Integrating Ecosystem Service Values into Oil Spill Impact Assessment

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

The catastrophic effects that oil spills have on coastal resources, the complex task of decision making during oil spill response, and the need for operational reasoning induce decision makers to seek science-based decisions. In light of these circumstances, spatially explicit, economic-impact assessment models can deliver an immediate assessment tool for preliminary oil-spill damage cost-quantification using a monetary unit as an indicator. The model presented in this study is based on an ecosystem-services assessment using economic evaluation methods such as travel cost, benefit transfer, and direct-market pricing. Ecosystem services were estimated for the 92-km-long Lithuanian coast using existing geographic information system (GIS) data sets. Outputs from the ecosystem-services assessment indicated that the total, annual economic value of biological and socioeconomic resources in the Lithuanian coastal zone (532 km2) amounts to more than €524 million/y (approximately US$690 million). Estimated values include marine biotopes, €307 million/y; recreational areas, €215 million/y; seabirds, €1.1 million/y; and commercial fisheries, €0.2 million/y. The estimation of monetary revenue from coastal resources was integrated with scenario-based cost estimation of damage supported by the Baltic Sea’s three-dimensional particle-tracking model, Seatrack Web. Model testing was performed for 30 km of vulnerable Lithuanian coast with due consideration of its environmental, social, and economic importance to the SE Baltic Sea and its pertinent oil pollution risks. Results show that monetary losses of coastal resources depend highly on the oil type, impact area, meteorological conditions, and particularly the dispersion of the pollutant in the marine environment, by affecting target marine and socioeconomic resources. The damage cost-assessment tool is applicable in every coastal zone and pertinent to decision makers seeking preliminary cost estimates of damage and compensation for the damage caused by oil spills.

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