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Willingness to pay for expansion of the whale sanctuary in Faxaflói Bay, Iceland: A contingent valuation study

Commercial whaling is a divisive issue in Iceland, and often considered to be irreconcilable with whale watching. The coexistence of both activities in Faxaflói Bay, adjacent to the capital city of Reykjavík, has led to the designation of part of the bay as a whale sanctuary, where whaling is banned. The study utilises the contingent valuation method to elicit the preferences of Icelanders and estimate their willingness to pay (WTP) to expand the sanctuary to the full extent of Faxaflói Bay, with an aim to inform marine spatial planning in Iceland. Using the double-bounded dichotomous approach, the mean WTP for expansion of the Faxaflói Bay Whale Sanctuary was estimated to be 5082 ISK/42 USD per person (1.32 billion ISK/10.9 million USD when multiplied by the number of taxpayers), and 29.7% of the respondents with clearly defined preferences expressed positive WTP. According to the logit regression model, statistically significant socioeconomic and attitudinal variables included age, gender, level of education, number of persons in a household, and attitudes towards environmental conservation and whaling. Policy implications of non-market valuation of marine ES are discussed, pointing to a need to further assess the multiple marine ES values applying a transdisciplinary approach to inform decision-making.

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Ecosystem services in the Arctic: a thematic review

The study presents the first systematic review of the existing literature on Arctic ES. Applying the Search, Appraisal, Synthesis and Analysis (SALSA) and snowballing methods and three selection criteria, 33 publications were sourced, including peer-reviewed articles, policy papers and scientific reports, and their content synthesised using the thematic analysis method. Five key themes were identified: (1) general discussion of Arctic ES, (2) Arctic social-ecological systems, (3) ES valuation, (4) ES synergies and/or trade-offs, and (5) integrating the ES perspective into management. The meta-synthesis of the literature reveals that the ES concept is increasingly being applied in the Arctic context in all five themes, but there remain large knowledge gaps concerning mapping, assessment, economic valuation, analysis of synergies, trade-offs, and underlying mechanisms, and the social effects of ES changes. Even though ES are discussed in most publications as being relevant for policy, there are few practical examples of its direct application to management. The study concludes that more primary studies of Arctic ES are needed on all of the main themes as well as governance initiatives to move Arctic ES research from theory to practice.

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Peering into the fire – An exploration of volcanic ecosystem services

Volcanic ecosystem services (ES) is a subject that has been overlooked by the vast ecosystem services literature, where the spotlight has been focused on the many ecosystem disservices (ED) of volcanic hazards. This study conducts a literature review using the Search, Appraisal, Synthesis and Analysis (SALSA) framework, identifying the main ES common to volcanic environments. The Common International Classification for Ecosystem Services typology is utilised to provide a classification of volcanic ES. A diverse array of 18 ES are identified, categorised as follows: provisioning (8), regulation and maintenance (2), and cultural (8). Resilience is a key property underpinning the ecological processes, functions and productivity of Andosols, which are often some of the most fertile soils on the planet. However, careful management of Andosols, volcano-themed national parks and geothermal energy resources remains necessary to ensure that the flow of related ES is sustainable. Through sustainable soil and geothermal energy resource management, volcanic ES can make a long-term contribution to the tackling of climate change, including the partial offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions released via volcanic degassing during eruptions. Sustainable tourism management can ensure the protection, conservation and economic development of volcanic sites of high geo-heritage value, including national parks and geoparks, where the distinct aesthetics of such environments underpin the recreational and tourist experience.

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Capital assets underpinning economic well-being – the example of whale ecosystem services in Arctic coastal communities

Arctic coastal communities are a part of co-evolving marine social-ecological systems (SES), which support livelihoods, provide sustenance and underpin cultural identity. Whale ecosystem services (ES) represent a useful lens for gaining greater understanding of the linkages between marine ecosystems and human well-being, in the Arctic and beyond. The increasingly popular well-being economy paradigm recognises the contribution of different capital assets to human well-being and how these underpin the pursuit of sustainability domains: environmental, social and economic. This study explores the ways in which capital assets (natural, social, human, and financial and physical) provide essential natural and non-natural inputs into the delivery of whale ES in Arctic coastal communities. Through the deployment of a well-being economy framework linking capital assets to well-being goals and domains, examples are reported from three Arctic coastal communities in Iceland, Norway and Greenland. These case studies are based on data collected using multiple qualitative research methods: stakeholder mapping, participant and non-participant observations, literature reviews, and 54 semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders. The findings affirm that non-natural capital assets interact with natural capital in order to supply various whale ES, which include but are not limited to provisioned food products, recreational tourism, education, and artistic expressions. These results are significant since they provide a basis for understanding when, where and how decision-makers should intervene in whale ES delivery to maximise well-being and sustainability.

