Economics of ocean acidification and sea warming in the Mediterranean

This thesis has assessed the socio-economic effects of ocean acidification (OA) and sea warming in the Mediterranean Sea. These pressures share a common driver, namely the increase in anthropogenic emissions of CO2 since the Industrial Revolution. Their combination can be detrimental to endemic habitats and species, inter alia, coralligenous, bivalve molluscs and gorgonians. This, in turn, represents potential economic losses for bivalve mollusc aquaculture and scuba diving tourism sectors. This thesis has investigated such losses. To this end, the following tasks were undertaken: 1) development of a framework for studying the socio-economic impacts of OA in the Mediterranean Sea; 2) assessment of the potential vulnerability of Mediterranean bivalve mollusc aquaculture to climatic and non-climatic pressures by addressing the perceptions of the sector; 3) valuation of the impact of OA and sea warming on recreational benefits associated with diving in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), featuring coralligenous habitat and gorgonians species; and 4) value transfer of welfare costs and tourism revenue losses due to both pressures by using an ecological model for various EU-Mediterranean MPAs. The main conclusions cover five insights. First, OA and sea warming are already perceivable in the Mediterranean Sea, and can become more pronounced throughout the century. Unique habitats like coralligenous, vermetid reefs and Posidonia oceanica meadows, and various groups of species (e.g., planktonic species, bivalve molluscs, gorgonians) are found to be vulnerable to both pressures. Likely ecosystem services to be affected include provision of food, the support of recreation activities, coastal protection, and carbon sequestration. Sea-based market activities such as fisheries (capture and aquaculture) and tourism, are sensitive to both pressures. Second, the results obtained from the questionnaires distributed among bivalve mollusc producers and representatives of Mediterranean MPAs show that OA is still poorly known, and that there is a high uncertainty about what it might imply in the future. Many respondents consider OA a low threat in comparison with other stressors, such as summer heat waves, a gradual increase in sea surface temperatures, or harmful algal blooms. Summer heat waves is a matter of great concern to the bivalve mollusc aquaculture sector, as it has already experienced various extreme events of this kind in the past years. A third insight is that OA and sea warming could affect the recreational value of Mediterranean diving areas with coralligenous. Results from a choice experiment for the MPA of Medes Islands (Spain) show potential welfare losses of scuba divers for scenarios involving a decrease of 50% and 100% in gorgonians (e.g., red coral, red gorgonian, white gorgonian) to equal -€17 and -€60/dive, respectively. In addition, the analysis of choice probabilities for selecting (or rejecting) dive experiences under various climatic scenarios indicate potential losses in tourism revenues, which in turn may affect local economies and funding of the MPA. Fourth, the previous results were extrapolated to other, similar EU-Mediterranean MPAs. This value transfer analysis combined information about welfare costs and tourism revenue losses with estimates generated by an ecological model of habitat suitability. The results show a likely decrease in the suitability of the coralligenous in the majority of the studied areas. Estimates for total welfare costs and tourism revenue losses were up to €36.6 and €20.780 million, respectively. Finally, assessment of the socio-economic effects of OA and sea warming presents various challenges associated with, inter alia, the uncertainty about the effects of these pressure on species, habitats and ecological processes, and the consequent difficulty to translate these into economic effects; the lack of understanding about the synergetic effects between multiple environmental pressures; and the uncertainty about the potential adaptation of ecosystems and economic sectors to future ocean conditions.

de Campos e Rodrigues L. M., 2016. Economics of ocean acidification and sea warming in the Mediterranean. PhD thesis, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 164 p. Thesis.

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