Archive for the 'Resource economics' Category

Integrated coastal zone management: a specialist highlights the needs, benefits and techniques

Dr. Peter R. Burbridge is a well-known advocate of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM). In a recent Coastal Challenges interview he explained what integrated coastal management is and why it is needed. Here are some of the comments made by Dr. Burbridge, Emeritus Professor of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K.:

“The development challenges facing humanity are most complex in the coastal regions. Why? Partly because the richness and diversity of the coastal resources’ opportunities to support economic and social development are much greater than in the terrestrial environment or the purely marine environment. It is that interface between the sea and the land where we find the most complex, the most rich and the most diverse forms of natural resources. And they sustain many different forms of economic development. And that means that there is much competition for access to and often exclusive use of the coastal area and coastal resources. Now, the challenge we face as managers is trying to maximise the potential use of these resources without damaging the very resource base which creates those resources in the first place.”


Dr. Burbridge being interviewed on integrated coastal management in Helsinki. Photography and copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

“You need integration in the sense that there are different economic and social groups wanting to have access to the coast. And what you have to do is to try to treat them equitably, so that everybody has an equal chance of access to the resource but without damaging the resource for other people to enjoy and use in effective ways.  And that means that you have to get the different economic sectors to try to coordinate their activities so that they don´t disrupt the potential flow of benefits from the coast – without destroying the natural systems. And that’s the challenge. And that’s why we talk about integration. It is integration of different economic sectors, different social demands from the coast and different political systems trying to coordinate the development process more effectively.  We are talking about development planning here. We are not talking about environmental conservation. The environmental conservation is one tool to manage the natural systems.”

“Integrated coastal management is a set of principles to guide development planning. It is meant to create a working environment where people see that there are ways of doing things that are less environmentally damaging and more economically responsible, and create a greater social benefit. And that’s difficult, to get people to think of the environment, the economy and social aspects in the same sentence. And that’s what coastal management is trying to do. We are not purely trying to protect the environment, we are not trying to maximise the economic activities at the cost of social equity.”


Coastal zone activities in Helsinki, Finland, in April 2012. Photo copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

“One of the problems we have is getting any political system to understand how complex the coastal resource pressures are, but also the great value of the coast, the strategic value of the coast in meeting social and economic pressures. And those pressures have to be managed. And the economic rationale behind that is that you can get greater social and  economic benefits by wise management than you can by totally unregulated free-for-all development. And that’s the challenge, this convincing people that the strategic value of the coast is important enough to invest in managing the coast effectively.”

The interview (“Dr. Peter Burbridge and Integrated Coastal Zone Management” on Youtube) addresses more coastal management topics than those mentioned above. Here is the direct Youtube link:

New hope after the Cancún climate negotiations

While coral bleaching is currently degrading coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea, there is new hope for those of us who are worried about the effects of global climate change in our oceans. This fresh hope has its origin in Cancún, Mexico, where the latest phase of the UN climate negotiations ended on 11 December, 2010.

In spite of travelling to Cancún pessimistic, probably most of the participants are returning home optimistic. The reason is that the future of climate talks within the UN framework has been saved, thanks to the compromises by the more than 190 participating countries.

In addition to saving the face of the UN climate negotiations’ mechanism, the following was achieved in Cancún:

  • There was an agreement (no signed commitments were achieved in Cancún) according to which the countries limit the average global temperature rise to two degrees.
  • The national emission cut targets related to the previous negotiation phase in Copenhagen became part of the Cancún decisions.
  • The participating countries decided on long-term (until 2020), annual 100 billion U.S. dollar funding from developed nations to developing countries and their climate change -related measures. The management mechanism of this financing package, which has its origin in the Copenhagen negotiations, was developed – it is still open how much each industrialised country will contribute.
  • The states agreed on emission cut reporting: there was consensus on the transparency including the monitoring measures. (In order to guarantee impartial reporting, there is still scope for the development of country-level verification measures.)
  • Agreement was achieved on carbon sinks, transfer of clean energy technology and compensations for the conservation of tropical forests.

There was no agreement on the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. The Protocol (currently the most significant international instrument for climate change measures) will be valid until the end of 2012.

Climate change will warm up the waters even in northern Norway. Traditionally, fishing has been the main income source here. Photo (c) 2010 Erkki Siirila.

It is also important to remember that the activities within the UN framework are not all the work that needs to be done in order to control climate change. “The outcome does not change the fact that most of the important work of cutting emissions will be driven outside the UN process”, said Michael A. Levi, climate negotiations’ expert of Council on Foreign Relations to New York Times.

The UN climate change negotiations will continue in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. Our seas, oceans and coasts cannot wait.

(The negotiation process is based on UNFCCC, which is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. UNFCCC was one of the results of the UNCED “Earth Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Kyoto Protocol is an UNFCCC tool. The United States is not a party to the Protocol. – To control global climate change, the world’s countries should agree on binding limits and measures. Probably also more work on international trade on emission rights will be needed.)

