Mismatches between legislative frameworks and benefits restrict the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach in coastal environments

Alison Holt, Jasmin Annica Godbold, P. C. L. White, Anne-Michelle Slater, Eduardo Pereira, Martin Solan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The Ecosystem Approach is increasingly being adopted as a framework for developing environmental policy because it forms a strategy for the management and sustainable use of land, water and living resources. Yet it is not clear how this approach translates into policies that will create the integrated management necessary to protect the environment and supply the benefits which society values. Here we explore the disconnect between current policy and legislation aiming to conserve and protect specific components of coastal wetland ecosystems, and the aspirations of the Ecosystem Approach. Using an estuarine case study, we illustrate the benefits that people value from coastal
wetlands and evaluate the extent to which current institutional arrangements protect these benefits. We find that cultural services are the most valued, particularly recreational activities and the enhancement of human wellbeing through a sense of belonging. Although many laws exist that relate to different components of coastal wetland areas, a diversity of organisations are responsible
for their implementation, and they do not always adequately protect the benefits most valued by people. In order to successfully move towards the implementation of an Ecosystem Approach, we argue that new institutional arrangements are required. These need to encompass formal laws that
protect those ecosystem processes and functions that are necessary to support valued benefits, whilst recognising the need for bridging and coordinating networks of organisations for the integrated management of coastal wetlands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-228
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Coastal wetlands
  • ecosystem services
  • network
  • ecosystem management
  • recreation
  • human well-being


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