Capital assets underpinning economic well-being – The example of whale ecosystem services in Arctic coastal communities

David Cook*, Laura Malinauskaite, Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir, Helga Ögmundardóttir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arctic coastal communities are a part of co-evolving marine social-ecological systems (SES), which support livelihoods, provide sustenance and underpin cultural identity. Whale ecosystem services (ES) represent a useful lens for gaining greater understanding of the linkages between marine ecosystems and human well-being, in the Arctic and beyond. The increasingly popular well-being economy paradigm recognises the contribution of different capital assets to human well-being and how these underpin the pursuit of sustainability domains: environmental, social and economic. This study explores the ways in which capital assets (natural, social, human, and financial and physical) provide essential natural and non-natural inputs into the delivery of whale ES in Arctic coastal communities. Through the deployment of a well-being economy framework linking capital assets to well-being goals and domains, examples are reported from three Arctic coastal communities in Iceland, Norway and Greenland. These case studies are based on data collected using multiple qualitative research methods: stakeholder mapping, participant and non-participant observations, literature reviews, and 54 semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders. The findings affirm that non-natural capital assets interact with natural capital in order to supply various whale ES, which include but are not limited to provisioned food products, recreational tourism, education, and artistic expressions. These results are significant since they provide a basis for understanding when, where and how decision-makers should intervene in whale ES delivery to maximise well-being and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101432
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper has been funded by NordForsk (grant number 76654) via their financial support to the Nordic Centre of Excellence ARCPATH (Arctic Climate Predictions – Pathways to Resilient, Sustainable Communities).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

Other keywords

  • Capital assets
  • Ecosystem services
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability
  • Well-being
  • Whales


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