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Co-production processes underpinning the ecosystem services of glaciers and adaptive management in the era of climate change

Glaciers have been an increasingly studied topic in the ecosystem services (ES) literature, with multiple scientific studies affirming a critical and diverse contribution to human well-being. However, the literature to date on glacier ES has lacked a systematic analysis of their type and the various stages in the formation of glacier ES, including the linkages between biophysical structures and ecological processes to human values, benefits and well-being. This paper begins to fill this gap by (1) detailing the first Common International Classification for Ecosystem Services classification of ES specific to glaciers; and (2) constructing an ES cascade model specific to the ES of glaciers, integrating four main stages of co-production: value attribution, mobilisation of ES potential, value appropriation, and commercialisation. In both stages, examples from the academic and grey literature are highlighted. Based on a systematic literature review, a total of 15 ES are identified, categorised as follows: provisioning (2), regulation and maintenance (6), and cultural (7). Apart from abiotic regulation and maintenance ES, it is evident that human interventions are necessary in order to mobilise, appropriate and commercialise several glacier ES, including freshwater for drinking, hydropower generation, recreation and education. Rapidly intensifying climate change has led to intense focus on the initial co-production process of value attribution and identification of dynamic ES potential, with a view to maximising commercial benefits in the coming decades where this is possible, especially linked to hydropower generation from glacial rivers. However, this study also finds that adaptive ecosystem management is a necessary pre-requisite of resilience but may be insufficient in this context to address potential ecosystem disservices and potentially catastrophic impacts to human well-being, such as from dangerous glacier outburst floods.

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A contingent valuation approach to estimating the recreational value of commercial whale watching–the case study of Faxaflói Bay, Iceland

There is currently limited knowledge concerning the economic value of commercial whale watching from the perspective of the consumer’s trip experience. This study outlines the results of an in-person contingent valuation survey, which asked whale watching tourists in Faxaflói Bay, Iceland, how much they would have been willing to pay beyond the paid ticket price. Based on a sample of 163 tourists, only 30 (18.40%) reported any consumer surplus, despite the majority stating positive satisfaction with the experience. Mean consumer surplus was 768 ISK (approximately 5.60 euros). Scaled up to the number of whale watching tourists in Faxaflói Bay in 2018 of 148,442, aggregate CS was approximately 114.0 million ISK (0.83 million euros), a 6.9% mark-up on estimated annual revenue generation derived from average ticket prices. The study provides new information on the economic value of whale watching in an area which had already been part-designated as a whale sanctuary.

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A cascade model and initial exploration of co-production processes underpinning the ecosystem services of geothermal areas

This paper presents the first study in the academic literature to explore the various stages in the formation of geothermal ES and their interactions between the biosphere and anthroposphere. This is achieved through the development of the first ES cascade model in the academic literature specific to geothermal ES, which integrates the four main stages of co-production: value attribution, mobilisation of ES potential, value appropriation, and commercialisation. In so doing, conceptual understanding of human-environment relationships and processes in the context of geothermal ES are deepened. Examples from the academic and grey literature demonstrate that realisation of the full spectrum of benefits from geothermal areas often demands the mobilisation of various forms of physical capital. Reaping the benefits of provisioning ES, such as heat and minerals, or formal recreational experiences, such as geothermal spas, necessitates human interventions. Opportunities of likely value have to be attributed, with resources being mobilised in order to plan and research prospectivity, then benefits appropriated with a view to their commercialisation. Large-scale, industrial projects, especially geothermal power plants in high enthalpy fields, also constitute an overlap between anthropogenic and ecological systems, often leading to ES trade-offs, especially due to visual and noise impacts on the surroundings. Depending on the sociocultural context, multiple and conflicting value domains may be impacted by such ventures, justifying the adoption of a pluralist approach to valuation and use of integrated decision-support platforms to aid decision-makers.

