The recognition of the economic value of nature and the services it provides to humanity has become increasingly essential in the context of coastal zone management. In this paper we review the progress to date on both the necessary conceptual framework and empirical valuation studies required to bolster decision support systems (DSS) targeted at integrated coastal zone management goals. We highlight the importance of using an ecosystem services approach and recommend some basic sequential, although overlapping, analytical steps for appropriate environmental valuation and policy assessment: spatial explicitness; marginal changes; double counting; non-linearities; and threshold effects. We illustrate the practical use of the DSS by reviewing an existing UK case study on managed coastal realignment along the Eastern coast of England, and a new UK case study on managed realignment implemented in a southern area on the same coast. Comparing the two studies, the importance of spatial explicitness and the need for a sequential decision support system when dealing with ecosystem services valuation and project policy appraisal become particularly evident.