Resolving conflicts in public health protection and ecosystem service provision at designated bathing waters

Richard S Quilliam, Julie Kinzelman, Joel Brunner, David M Oliver
Journal of Environmental Management 2015 September 15, 161: 237-242
Understanding and quantifying the trade-off between the requirement for clean safe bathing water and beaches and their wider ecosystem services is central to the aims of the European Union (EU) Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), and vital for the sustainability and economic viability of designated bathing waters. Uncertainty surrounding the impacts of ensuing bathing water policy transitions, e.g. the EU revised Bathing Waters Directive (rBWD), puts new urgency on our need to understand the importance of natural beach assets for human recreation, wildlife habitat and for protection from flooding and erosion. However, managing coastal zones solely in terms of public health could have potentially negative consequences on a range of other social and cultural ecosystem services, e.g. recreation. Improving our knowledge of how bathing waters, surrounding beach environments and local economies might respond to shifts in management decisions is critical in order to inform reliable decision-making, and to evaluate future implications for human health. In this paper we explore the conflicts and trade-offs that emerge at public beach environments, and propose the development of an evaluative framework of viable alternatives in environmental management whereby bathing waters are managed for their greatest utility, driven by identifying the optimal ecosystem service provision at any particular site.

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