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Do we need an independent assessment process for marine biological valuation?

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As part of the Encora project a workshop was held on marine biological valuation, from 6 to 8 December 2006 at Ghent (Belgium). The workshop was a joint venture of the EU CA ENCORA (http://www.encora.org) and the EU NoE MARBEF (http://www.marbef.org). Both Theme 7 within ENCORA and Theme 3 within MARBEF deal with marine/coastal biological valuation and the workshop aimed to reach a consensus on this topic. This article reports the discussion of the extent to which marine biological diversity evaluation is needed.

Do we need an independent assessment process for biological valuation?

  • All participants eventually agreed that biological valuation could be a useful tool for marine management. Participants also mentioned the value of underlying maps (from simply mapping the geographical distribution of samples up to making valuation maps for the different ecosystem components), next to the usefulness of the end-product of the valuation process (integrated biological valuation map). We need a comprehensive framework to valuate areas so we don’t have to base our judgements on expert knowledge each time a question is asked by policy makers.
  • Inclusion of socio-economic value is not possible, as only the intrinsic biological value is investigated (first step).
  • “Independency” of the process difficult to ensure --> should be analyzed during quality control of the end products.
  • Problems with the term “valuation”: politically loaded term, implies a judgement of the scientists, people tend to perceive the meaning of the term in their own way --> we need a better definition of “valuation” or we need another “term” (suggestions: characterization, categorization, …).


If not – what do we do/use if we do not have such a framework?

  • As all participants agreed that we need a biological valuation we didn’t have to look for alternative frameworks.
    • One possible alternative for the concept could be to produce different data layers but no final valuation map. These data layers could then be combined to answer specific management questions. However, the terrestrial expertise on BVMs has shown that managers need a final valuation map as such maps are easy to read. Policy makers are usually not able to interpret the separate data layers and will come back to the scientists to combine them into valuation maps.
    • Also, some alternatives of the term 'biological valuation' were proposed: biological characterization, categorization, evaluation, biodiversity valuation, ecological valuation, … --> As we apply the criteria to all organizational levels of biodiversity it would be more logical to call it ‘biodiversity valuation’ or ‘ecological valuation’ (when physical elements are included in the assessment).
  • An ecosystem based approach is used in some places (e.g. Canada) but never in the context of only intrinsic biological value. The term is also poorly defined and boundaries are very arbitrary in the marine environment. Such an approach should also include the mapping of energy fluxes. With biological/biodiversity valuation we don’t include such fluxes; we only want to produce something new with existing available data.
    • Although an ecosystem based approach is not possible in this framework, biodiversity valuation should be done across national boundaries where possible.


Notes

These paragraphs reflect the main discussion outcomes of the ENCORA Theme 7-MARBEF Theme 3 workshop on marine biological valuation (6-8 December 2006, Gent, Belgium). The workshop report can be downloaded at (http://www.marbef.org/documents/Theme3/GhentWS/report.pdf).