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The ‘universal’ Asset Service Matrix (uASM)

An infographic explaining the role of natural assets (habitats and species) in providing ecosystem services, which have value, either monetary, social, cultural or intrinsic

Many people are aware of the importance of terrestrial ecosystems to humans, such as the Amazon Rainforest’s value in the fight against climate change. However, often less well understood is how healthy marine ecosystems can benefit us as well. The UK is home to many valuable marine ecosystems that offer services such as food provision, coastal protection, and recreational opportunities. However, the UK marine environment is under increasing pressure, disrupting many of these benefits.

To help protect marine habitats and species (natural assets), we need to understand and highlight the value of goods and services (ecosystem services) that they deliver to humans. A clearer understanding of these linkages would support natural capital approaches of integrating the value of nature into decision-making processes, helping to prevent important natural assets from being undervalued and overlooked.

Asset service matrices (ASMs)

Asset service matrices (ASMs) catalogue and describe known linkages between natural assets and their associated ecosystem services. They also provide a visual summary of these linkages which can help make the information easier to digest.

 To help make it easier for marine decision-makers to adopt a natural capital approach, JNCC has developed the universal Asset Service Matrix (the uASM, for short) as part of the Defra-funded marine Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (mNCEA) programme.

Several marine ASMs already exist in the published literature. These existing ASMs use a variety of classification systems and methodologies, making comparisons between natural assets difficult. This can hinder larger-scale join-up in understanding ecosystem service delivery across natural assets and presents challenges for environmentally conscious marine decision-making.


The uASM

 The uASM overcomes the hurdles associated with other marine asset service matrices in two key ways, by:

  1. Being widely accessible. It is housed on the Marine Life Information Network’s (MarLIN) website and is free and easy to use;
  2. Collating the natural asset-ecosystem service links from existing marine ASMs and the wider literature and cataloguing them in a ‘universal’, standardised format. In this way, users can easily explore and export the data into their preferred habitat or ecosystem service classification systems and can even create their own context specific, bespoke ASMs.


An infographic explaining the uASM process, from asset, through to link, through to service.

The uASM already houses over 4,000 natural asset-ecosystem service linkages, but to help keep it up to date, users can upload new links to the uASM themselves.

Users do not have to sift through 4,000 natural asset-ecosystem service linkages to find information relevant to their focus. Instead, they can filter by natural asset or by ecosystem service and can choose to what resolution they conduct this.

For example, one user may be interested in all the natural assets that provide coastal protection services while another may only be interested in seeing what links are known between seagrass beds and the maintenance service of providing nursery habitat to commercially important fish. Further filters include ecosystem service supply level (a relative score to gauge to what degree the ecosystem service is being supplied) and confidence scores (confidence in the link – ranked high, medium or low depending on data source). Each link comes with a reference and so can be easily traced back to the resource it was extracted from.

With its ease of use and its one-stop shop nature in providing users with natural asset-ecosystem service linkages, JNCC hope that the uASM becomes an integral part of any marine stakeholder’s, researcher’s or even university student’s toolkit. By supporting users’ understanding of natural assets and their associated ecosystem services, we hope that a key role of the uASM will ultimately be to help make decisions regarding the marine environment and its management better informed, with nature’s value no longer being overlooked.

To explore the uASM and learn more about it, please visit its homepage on the MarLIN website.



Marine Natural Capital

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