The value of open ocean ecosystems: A case study for the Spanish exclusive economic zone
Valuing goods and services from open oceans provides arguments for the ocean's protection and plays an increasingly important role in debates on the use and management of natural resources. This paper identifies and estimates the monetary value of some of the most important goods and services provided by open oceans. The list of goods and services considered includes food production, raw materials, water supply, CO2 regulation, bioremediation of waste, biomass and biodiversity conservation. Therefore, not only values associated with productive uses are quantified but also values assigned to other biological ecosystem services. This paper constitutes a first attempt in the open ocean literature at evaluating services such as water supply, biomass and biodiversity conservation. To obtain their monetary value, different techniques, some not applied before in this area, have been used depending on the ecosystem service to be evaluated. As a general criterion we use the concept of net value added (revenues obtained from the services less incurred costs). Our methodology is illustrated by estimating the monetary values of goods and services provided by the open ocean ecosystem of Spain as defined by its exclusive economic zone. The total economic value obtained measures the contribution of oceans to overall welfare and it may be an important instrument in managing open ocean ecosystems and developing environmental policies in the future.