal ecosystems.