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3.1.1 Natural habitats, ecological functions and marine ecosystem services

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Ecosystem services are basically the benefits people obtain from ecosystems [MEA, 2005]; however the links between the biophysical features of ecosystems and the social benefits they deliver is not so easy to establish.

A first step in the services evaluation is habitat mapping. Classification becomes more complex when it comes to ecological functions and ecosystem services.

Ecosystems may be characterised by their organisation (stock, structure, infrastructure, pattern and capital), their operation (flows, functioning, processes) and their outcomes for Humans (goods and services, income and benefits) [Fisher et al., 2009]. A simple way to capture the organisation of ecosystem is to describe habitats, which can be classified using international multi-tiered nomenclatures.

Originally defined as the physical and chemical environment in which a species or an assemblage of species lives, habitats are now defined in European Directives as recognizable spaces which can be distinguished by their abiotic characteristics and associated biological assemblages [ICES, 2013].

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