The economic value of South African kelp forests and temperate reefs: Past, present and future

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In South Africa, kelp forests and associated temperate reefs dominate the nearshore subtidal zone in the southern Benguela, with kelp forests covering approximately 1000 km of the coastline. These ecosystems provide a range of goods and services that are of immense ecological, social and economic importance. A number of valuable species on these subtidal reefs are overexploited and have reached a state of crisis since the 1990s. Many linefish stocks are considered collapsed or overexploited, West Coast rock lobster populations are estimated to be at b3% of pre-exploitable biomass and abalone are similarly overexploited, with two of the four major historical fishing grounds now closed to fishing. The current value of this ecosystem is estimated at US$ 434 million year−1 (ZAR 5.8 billion year−1 ), of which c. US$ 290 million year−1 (ZAR 3.9 billion year−1 ) contributes to the South African gross domestic product (GDP), with ecotourism contributing almost 40% of this, followed by recreational fishing (28%), and commercial and illegal fishing (c. 15–16% each). Income currently generated by fisheries is greatly reduced, with some sectors worth less than half of their value in the 1990s. Indirect ecosystem services are valued at US$ 144 million year−1 (ZAR 1.9 billion year−1 ) but aren't realised in the country's GDP as they do not provide direct economic value. Given the importance of the Benguela nearshore region to low-income coastal communities, particularly in the face of increased climate variability, striking a balance between rebuilding depleted stocks and meeting the socio-economic needs of those reliant on them will require a renewed focus on coastal research, with an emphasis on co-ordinated interdisciplinary projects. Keywords: Benguela system, Ecklonia maxima, ecosystem goods and services, overexploited, resource value, Rock lobster.

Publication Title:

Journal of Marine Systems

Item Type:
Journal Article

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