Focussing on the Cairns Area Plan of Management (CAPOM) and Keppels Capricorn Bunkers (KCB), the SEABORNE project took an ecosystem service (ES) approach to prioritising and understanding existing data.

Map showing the two study areas (in yellow): the Cairns Area Plan of Management (CAPOM) and the Keppels/Capricorn Bunkers (KCB)


The Ecosystem Service Value Chain (ESVC) concept

Ecosystem Services are the direct and indirect benefits to human wellbeing (whether perceived by humans or not) that derive from functioning natural ecosystems (encompassing the ecological characteristics, functions and processes of those ecosystems) (Costanza et al., 1997, Costanza et al., 2017, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).  Therefore, an ES framework focuses on the benefits that flow to humans from the services provided by the world’s ecosystems. The approach was developed from the concepts first published by Daily (1997) and Costanza et al. (1997). 

Whilst the approach could be viewed as adopting a purely anthropocentric perspective, as the end focus is the contribution to human wellbeing; in reality, the ES framework is a systems-based approach, recognising that humans form part of a complex system that needs to be managed and used in a sustainable manner to ensure that the interlinked outcomes of ecological health and human wellbeing can be maintained (or improved) over time.  That is, our natural environment (or natural capital) must be maintained to allow the sustained provision of flows of ES over time, thus helping to ensure enduring human well-being (TEEB, 2010).

Working with staff from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (The Reef Authority, GBRMPA) and with reference to the 2019 Outlook Report (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2019), 10 ecosystems were focussed upon and from these, ecosystem services were categorised as either cultural, provisioning or regulating. 

Drawing on the concept of ecosystem services, the Ecosystem Service Value Chain (ESVC) enables a visualisation of how an ecosystem service is used, who uses it, and what constitutes benefit from this use. Starting on the left side of the figure, the ESVC begins with the link (link a) for extent and condition of ecosystems1. Populating this first link with data was outside the scope of this research but will be critical to understanding the change in flow of benefits with a change in ecosystem quality in the future. The second link in the chain (link b) recognises that ecosystems generate either regulating, provisioning or cultural services2. Link c is where the SEABORNE project’s value proposition begins. Links c and d are the links that connect the ecosystems to the economic value of the benefits derived from these ecosystems. Link c demonstrates that we need to find data that explains how people use the ecosystem services and link d demonstrates that we need data about the economic value of the benefit that is generated from the use of the ecosystem services. The figure below also visually depicts that the flow of value can be connected to specific end users – which can be categorised as households, industry, and Government3. The generic ESVC also depicts how some data links together in a chain (those data points inside the dashed box) which then generates a total value data point (link e). Other data, which may be valuable in providing contextual information, does not necessarily fit into a link within the ESVC. The distinction between different types of data and their suitability to the ESVC is an important consideration, central to this report.

Whilst the SEABORNE project uses some language and terminology from the United National Nations System of Environmental Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounts (United Nations, 2021) (e.g. extent and condition), the SEABORNE project did not seek to develop data to be used in SEEA Ecosystem accounting.

Ecosystem Service Value Chain

The Generic Ecosystem Service Value Chain (ESVC) concept

The Generic Ecosystem Service Value Chain (ESVC) concept

[1] The language of extent and condition comes from the United National Nations System of Environmental Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounts (SEEA EA) full reference – UNITED NATIONS 2021. System of Environmental-Economic Accounting: Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA). White Cover Publication, Pre-Edited Text Subject to Official Editing. Being an accounting framework, the SEEA EA starts with accounting for the extent and condition of ecosystem assets (contiguous spaces of a specific ecosystem type characterized by a distinct set of biotic and abiotic components and their interactions), it then enables reporting of the flows of services from the extent of asset in its current condition and an accounting of the benefits that arise to beneficiaries. The SEEA EA approach seeks to understand the value of the contributions of the ecosystems alone to humans. In a pure SEEA EA account, the value of human inputs used to generate the benefit are removed. The SEABORNE project was not seeking to comply with SEEA EA, therefore data on extent and condition is not included nor have we attempted to remove the value of human inputs when looking at the flow of benefits of ecosystems to people. This could be done in the future but was out of scope for this project. 

[2] Provisioning services are the products/raw materials or energy outputs like food, water, medicines and other resources from ecosystems. Regulating services are the services which regulate the ecological balance. Cultural services are the non-material benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, such as recreation and tourism. Intermediary services also exist but were not included in the SEABORNE project Intermediary services also exist but were not included in the SEABORNE project

[3] Whilst we recognise that Traditional Owners are also a type of end user, because the flow of value is nonlinear, the ESVC approach is not a correct representation for the flow of value in this context. The flow of value to traditional owners is discussed in a separate set of reports (report and workshop report 1 through to 4 represented in Figure 1).


COSTANZA, R., D’ARGE, R., DE GROOT, R., FARBER, S., GRASSO, M., HANNON, B., NAEEM, S., LIMBURG, K., PARUELO, J. & O’NEILL, R. V. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387, 253-260.

COSTANZA, R., DE GROOT, R., BRAAT, L., KUBISZEWSKI, I., FIORAMONTI, L., SUTTON, P., FARBER, S. & GRASSO, M. 2017. Twenty years of ecosystem services: How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? Ecosystem services, 28, 1-16.

DAILY, G. C. 1997. Nature’s services : societal dependence on natural ecosystems, Washington, D.C, Island Press.

GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AUTHORITY 2019. Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019. In: GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AUTHORITY (ed.). Townsville: Australian Government

MILLENNIUM ECOSYSTEM ASSESSMENT 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: general synthesis, Washington, DC, Island Press.

TEEB 2010. Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB.