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Mark Spalding

Senior Marine Scientist

Siena, Italy

Mark Spalding Senior Marine Scientist, The Nature Conservancy © Courtesy of Mark Spalding


Marine Ecosystem Services, Global Marine Biodiversity


Global Media Relations
ph. +1 703-841-4253


Mark works for our Global Oceans team. He is a marine scientist with a passion for the world’s oceans. He has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 2004, and is based out of the Department of Physical, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Siena, Italy, while also remaining part of the Conservation Science Laboratory in the University of Cambridge (where he also does a small amount of lecturing).

Prior to joining TNC, Mark worked for the United Nations Environment Programme. He has also worked in the field, looking at coral reefs and fish populations, notably around a number of remote islands in the Indian Ocean. Independent of his work with TNC Mark also acts in a part-time role as Chief Scientist to the Government of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Mark’s career has largely focused on global scale assessment of marine biodiversity. Broadly asking: What is where in the ocean? What state is it in? What are we doing about it? These questions led to Mark’s authorship on a host of acclaimed publications from the World Atlas of Coral Reefs in 2001 to the World Atlas of Mangroves in 2010. He co-wrote several of the Reefs at Risk Publications, led the development of major biogeographic classifications for the world’s coastal and pelagic waters, and has regularly reviewed protected areas coverage of the world’s oceans.

Mark’s most recent work focuses on the enumeration of ecosystem services and he is co-leading TNC’s Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative. While conservation has tended to focus on “nature for nature’s sake” there is a growing realisation that we should also be protecting nature in many places for “people’s sake”. All too often we overlook or undervalue a host of benefits that nature provides to people – food, coastal protection, water purification, recreational benefits and carbon storage, to name a few. If we can accurately understand and model how much these services are worth, in terms of jobs, food security, economic wealth or other metrics, we should be able to drive a fundamental change in attitudes across society. Nature conservation for human benefits is no longer a niche interest. It becomes the job of central government, local communities, industry, engineering, planning, insurance, banking and many more. What is urgently needed is the accurate science to prove the case and support the implementation, and alongside this the skilful and reasoned communication of such knowledge.

Mark is fully engaged in these efforts, and the Mapping Ocean Wealth work is leading and supporting projects around carbon storage, fisheries enhancement, coastal protection and tourism values from ecosystems from coral reefs to mangroves, to pelagic waters.

Blog posts by Mark Spalding

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