A Global Systematic Literature Review of Ecosystem Services in Reef Environments

Vinicius J. Giglio, Anaide W. Aued, Cesar A. M. M. Cordeiro, Linda Eggertsen, Débora S. Ferrari, Leandra R. Gonçalves, Natalia Hanazaki, Osmar J. Luiz, André L. Luza, Thiago C. Mendes, Hudson T. Pinheiro, Bárbara Segal, Luiza S. Waechter, Mariana G. Bender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Ecosystem services (ES) embrace contributions of nature to human livelihood and well-being. Reef environments provide a range of ES with direct and indirect contributions to people. However, the health of reef environments is declining globally due to local and large-scale threats, affecting ES delivery in different ways. Mapping scientific knowledge and identifying research gaps on reefs’ ES is critical to guide their management and conservation. We conducted a systematic assessment of peer-reviewed articles published between 2007 and 2022 to build an overview of ES research on reef environments. We analyzed the geographical distribution, reef types, approaches used to assess ES, and the potential drivers of change in ES delivery reported across these studies. Based on 115 articles, our results revealed that coral and oyster reefs are the most studied reef ecosystems. Cultural ES (e.g., subcategories recreation and tourism) was the most studied ES in high-income countries, while regulating and maintenance ES (e.g., subcategory life cycle maintenance) prevailed in low and middle-income countries. Research efforts on reef ES are biased toward the Global North, mainly North America and Oceania. Studies predominantly used observational approaches to assess ES, with a marked increase in the number of studies using statistical modeling during 2021 and 2022. The scale of studies was mostly local and regional, and the studies addressed mainly one or two subcategories of reefs’ ES. Overexploitation, reef degradation, and pollution were the most commonly cited drivers affecting the delivery of provisioning, regulating and maintenance, and cultural ES. With increasing threats to reef environments, the growing demand for assessing the contributions to humans provided by reefs will benefit the projections on how these ES will be impacted by anthropogenic pressures. The incorporation of multiple and synergistic ecosystem mechanisms is paramount to providing a comprehensive ES assessment, and improving the understanding of functions, services, and benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634 - 645
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
Early online date25 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is part of the Reef Synthesis Working Group (ReefSYN) founded by the Synthesis Center on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (SinBiose, CNPq, grant 442417/2019-5). NH thanks to CNPq for a research scholarship (306789/2022-1). ALL acknowledges postdoctoral fellowships from CNPq (#153024/2022-4, #164240/2021-7, #151228/2021-3, #152410/2020-1) and LE thanks CNPq for a postdoctoral grant (#150095/2022-8). TCM thanks CNPq for a postdoctoral fellowship (#102450/2022-6). HTP thanks FAPESP for funding and fellowship (2019/24215-2; 2021/07039-6). CAMMC thanks FAPERJ agency for the fellowship (E-26/200.215/2023).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2023.


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