Coastal wetlands in Qinhuangdao play a vital role in the regional ecological environment. The value of the ecosystem services of the coastal wetland was evaluated in terms of provision services, regulation services, culture services and supporting services by particular methods. Results indicated that coastal wetland area in Qinhuangdao was about 39,918.00 hm2 and annual value of ecosystem services in 2015 was around 174.32 × 108 yuan (yuan: Chinese Currency, 6.5 yuan = 1 USD as of 2015) (about $2.68 billion). The value of provision services, regulation services, culture services and supporting services accounted for 12.3%, 3.3%, 55.0% and 29.4% of the total value, respectively. Recreation value of culture services had the highest proportion (54.4%), which indicated that recreation service was the crucial role of the coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao. Coastal wetland ecosystem of Qinhuangdao provides tremendous value through ecological products and purposes every year and conservation should be enhanced. Meanwhile, cultural connotation construction, such as the creation of a locally characteristic culture, should be specially enhanced to fully unearth its recreation value.

Introduction

A coastal wetland ecosystem is the transitional zone between a terrestrial and marine ecosystem. According to Ramsar Convention, coastal wetland includes shallow water with less than 6 m in water depth in low tide and over-saturation lowland influenced by the ocean. It has abundant natural resources and unique eco-environmental functions (Han et al., 2006) and plays a vital role in environment purification, climate regulation, water conservation, biodiversity maintaining, terrigenous matter interception, revetment and disaster reduction. It can also promote key chemical elements cycles by biogeochemical processes, which further improve environmental quality (Chen et al., 2006).

Ecosystem services are the basis of mankind’s survival and of modern civilization. According to the definition by USEPA (2009) and TEEB (2010), ecosystem services provide both direct and indirect contributions to ecosystems for the benefit of mankind. Types include, final and intermediary services. Final ecosystem service is of benefit to mankind through a biotic/abiotic component or ecological process by ecosystem; intermediary service is an ecological property (such as ecological process or function) for the final service. Attention to wetland ecosystem services was gained from the publishing of research by Costanza et al. (1997) and Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005) on global ecosystem services value. Researchers also showed the importance of wetland ecosystems toward maintaining mankind survival and sustainable development of social economy. Valuation of wetland ecosystem services can reveal its huge value and in so doing, enhance awareness of the importance of protecting wetland ecosystems.

Costanza et al. (1997) divided ecosystem services firstly into 17 types and then evaluated them. The total value of these services was $33 × 1012·yr−1 in 1995, in which ecosystem services value of wetland and coast were $4.9 × 1012·yr−1 and $12.6 × 1012·yr−1, respectively. Subsequent research focused on the changes in global value of ecosystem services. In consideration with updated unit values and changes to biome areas, the total value of global ecosystem services was $125 × 1012·yr−1 in 2007. Wetland ecosystem services value was $140,174 hm−2·yr−1, in which coastal wetland ecosystem value ranged from $300 to $887,828 hm−2·yr−1, and $193,845 hm−2·yr−1 in average (Costanza et al., 2014; de Groot et al., 2012). In China, ecosystem services classification were based on the types by MEA (Zhao and Zhang, 2006), including provision, regulation, culture and supporting services, which make up the four basic services of an ecosystem. That is, providing food and material resources, climate regulation and waste dispersal, spiritual demands, education and research functions and biodiversity maintaining, The practical situation of the evaluated regions is also considered in the evaluation of ecosystem services. The total value of ecosystem services of China in 1994 was 77,834.48 × 108 yuan·yr−1, in which wetland and coastal ecosystem services value were 26,736.9 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 12,223.04 × 108 yuan·yr−1, respectively (Chen and Zhang, 2000). Xie et al. (2015) indicated that total value of ecosystem services of China in 2015 was about 38.10 × 1012 yuan·yr−1, in which aquatic ecosystem services value accounted for 21.2%. Among the four ecosystem services, regulation accounted for 71.3%, followed by supporting services (19.0%), provision (5.9%) and culture services (3.8%). Regional coastal wetland ecosystem services in China were also evaluated. The main ecosystem services were also different, e.g. regulation services were the main coastal wetland ecosystem services in Panjin area (79.3%) (Xin and Xiao, 2002) and Zhejiang province (63.5%) (Ning et al., 2016), provision services were the main in Shandong province (50.7%) (Ding et al., 2015) and Jiaozhou Bay in Qingdao (56.6%) (Zheng et al., 2012), while reclamation was the main in Yangtze river estuary (22.5%) (Wu et al., 2003).

