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Ecosystem services of the Southern Ocean: trade-offs in decision-making

  • Susie M. Grant (a1), Simeon L. Hill (a1), Philip N. Trathan (a1) and Eugene J. Murphy (a1)

Ecosystem services are the benefits that mankind obtains from natural ecosystems. Here we identify the key services provided by the Southern Ocean. These include provisioning of fishery products, nutrient cycling, climate regulation and the maintenance of biodiversity, with associated cultural and aesthetic benefits. Potential catch limits for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba Dana) alone are equivalent to 11% of current global marine fisheries landings. We also examine the extent to which decision-making within the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) considers trade-offs between ecosystem services, using the management of the Antarctic krill fishery as a case study. Management of this fishery considers a three-way trade-off between fisheries performance, the status of the krill stock and that of predator populations. However, there is a paucity of information on how well these components represent other ecosystem services that might be degraded as a result of fishing. There is also a lack of information on how beneficiaries value these ecosystem services. A formal ecosystem assessment would help to address these knowledge gaps. It could also help to harmonize decision-making across the ATS and promote global recognition of Southern Ocean ecosystem services by providing a standard inventory of the relevant ecosystem services and their value to beneficiaries.

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