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Bundesamt für Naturschutz

BfN Schriften 521 - Marine Ecosystem Services

The decline in biodiversity is the most pressing and serious problem that our society has to deal with in the interaction of natural and social systems. Conserving nature means protecting biodiversity (i.a. Ceballos et al. 2015). Efforts in nature conservation predominantly focus on terrestrial ecosystems. Given the fact that oceans cover more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface, there is a considerable need to expand the range of arguments for the protection of marine biodiversity. The concept of ecosystem services (ESS) bears the potential to better integrate marine nature conservation objectives in processes and decisions of public policy making.
Lars Berger
Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
Heft Nr.


Biodiversity and ecosystems are closely related concepts. Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes which they are part of: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (UN 1992). Diversity is a structural feature of ecosystems, and the variability among ecosystems is an element of biodiversity (Alcamo 2003). In the 1990s, the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed that the ecosystem approach should be the primary framework of action to be taken under the Convention. The CBD defines an ecosystem as a dynamic complex of plant, animal and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. Humans are understood as an integral part of many ecosystems which can be a functional unit at any spatial scale. The Convention recognises the often unpredictable nature of ecosystem responses and the incomplete understanding of ecosystem functioning (SCBD 2001). Based on this understanding, the members of the CBD derived operational guidelines for applying the ecosystem approach (EA) in nature conservation.

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