Coastal wetland is an important ecosystem in Qinhuangdao, and plays a vital role in the regional ecological environment. However, little information is available so far for its services value and the main services, which limits the effective measures for conservation and restoration of coastal wetland ecosystem. Therefore, valuation was conducted to evaluate the coastal wetland ecosystem services value in terms of provision services value, regulation services value, culture services value and supporting services value, as well as the main services of this ecosystem. The results can provide useful information for understanding coastal wetland capital and main services, and scientific references for coastal wetland management. It is also an important approach to draw the public attention on coastal wetland ecosystem conservation.

Study area

Qinhuangdao is located in the northeast of Hebei province, China. It is the transitional zone between Northeast and North China, and on the coast of Bohai Sea. Total coastline length is 162.70 km (from 40°01'41”N, 119°54'40”E to 39°25'46”N, 119°18'14”E). Coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao, with an area of 39,918.00 hm2, includes natural and constructed coastal wetlands. Natural coastal wetland includes supralittoral zone wetland, intertidal zone wetland and subtidal zone wetland, and constructed coastal wetland includes pond and aquaculture pond wetland (Table 1) (Han, 2016).

Valuation parameters

According to classification approaches of ecosystem services proposed by MEA (Zhao and Zhang, 2006) and Xie et al. (2015), coastal wetland ecosystem services in Qinhuangdao were valuated in terms of provision services, regulation services, culture services and supporting services, which contained 9 parameters in total (Table 2).

This valuation used 2015 as the reference year. Data sources for valuation included: (1) statistical yearbook of Qinhuangdao (2016), (2) data provided by related functional department of government, (3) published references, and (4) data from field investigation and experimental analysis.

Methods

There are multiple methods for resource valuation. In evaluated regions for ecosystem services, different methods may be used. In Qinhuangdao, provision, regulation, culture and supporting services of coastal wetland were evaluated by particular methods.

Provision services value

Provision services are the providing services of material products by coastal wetland. In Qinhuangdao, provision services value of coastal wetland is mainly seafood production value. Seafood (mostly shellfish) in coastal wetland is mainly acquired by cultivation. Its valuation was based on the hypothesis that proportion of seafood yield to the total yield of aquatic products was much the same to the proportion of seafood output value to aquatic products output value (Wu et al., 2008).

Regulation services value

Regulation services are the regulation of coastal wetland to ecological environment, namely the benefits obtained by regulation of wetlands. In Qinhuangdao, regulation services value of coastal wetland included carbon fixation and oxygen release value, water purification value and seashore protection value.

Carbon fixation and oxygen release value

This value included three parts: coastal wetland plants and phytoplankton in subtidal zone wetland for carbon fixation and oxygen release value, soil for carbon fixation value. Carbon fixation and oxygen release prices were 1,050 yuan·t−1 and 1,000 yuan·t−1, respectively.

Coastal wetland plants

The plants fix carbon dioxide and release oxygen by photosynthesis. According to plant photosynthesis equation, when 1.00 unit dry matter produced, 1.63 unit carbon dioxide and 1.20 unit oxygen are fixed and released simultaneously. Field investigation was conducted to investigate the vegetation coverage and primary productivity of coastal wetland plants. Value of carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release by coastal wetland plants was calculated due to the annual primary productivity and the prices of carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release.

Phytoplankton

There was little macrophytic algae in subtidal zone wetland in Qinhuangdao. Therefore, only carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release by phytoplankton was considered. According to the methods by Chen et al. (2013), quantity of fixed carbon dioxide and released oxygen was calculated by primary producticity of phytoplankton. Value of carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release by phytoplankton was calculated due to the quantity and prices of carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Soil

Referring to the investigation of organic carbon contents of coastal wetland soil in Yellow River Delta on the coast of Bohai Sea by Tang et al. (2014), carbon fixation rate of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 3.50 t·hm−2·yr−1. According to the coastal wetland area, carbon fixed by wetland soil was calculated. Value of carbon dioxide fixation by coastal wetland soil was calculated due to the quantity of fixed carbon dioxide and the price of carbon dioxide.

Water purification value

Coastal wetland has significant effects on pollutant purification. In Qinhuangdao, coastal wetland water purification services were evaluated by nitrogen and phosphorus purification.

