Literature review of bio-economic impacts of pollutants on marine park environments

In 2011, the former Office of Environment and Heritage commissioned the Centre for Agricultural and Regional Economics to review the current state of modelling for the effect of water-based pollution on marine environments.

Pollution originating from diffuse and point sources may impact negatively on marine environments, including marine parks. This can have undesirable economic consequences for use and non-use values, both within and outside the reserved area. This study reviewed the available literature that integrates water science research and economic analysis, with a focus on NSW marine environments.

Summary of findings

Bio-economic modelling, where the biophysical and economic components of the marine system are explicitly represented and linked, is one method for assessing the ecological and economic outcomes of pollution. Models can be used to determine the magnitude of economic impacts, provide insights into cost-effective pollution abatement options, help to measure the effectiveness of marine reserves as a buffer against pollution shocks, and examine optimal levels of pollution abatement.

The study found a large range of literature which applies bio-economic modelling to marine pollution and the economic consequences of establishing marine reserves. More recent studies focus on the benefits to commercial and recreational fisheries from reserve establishment, with less emphasis on pollution issues.

The economic valuation of pollution effects was well covered in the literature. This is important given that many benefits derived from marine parks are tourism-related, and are based on visitation rates or non-consumptive existence values.

This study found that future work may focus on modelling population dynamics, as species dispersal, spillover effects and predator-prey interactions emerged as important determinants of the benefits of reserves.