Placements 2016 - Cheryl Willis

Determining the Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on Cultural Ecosystem Services and Human Well-being

The intangible yet meaningful ways that nature underpins well-being has found notable expression in the concept of cultural ecosystem services and benefits (Church et al., 2011, 2014) which appear to be particularly resonant in coastal and marine areas (Wheeler et al., 2012; White et al., 2010). Natural and human stressors on these environments can severely disrupt these benefits. Stressors such as rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification for example, can result in conditions favourable to harmful algal blooms (HABs). Globally, these have been shown to be increasing in frequency, magnitude and location over the last two decades (Anderson, 2003) which could have wide ranging impacts on cultural ecosystem services and human well-being.

Cutting edge research is currently underway at Plymouth Marine Laboratory to model HABs and project their occurrence in the future using ecosystem models. This placement provided Dr Willis with a unique opportunity to work with ecosystem modellers, learning about the natural science research and the level of complexity and uncertainty associated with these models. She had the opportunity to extend this research to include the social and cultural impacts of HABs, building on both her own and broader previous work in revealing cultural services and well-being benefits of coastal and marine areas.

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