Assessing the value of natural capital in marine protected areas: a biophysical and trophodynamic environmental accounting model

Changes imposed to nature by human activities and related impacts on all environmental matrices have become a critical issue. Gradually, humans began to perceive and face the magnitude of the impact of human economy on natural ecosystems and the implications for human well-being. From this perception, the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services arose, highlighting the relationships between natural and human economy while boosting environmental conservation and management. In this framework, the definition and application of metrics and models capable of accounting for natural capital value are much needed.

This study proposes a biophysical and trophodynamic environmental accounting model to assess the value of natural capital in marine ecosystems, with specific reference to marine protected areas (MPAs). The model is articulated in three main steps: 1. Trophodynamic analysis, providing an estimate of the primary productivity used to support the benthic trophic web within the study area, 2. biophysical accounting, providing an estimate of the biophysical value of natural capital, and 3. monetary conversion, expressing the biophysical value of natural capital into monetary units.

The authors highlight that the proposed model allows accounting for the biophysical value of natural capital based on the principle that the greater is the investment of nature in the generation of the capital the greater its value. It is also stated that the model can ensure a solid accounting base for a monetary valuation built on ecological principles, which is useful to facilitate the communication of the importance of marine goods and services to local managers and policy makers.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304380017300984

Vassallo P, Paoli C, Buonocore E, Franzese PP, Russo GF, Povero P (2017) Assessing the value of natural capital in marine protected areas: A biophysical and trophodynamic environmental accounting model. Ecological Modelling 355:12-17

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