vices (supporting, regulating, provisioning, and cultural) defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005).

TABLE 5.1 Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Services by Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Category

Supporting services

Nutrient balance

Hydrological balance

Biological interactions

Soil and sediment balance

Regulating services

Pollutant attenuation

Water quality

Gas regulation

Climate regulation

Hazard moderation

Provisioning services

Air supply

Water quantity


Raw materials

Medicinal resources

Ornamental resources

Cultural services

Aesthetics and existence

Spiritual and historic

Science and education

Recreational opportunities

Panelists in the Bay St. Louis workshop (Yoskowitz et al., 2010) recognized that the coastal and marine habitats of the GoM also constitute a natural infrastructure that contributes to the provisioning of ecosystem services. When ecological production functions are not well understood, integrated assessments of ecosystem services tend to use natural structures such as habitats to map the complex interactions of different components of the ecosystem. The scale for assessing an ecosystem service must be determined by the threshold at which changes in ecosystem functioning (or its habitats) can be detected (measured) and at which the ecosystem sustains functions that contribute to its resilience (as discussed in Chapter 3). Table 5.2 organizes a number of important GoM ecosystem services by habitat, which could be used to guide efforts in delineating and determining changes in ecosystem services after the DWH oil spill.

Ecosystem services can also be classified according to their spatial characteristics (see Table 5.3). Each of the 19 ecosystem services provided by the GoM can be mapped to at least one of the five different spatial classes (global nonproximal, local proximal, directional flow-related, in situ or point of use, and user movement-related) proposed by Costanza (2008). For example,

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