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Reflections on the ecosystem services of whales and valuing their contribution to human well-being

Although whale ecosystem services have been scarcely explored in the academic literature, they illustrate many of the threats, trade-offs and decision-making dilemmas common to marine ecosystem services in general – climate change impacts, the ongoing need to provide remote communities with forms of sustenance, and the potential development of new economic sectors which are prosperous but undermine traditional ways of life. In this paper, the first evaluation is carried out of the ecosystem services specific to whales, involving (a) their classification using the established Common International Classification Ecosystem Services (CICES) framework, (b) an assessment of the most suitable methods for their valuation, and (c) implications for decision-making. Our findings are that whale ecosystem services belong to all three categories of the CICES classification and cultural services are the most common type. The most suitable approach for the respective valuation of each service depends on the local socio-cultural context, a fundamental ingredient in value formation, which can formulate on either an individual or collective basis. In the case of individual value formation, this paper recommends the use of economic information derived from non-market valuation techniques; for collective, non-monetary techniques are advised. Given the complexity of human-environment interactions, a pluralist approach to valuation is likely to be required, whereby decision-makers are informed about impacts to whale ecosystem services through a mixture of economic and non-monetary information. A logical consequence of value pluralism is the need for decision-support platforms which can satisfactorily integrate different types of information concerning ecosystem service impacts, evaluating these against multiple marine management objectives. The paper briefly reflects on the potential of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis to fulfil this ambition, before discussing some of the current challenges and barriers which have limited the uptake of ecosystem services research in marine planning and decision-making.

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Whale sanctuaries–An analysis of their contribution to marine ecosystem-based management

Goal 14, ‘Life Below Water’, of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals sets a target for nations to increase the number of marine protected areas managed using ecosystem-based management, which requires interventions focused on fish stock conservation and enhancement, environmental sustainability and ecosystem services of benefit to human beings. Although not adhering to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s criteria for marine protected areas, whale sanctuaries are an increasingly common approach to conservation around the world. This paper is the first in the academic literature to use a case study approach to review the extent to which whale sanctuaries contribute to ecosystem-based management. A fifteen-criteria framework for marine ecosystem-based management is applied with reference to six whale sanctuary case studies, including the International Whaling Commission’s two designations in the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean. The review underscores the generally very limited contribution of whale sanctuaries to ecosystem-based management, unless they are explicit in stating conservation goals and embedding these within iterative management plans. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is cited as an example of an approach that comes closest to fulfilling the objectives of ecosystem-based management, albeit its designation lacks consideration of ecosystem dynamics and the interrelationships between multiple economic actors operating within its boundaries. In order to meet the requirements of Goal 14, the case studies in this paper reveal advancements necessary for whale sanctuaries to transition towards ecosystem-based management: establishment of objectives broader than the conservation of whale stocks, assessment of the contribution of the sanctuary to human well-being and trade-offs in ecosystem services, accounting for ecological and socio-economic dynamics, and ensuring broad stakeholder consultation and participatory adaptive management.

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“Small Science”: Community Engagement and Local Research in an Era of Big Science Agendas

Community engagement in the research process is more than communication and outreach. It is a process of co-production of knowledge. The co-production of knowledge starts and ends at the “small” local level but is embedded in “big” processes that are nested in academic and research institution priorities. This chapter problematizes the issues of small-to-big science and reflects on limitations related to community engagement in research such as community research fatigue, un-standardized research ethics protocols across research institutions, and limitations in funding bodies’ budget schemes. It considers lessons learned by theorizing a “sliding scale of community engagement” that can be used to conceptualize the definitions of community engagement activities within a large research project. The chapter also places emphasis on discussion of the community-engagement experiences of the Nordforsk-funded Nordic Centre of Excellence project Arctic Climate Predictions: Pathways to Resilient, Sustainable Societies (ARCPATH). This project has facilitated excellent collaboration with our informants in our research communities and hence provides a significant example of the co-production of knowledge that we seek to encourage.

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