Free access to the shore is everyone’s right

Hundreds of thousands of people travelling from Buenos Aires to the Atlantic coast of Argentina cannot be wrong. They invest a lot of time and money in order to get to the public beaches 300 to 500 km south of Buenos Aires during the peak holiday season in January and February.Their total investment shows how high the value of healthy coastal nature and unpolluted waters is for the common man. It also shows the importance of free access to coastal spaces from the democratic and socio-economic point of view.

Hundreds of thousands of people travel from Buenos Aires to the Atlantic coast of Argentina in January and February. The economic value of the free beach access is high. Image taken at San Clemente del Tuyu, (c) 2010 Erkki Siirila.

Private coastal spaces benefit a handful of people while public spaces benefit millions of people. The problem is the same in developing and developed countries. In southern Europe you can often see the beautiful Mediterranean but access to the sea is difficult because of private lands, through which you cannot even walk to the sea. The problem is the same in the Caribbean, where the local people commonly have lost access to some of their traditional beaches, because the access routes have been taken over by international hotel chains.

Respecting everyone’s right to shore access is a common issue to be solved in coastal zone management. In many countries at least the shore area up to the highest tide mark is public. Often there is also a wider, construction-free public set-back area on the shore.  Nevertheless, the access to this area where people have traditionally kept their boats and gone for a swim, has often been blocked by private properties.

The solution is not to forget the public access routes to these places.  The best example on how to respect everyone’s right to nature, both marine and terrestrial, is provided by the Nordic countries, in which “every man’s right” is a traditional legal concept. You may spend time within a private land area and walk through it to the beach without asking permission. The only exception are people’s houses, the privacy of which you need to respect.

Economic valuation is a key tool in coastal areas

Economic (socio-economic) valuation regularily makes coastal conservation efforts appear more desirable than what they appear when their value is calculated in business terms only.  In the past, the economic value of coastal ecosystems was thought to be approximately the same as their value for tourism and commercial fisheries.  Only the direct benefits to the private economy were considered and the short-term perspective dominated.

As we know, private economic benefits in the form of employment, income sources and attractive investment conditions are important to all of us. Nevertheless, considering only them in decision-making is not the way to a sustainable society, in which benefits are shared equally between today’s citizens and those of the future generations .

When only the private benefits are taken into consideration, for instance coastal mangroves are commonly considered wasteland, which may be converted to more lucrative uses like shrimp ponds and construction sites for coastal hotels. This kind of development has taken place in many Central American and South-East Asian countries.

Crucial benefits of mangroves to the society as a whole have been forgotten when these ecosystems have been converted into uses which favour just a few investors and their employees.  These benefits include the unique protection provided by mangroves to coastal settlements when a hurricane or tsunami hits from the sea.  Mangroves also  stabilise the coastline and prevent shoreline erosion.

To continue with the mangroves & economics example, another benefit offered by these plant communities is the nursery function to commercially important fish and shrimp species.  In addition, mangroves produce organic matter which is an important food source for other marine ecosystems.  In the developing societies without sewage treatment plants mangroves help us by filtering the waste waters and by preventing eutrophication and algal blooms in the sea.

One way to summarise the total economic value of marine and coastal ecosystems is here 1):

  • Direct values: production and consumption of goods such as fish, firewood, building materials, shells, corals, tourism and leisure, transport, etc.
  • Indirect values: ecological services and functions such as shoreline protection, prevention of saltwater intrusion, storm and flood control, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, etc.
  • Option values: premium placed in future possible uses and applications such as those of extractive, leisure, pharmaceutical, industrial etc. character.
  • Existence values: intrinsic significance in terms of culture, aesthetics, heritage, bequest, etc.

In addition, we need to remember that only the on-site / marketed benefits are those traditionally considered in the valuation of coastal zone resources, while those which are off-site / nonmarketed are commonly ignored.  This leads us to another way to summarise the economic valuation of coastal resources by using mangroves as an example 2):

  • Marketed / on-site goods and services: usually included in an economic analysis (e.g. poles for construction, charcoal, woodchips, mangrove crabs).
  • Marketed / off-site goods and services: may be included (e.g. fish or shellfish caught in the adjacent waters).
  • Non-marketed / on-site goods and services: seldom included (e.g. medicinal uses of mangrove, domestic fuelwood, food in times of famine, nursery area for juvenile fish, feeding ground for estuarine fish and shrimp, viewing and studying wildlife).
  • Non-marketed / off-site goods and services: usually ignored (e.g. ecologically important nutrient flows to estuaries, buffer to storm damage).

1) From R.V. Salm, John Clark and Erkki Siirila (2000): Marine and Coastal Protected Areas, A guide for planners and managers. IUCN. Washington DC. xxi + 371 pp.

2) From lecturing material used by coastal management consultant Dr. Peter Burbridge, U.K.

Mangrove and seagrass communities are the underestimated base of marine food chains in the tropics. They are also a place where the juveniles of many commercially important species grow up. Photo from the Florida Keys, (c) 2010 Erkki Siirila.