With growing human pressures on the oceans and seas, the resulting decline of ecosystem health and biodiversity is increasingly limiting the ability of marine ecosystems to provide essential functions and resources for human wellbeing. To prevent further marine degradation, an ecosystem based approach to marine management is needed. An integral part of this is constructive stakeholder engagement. However, in a marine context, engagement is often difficult due to traditionally sectoral management and the complexity of marine issues. This thesis presents an interdisciplinary study that evaluates the potential of the ecosystem services approach to support and improve marine stakeholder engagement. First, opportunities and challenges of using the approach in participatory marine management processes were explored through interviews with 39 stakeholders who participated in the application of ecosystem service assessment to marine management in six French and UK case studies. The interviews revealed that the ecosystem services approach can facilitate participatory engagement by improving understanding of complex ecological-socioeconomic systems and fostering constructive dialogue. Second, the potential of the approach for communicating marine management decisions to marine users was tested with a scenario based survey. Responses to three versions of the survey, two with and one without ecosystem services content, were compared, showing that the ecosystem services information did not increase agreement with the management measures proposed in the scenario. An evaluation of the results in the context of environmental behaviour research suggests that the novelty and complexity of the ecosystem services approach might limit its usefulness for top down communication. In contrast, if the approach is integrated in participatory processes, it was concluded that this could have multiple benefits for ecosystem based marine management. From these findings, a conceptual model was developed that provides a normative framework for the effective use of the ecosystem services approach to support constructive participatory engagement in marine governance.

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