Examples of cultural ecosystem services provided by the common cockle in five maritime countries along the Atlantic coast of western Europe

By Mathilde Jackson-Bué, Ana C. Brito, Sara Cabral, David N. Carss, Frederico Carvalho, Paula Chainho, Aurélie Ciutat, Elena Couñago Sanchez, Xavier de Montaudouif, Rosa M. Fernández Otero, Mónica Incera Filgueira, Alice Fitch, Angus Garbutt, M. Anouk Goedknegt, Sharon A. Lynch, Kate E. Mahony, Olivier Maire, Shelagh K. Malham, Francis Orvain, Mélanie Rocroy, Andrew van der Schatte Olivier and Laurence Jones

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Nature provides people with many non-material benefits. These benefits are termed ‘Cultural Ecosystem Services’. Human interactions like spiritual significance, aesthetic appreciation, sense of place, cultural heritage, education and recreation shape these cultural services. Many cultural ecosystem services are difficult to define and to measure, and it is even harder to compare them across nations. Most studies only look at a few cultural services and tend to focus on easy ones like recreation.

We set out to create a framework for collecting examples of cultural services from 5 countries: Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland and the UK to demonstrate the substantial role the common cockle—a small, edible, shellfish—plays in providing cultural services. We gathered examples of 19 different types of cultural service, in group activities composed of people with various background knowledge; from natural and social scientists to government bodies.

We found that the common cockle provides a wealth of services to coastal communities in the Atlantic Area. Most examples provided were in cultural heritage, highlighting the importance of this class in comparison with classes like recreation or aesthetic that typically receive more attention. We found that the cultural associations with cockles differed among nations, including between neighbouring countries such as Portugal and Spain that share a strong marine heritage.

Our study reflects the context dependent cultural values of cockles to humans and is a first step towards a better integration of cultural ecosystem services. We believe that a better understanding of human-nature relationships can help design and implement sustainable management approaches for these ecosystems, which are supported by deeper local engagement.