Coastal wetland plants and phytoplankton can fix carbon dioxide by photosynthesis. Meanwhile, they also fix nitrogen and phosphorus in this process. Studies in Yellow River Delta (Tang et al., 2014) indicated that the fixed ratio of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus by coastal wetland plants was 148:9:1, while soil was 23:1:4. As the approximate molecular formula of phytoplankton (C106H263O110N16P) shows, the fixed ratio of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus is 106:16:1. Domestic sewage treatment prices of nitrogen and phosphorus were1,500 yuan·t−1 and 2,500 yuan·t−1, respectively. According to the above mentioned fixed carbon by coastal wetland plants, phytoplankton and soil, quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus fixation could be calculated. Value of nigrogen and phosphorus fixation was calculated due to the fixation quantity and treatment prices.

Seashore protection value

Referring to the research by Chen (2006), seashore protection value ranged from 6.40 × 104 to 21.53 × 104 yuan·hm−2·yr−1. The emerging frequency of storm tide in Qinhuangdao and related financial loss were relatively lower. Thus seashore protection was estimated at 6.40 × 104 yuan·hm−2·yr−1. The seashore protection was mainly accomplished by coastal mud flat. Therefore, seashore protection value was calculated by the price and area of coastal mud flat.

Culture services value

Culture services are non-material interests that acquired by humans from coastal wetland ecosystem. These include mindful experience, knowledge acquisition, subjective impression, recreation and aesthetic experiences. Meanwhile, coastal wetland ecosystem has contribution to education, scientific research and knowledge replenish due to its diversity and complexity. More importantly, special landscape and aesthetics of coastal wetland ecosystem provide direct commercial exploitation value, namely recreation services value. Many scenic spots that involve marine locate in coastal wetland. In Qinhuangdao, culture services were evaluated in terms of recreation services value and education and research services value.

Recreation services value

Recreation services are the opportunity for human’s entertainment from the special landscape and aesthetics of coastal wetland ecosystem. Such services have direct commercial value or promote other related industry for direct commercial value. As a tourism city, involving marine tourism in coastal wetland is an important component of tourism in Qinhuangdao. Referring to the valuation methods of provision services, recreation services valuation was based on the hypothesis that proportion of tourist quantity in coastal wetland to total tourist quantity in the city was much the same to the proportion of income in coastal wetland to total tourism income.

Education and research services value

Coastal wetland is a comprehensive territory with natural ecology, biodiversity, ecological science and economy. It is the important natural basis of biology, geography and environment, and has important education and scientific research value. Coastal wetland provides rich scientific research materials by its biodiversity, types, distribution, structure and function, biogeochemistry process, protection and utilization measures. Referring to published results by Ding et al. (2015), the education and research services value was about 2,831 yuan·hm−2. According to the area of coastal wetland, the education and research services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was calculated.

Supporting services value

Supporting services are the necessary basic services to guarantee coastal wetland ecosystem providing other three services for human. In Qinhuangdao, supporting services were valuated in terms of biodiversity maintaining services value, habitat provision services value and bird migration and rest services value.

Biodiversity maintaining services value

Coastal wetland maintains biodiversity by supporting all kinds of species. It also maintains the genetic diversity, species diversity, ecosystem diversity and landscape diversity. Research by Xie et al. (2003) proposed equivalent factor during the valuation of ecosystem services. It was the relative contribution of ecological services by ecosystem, and defined the economic value of grain from farmland per hectare as 1.0. The equivalent factor of wetland ecosystem for biodiversity maintaining was 2.5. Combining the equivalent factor, the biodiversity maintaining services were priced 2,212.20 yuan·hm−2 after price correcting and calculating. Value of biodiversity maintaining services was calculated by the price and coastal wetland area.

Habitat provision services value

Habitat provision services are important ways of coastal wetland to maintain biodiversity. Its value was determined by adopting development phase coefficient method, which by the actual investment for coastal wetland and people’s cognitive level for ecological function (Chen, 2006). Habitat provision services valuation was based on the hypothesis that the proportion of actual investment for coastal wetland in total investment for wetland was 80%. Value of habitat provision services was calculated by the development phase coefficient and total investment for wetland.

Bird migration and rest services value

The special geographic location and favorable ecological environment of coastal wetland provide excellent migration and rest places for migrant birds, which facilitates Qinhuangdao to be “the Chinese bird watching capital”. Field investigation indicates that 412 bird species were observed, belonging to 21 orders and 61 families, among which there were 12 and 49 species for the first and secondary class state protection birds, respectively. According to expert assessment methods, the birds can be priced and total value can be calculated. In consideration of spatial and temporal differences in bird migrating, the proportion of bird migration and rest services value was also considered. Value of bird migration and rest services was calculated by total value and the proportion.

