Saltmarshes, ecosystem services, and an evolving policy landscape: A case study of Wales, UK

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Coastal areas are facing increasing pressures, resulting in unprecedented levels of change that require an adaptive and flexible governance system. Through its devolved powers, governance in Wales has undergone significant change, with new legislation providing ‘world-leading’ and ‘innovative’ approaches to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. This provides an opportunity to examine the extent to which ecosystem services have been translated into national policy, providing a useful case study for global coastal governance. This paper reviews five recent Welsh acts, focusing specifically on the case study system of saltmarshes and their ecosystem services, benefits and processes. A number of themes are identified, highlighting opportunities and challenges for global coastal governance. One key observation found that the language used within these 5 Acts is more clearly linked to ecosystem benefits, rather than language traditionally associated with ecosystem services. This evaluation of these Acts highlighted a limited inclusion of ecosystem services – perhaps, if ecosystem services are to be the lynchpin of coastal governance, a more explicit consideration of the concept is required at the highest of policy scales. Finally, recommendations are presented calling for greater inclusion of ecosystem services within high-level policy, and for an integrated and adaptive approach to coastal governance. In addition, it should be noted that although the study is based in a Welsh context, the outcomes are framed within a global scale, providing transferable insights. This paper contributes to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the concept of ecosystem services and its application within coastal governance.




McKinley, E., Ballinger, R. C., & Beaumont, N. J. (2018). Saltmarshes, ecosystem services, and an evolving policy landscape: A case study of Wales, UK. Marine Policy, 91, 1–10.

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