How Can We Identify and Communicate the Ecological Value of Deep-Sea Ecosystem Services?

Niels Jobstvogt*, Michael Townsend, Ursula Witte, Nick Hanley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Submarine canyons are considered biodiversity hotspots which have been identified for their important roles in connecting the deep sea with shallower waters. To date, a huge gap exists between the high importance that scientists associate with deep-sea ecosystem services and the communication of this knowledge to decision makers and to the wider public, who remain largely ignorant of the importance of these services. The connectivity and complexity of marine ecosystems makes knowledge transfer very challenging, and new communication tools are necessary to increase understanding of ecological values beyond the science community. We show how the Ecosystem Principles Approach, a method that explains the importance of ocean processes via easily understandable ecological principles, might overcome this challenge for deep-sea ecosystem services. Scientists were asked to help develop a list of clear and concise ecosystem principles for the functioning of submarine canyons through a Delphi process to facilitate future transfers of ecological knowledge. These ecosystem principles describe ecosystem processes, link such processes to ecosystem services, and provide spatial and temporal information on the connectivity between deep and shallow waters. They also elucidate unique characteristics of submarine canyons. Our Ecosystem Principles Approach was successful in integrating ecological information into the ecosystem services assessment process. It therefore has a high potential to be the next step towards a wider implementation of ecological values in marine planning. We believe that successful communication of ecological knowledge is the key to a wider public support for ocean conservation, and that this endeavour has to be driven by scientists in their own interest as major deep-sea stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100646
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

We are deeply thankful to the workshop and survey participants for their
time and input, and to Dr Rene van der Wal, Dr Nicolas Krucien, and Prof
Graham Pierce (University of Aberdeen) for constructive feedback on early
drafts of this paper. We also like to thank Dr Veerle Huvenne (National
Oceanography Centre) and the Instituto Hidrografico for the Nazare´
Canyon bathymetry data, and the conference organizers for the workshop
opportunity during the HERMIONE Annual Meeting 2012. We also
thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Funding: This research project was funded by MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland; URL: MASTS is funded by the
Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions. Townsend’s involvement was funded by NIWA (National Institute of Water and AtmosphericResearch; URL: under the Coasts and OceansResearch Programme 3 (2013/14 SCI). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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