The assessment of cultural ecosystem services in the marine environment using Q methodology

Kate Pike*, Paul Wright, Brian Wink, Stephen Fletcher

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Cultural ecosystem services are generally understood to be the non-material value that can be gained through ecosystems such as a sense of well-being, reflection and spiritual enhancement. These are often linked with a sense of place, culture, heritage and identity. The assessment of cultural ecosystem services, particularly in the marine environment is an inherently complex and difficult task, because they often involve making value judgments which can be hard to quantify. Methods applied to determining the value of these services are often focused on their financial value. Whilst methodologies have been developed to assess the non-material importance of these services, this paper argues that Q methodology provides a highly appropriate way of examining unmeasurable values by being able to convert qualitative, subjective data into quantitative information. The research presents two data sets derived from Q methodology which examined stakeholder views of the cultural values from two marine protected areas; the Pacific Rim National Park, Vancouver Island, Canada and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Chichester Harbour, UK. The relevance of using Q methodology as a valuation mechanism in this type of study is examined and justified; whilst highlighting the advantages of tackling a subject of values and intangibility, highly qualitative information, with a structured, semi-automated and primarily quantitative methodology. The findings show that the case-study areas hold three predominant ‘factors’ of value for its stake holders. These include the protected areas; as a place of care for each other and oneself through the natural world; a place of spirituality; and as a place of freedom and refuge. The paper strongly argues for the use of Q methodology in such a study, which ultimately helps to bring about a depth of information that arguably traditional methods are incapable of in the same capacity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)667-675
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
    Issue number5
    Early online date19 Nov 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


    • Chichester Harbour
    • Cultural value
    • Ecosystem services
    • Marine protected areas
    • Pacific Rim National Park
    • Q methodology


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