Results

Provision services value

In 2015, cultivated seafood yield in Qinhuangdao was 245,356 t, while total yield of aquatic products was 269,600 t. Aquatic products output value was 23.52 × 108 yuan. Therefore, cultivated seafood value, namely the provision services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao, was about 21.40 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Regulation services value

Carbon fixation and oxygen release value

Coastal wetland plants

Field investigation indicated that vegetation coverage of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 10.0%. The vegetation area, except for subtidal zone wetland, was about 1,920.68 hm2. Field investigation also indicated that primary productivity of coastal wetland plants was about 2.117 (DM) t·hm−2. Thus the annual primary productivity of coastal wetland plants was about 4,066.08 t, carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release were about 6,627.72 t and 4,879.31 t, respectively. Therefore, carbon fixation and oxygen release values of coastal wetland plants were 0.070 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 0.049 × 108 yuan·yr−1, respectively, and 0.12 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Phytoplankton

The average primary productivity of sea waters in Qinhuangdao was about 77.53 g·m−2·yr−1 in 2015. According to the methods by Chen et al. (2013), carbon dioxide fixation and oxygen release by phytoplankton were 2.85 t·hm−2·yr−1 and 2.07 t·hm−2·yr−1, respectively. The subtidal zone wetland area was about 20,711.16 hm2, thus fixed carbon dioxide and released oxygen were about 58,930.52 t·yr−1 and 42,873.16 t·yr−1. Therefore, carbon fixation and oxygen release values of phytoplankton in subtidal zone wetland were 0.62 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 0.43 × 108 yuan·yr−1, respectively, and 1.05 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Soil

Referring to the investigation by Tang et al. (2014), carbon fixation rate of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 3.50 t·hm−2·yr−1. According to the coastal wetland area, carbon fixed by coastal wetland soil was about 139,713.00 t·yr−1. Therefore, carbon fixation value of coastal wetland soil in Qinhuangdao was about 1.47 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Overall, the carbon fixation and oxygen release value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 2.64 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Water purification value

According to the above mentioned carbon dioxide fixation by coastal wetland plants, phytoplankton and soil, and the nitrogen and phosphorus treatment prices, values of nitrogen and phosphorus fixation by coastal wetland plants were 0.061 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 0.011 × 108 yuan·yr−1, respectively, 0.072 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total. Phytoplankton were 0.14 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 0.014 × 108 yuan·yr−1, respectively, 0.15 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total. Soil were 0.091 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 0.61 × 108 yuan·yr−1, respectively, 0.70 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Overall, water purification services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was 0.92 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Seashore protection value

The area of coastal mud flat in Qinhuangdao was about 3,422.63 hm2. Therefore, the seashore protection value of coastal wetland was about 2.19 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Overall, the regulation services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao, including carbon fixation and oxygen release value, water purification value and seashore protection value, was about 5.75 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Culture services value

Recreation services value

In 2015, tourist quantity in coastal wetland was 8.82 million, while the total tourist quantity in the city was 33.72 million. The total tourism income was about 362.40 × 108 yuan. Therefore, the recreation services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 94.82 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Education and research services value

According to the price of education and research services (2,831 yuan·hm−2) and coastal wetland area, the education and research services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 1.13 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Overall, the culture services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 95.95 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Supporting services value

Biodiversity maintaining services value

According to the price of biodiversity maintaining services (2,212.20 yuan·hm−2) and coastal wetland area, the biodiversity maintaining services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 0.88 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Habitat provision services value

The average of development phase coefficient along the coast of Qinhuangdao was 0.70 in 2015, and the total investment for wetland was 20,384.39 × 104 yuan. Therefore, the habitat provision services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 2.50 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Bird migration and rest services value

According to expert assessment methods, values of first, secondary class protection and common birds were 5.00 × 108 yuan, 0.50 × 108 yuan and 0.10 × 108 yuan, respectively. Thereby the bird value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was about 119.60 × 108 yuan. In consideration of spatial and temporal differences in bird migrating, the proportion of bird migration and rest services value to bird value was 40.0%. Therefore, bird migration and rest services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was 47.84 × 108 yuan·yr−1.

Overall, the supporting services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was 51.22 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in total.

Discussion

The total services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was around 174.32 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in 2015 (Table 3, about $2.68 billion), namely about 43.67 × 104 yuan ($67,185)·hm−2·yr−1. It is in the range of global coastal wetland ecosystem services value ($300 ∼ 887,828, $12,163 of median values), but lower than the global average ($193,845 hm−2·yr−1) (Costanza et al., 2014). However, it is higher than the average value of ecosystem services in China, which is 4.12 × 104 yuan·hm−2·yr−1 (Xie et al., 2015).

Services values of provision, regulation, culture and supporting are 21.40 × 108 yuan·yr−1, 5.75 × 108 yuan·yr−1, 95.95 × 108 yuan·yr−1 and 51.22 × 108 yuan·yr−1, which account for 12.3%, 3.3%, 55.0% and 29.4%, respectively. Among the services values, culture services value has the highest proportion (55.0%), which is distinctly different from the ecosystem services in China that regulation services value accounts for 71.3% among the four services values (Xie et al., 2015). It is also different from other researches on coastal wetland services values (Xin and Xiao, 2002; Ning et al., 2016; Ding et al., 2015; Zheng et al., 2012; Wu et al., 2003). The high proportion of culture services value is consistent with the development strategy of “tourism development” in Qinhuangdao. As a tourism city, Qinhuangdao has paid great attention to the construction of tourism area, including environment improvement, public traffic optimization, hotel resources integration, and so on. It is more attractive for tourists at home and abroad. Meanwhile, cultural connotation construction (such as locally characteristic culture construction) should be specially enhanced to full excavate its recreation values. Furthermore, supporting services proportion is 29.4%, indicating the important ecological supporting role of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao. Among the services functions, recreation services have the highest proportion (54.4%), followed by bird migration and rest services, material production, carbon fixation and oxygen release, habitat provision, seashore protection, education and research, water purification and biodiversity maintaining (Table 3).

Assessing the economic values of ecosystem services plays various and important roles in linking human activity and natural systems (Yang et al., 2008). The valuation of coastal wetland services in Qinhuangdao indicates its importance in the region. The valuation also indicates that coastal wetland has higher values in culture services and supporting services, in particular in recreation services and bird migration and rest services. It should be paid great attention to the two service types for stable and further services value. Comparing to the estimates in terms of 17 service types (Costanza et al., 1997; 2014), these estimates of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao may be conservative. Research on valuation of ecosystem services of the coastal zone in Guangdong and Hainan, China also indicated that the value was just a lower and conservative evaluation due to the complexity and uncertainty of natural ecosystem (Yang et al., 2003). On the other hand, there is much different comprehension on element, parameters and calculation methods in the valuation of ecosystem services (Chen et al., 2013), and because ecosystem services are generally not traded directly, indirect valuation techniques (such as contingent valuation, hedonic values, and travel cost methods) will be needed to obtain local specific values for ecosystem services (Zhao et al., 2004). Therefore, methods in ecosystem services valuation may be different, resulting in different results of valuation on special ecosystem services.

Despite the importance of services, degradation and loss of the coastal ecosystems over the past two to three decades is intense and increasing worldwide. The optimal land use option may instead be the integration of development and conservation consistent with ecosystem-based management goals, which suggests that reconciling competing demands on coastal habitats should not always result in stark preservation-versus-conversion choices (Barbier et al., 2008). The coastal wetland ecosystem in Qinhuangdao provides a tremendous value by ecological products and ecological functions every year. It was about 13.9% to the GDP of Qinhuangdao in 2015, indicating the significant role of coastal wetland in supporting the sustainable development of regional ecological environment, economy and society. Therefore, many efforts should be implemented to protect the coastal wetland ecosystem in Qinhuangdao, China.

Conclusions

Ecosystem services value of coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao was assessed in terms of provision services, regulation services, culture services and supporting services. Total services was estimated to be 174.32 × 108 yuan·yr−1 in 2015 (about $2.68 billion), namely about 43.67 × 104 yuan ($67,185)·hm−2·yr−1. Provision, regulation, culture and supporting services values account for 12.3%, 3.3%, 55.0% and 29.4% to total values, respectively. Recreation value of culture services has the highest proportion (54.4%), which indicates that recreation service is the crucial role of the coastal wetland in Qinhuangdao. Due to the complexity of the ecosystem, the estimated value may be conservative.

This valuation show the significance of coastal wetland in regional ecosystem of Qinhuangdao. Therefore, conservation of the coastal wetland should be enhanced, especially the cultural connotation construction (such as construction of locally characteristic culture) to fully excavate its recreation values.

Acknowledgements

We wish to extend our appreciation to the editors and the two anonymous referees for constructive comments on earlier drafts.

Funding

This research was supported by the Major Project of Environmental Protection Agency of Qinhuangdao (QHYZB-2016-016), and the Science and Technology Project of Qinhuangdao (201703A217).

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