Development and Application of Scientific Knowledge to Ecosystem-based Management of Coastal Marine Systems 2008-2011

Partner and Sponsor:
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Working Groups
| Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Portal | Advisory Group


This project will examine, both conceptually and via empirical evidence, how scientific knowledge can be transferred effectively to planning, decision making, and management of coastal marine systems at different spatial and temporal scales and in different geographic locations worldwide. We will support several multidisciplinary groups of researchers, managers, and policy makers whose synthetic work has direct relevance to and intent of use by managers or policy makers in one or more geographic regions. Communications strategies will be developed and implemented to convey the process and outcomes of the work to managers, decision makers, and the public. We also will provide informatics support to ensure that data and results are archived and made available to the public.

Selection of topics for working groups will be guided by the results of a recent survey of ecosystem-based managers that was designed to address two primary questions:

1. What types of information might fill gaps or needs in the practice of ecosystem-based management?

2. What might be the most useful ways to share this information with managers and policy makers?

The survey was distributed to 220 practitioners in seven geographic regions: the western Caribbean, eastern tropical Pacific, Philippines, Gulf of California, Gulf of Maine, Great Barrier Reef, and the west coast of the United States. We received responses from a total of 47 individuals (21%) representing a wide range of organizational affiliations, years of experience, educational backgrounds, and ages.

A number of themes emerged from the survey responses. Across geographic regions, practitioners reported that key obstacles to developing and implementing ecosystem-based approaches to management are lack of political will, lack of access to relevant data from the natural and social sciences, and insufficient knowledge about and access to analytical tools, such as software for geospatial analysis.

Assessment of information needs for ecosystem-based management of coastal marine systems:
Executive Summary 
Complete Report

Working Groups

Conservation Decision Making in the Coral Triangle Initiative

The coral reefs of the Coral Triangle provide sanctuary for the highest concentration of marine biodiversity in the world and support the livelihoods and protein needs of millions of people. The health and productivity of these reefs are in serious decline from numerous threats, ranging from local threats such as over fishing and pollution, to the global threat of climate change. Local threats reduce the resilience of coral reefs to withstand global impacts from climate change, resulting in deterioration of reef structure and the ability of these ecosystems to sustain their ecological interactions. We will assemble data from disparate sources to develop a framework for prioritizing between places and among specific conservation actions that cost-effectively mitigate proximate land- and sea-based threats to coral reefs and apply it to regions within the Coral Triangle. With the overall goal of supporting decision making, we will work in close collaboration with local managers and policy makers to synthesize this data and develop a framework that is capable of considering complex ecological, social, and economic dynamics relevant to the region. We will demonstrate its utility at local and regional scales and under different social and economic management constraints within the Coral Triangle. Typically, management decisions on the land and sea are made independently, without fully considering how terrestrial land-uses impact marine biodiversity. Our work is novel as it is the first example of using economic theory to balance decisions between land and sea-based management actions. This information will help guide decision makers in determining where, when, and how money would be spent efficiently to protect coral reefs, sustain protein needs, and foster livelihoods of millions, in the face of a changing climate.

Possingham, Hugh
Klein, Carissa

A Framework to Assess Ecosystem Health in Support of Ecosystem-Based Management of Coastal-Marine Systems

Maintaining healthy, productive marine ecosystems is a recurrent theme in policy recommendations, management deliberations, and public sentiment. While healthy oceans are a broadly shared goal, distinct vital signs to gauge the state of oceans have not been widely implemented, yet are essential for effective policy-making. This working group will reduce hundreds of candidate indicators to a manageable set that will serve as critical monitoring and planning tools for effective marine ecosystem-based management. Specifically, we will bring together leading scholars and practitioners from ecology, fisheries, oceanography, economics, and applied social sciences to develop ecosystem health metrics for the Arctic, continental shelves, coral reefs, estuaries, and coastal upwelling regions. We will address three overarching questions: (1) What does ecosystem health mean and how can we measure it? (2) How can we measure the degree to which human well-being is sustained by marine systems? (3) How transferable are such metrics across different systems? The indicators developed through this initiative will serve as concrete concepts to help catalyze political will, pave the way for policy-making at all levels of government, provide critical tools to communicate the state of marine systems to the public, and facilitate much-needed integration across the social and natural sciences.

Crowder, Larry
McLeod, Karen
Rosenberg, Andy
Fogarty, Michael

Cultural Ecosystem Services from Marine and Coastal Systems: Counting the Intangibles

The field of ecosystem service science has begun to align economic incentives with conservation outcomes by identifying and valuing a more complete set of the services provided to humans by ecosystems than is traditionally considered in decision-making processes. Ecosystem services are the provision of things and experiences by ecosystems for people. The ecologists and economists working in this field have primarily focused on measuring, mapping, and valuing provisioning and regulating services; cultural services are always mentioned, but the integrated incorporation of such services into decision-making remains decades behind the more tangible services. We propose to change this by jump-starting the integration of cultural services into ecosystem-service decision-making tools. This working group will bring together an interdisciplinary group of ecologists, anthropologists, political scientists, philosophers, sociologists, and practitioners to tackle the thorny question "How do changes in ecosystems affect changes in cultural values in different scenarios for use of coastal and marine regions?" We will review the available data linking such ecosystem change to changes in cultural values, paying particular attention to interactions between services, and to non-linearities. The project will provide a framework for employing quantitative and-where necessary-qualitative methods to explicitly consider such values in marine and coastal planning.

Guerry, Anne
Chan, Kai 

Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Portal

This portal provides an online collaboration space for use by individuals and projects funded by the EBM Program at NCEAS, or by other sources.

Please contact walbridge [at] (Shaun Walbridge) if you are interested in using the portal.

Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Registry

This registery is available to locate colleagues and learn about their work. The registry can also be used to access data from other research and management projects and to share your data with registered users.

Please register yourself before searching the registry. By registering, you will make your contact information and research interests available to other registered users and help us strengthen the community of scientists and practitioners. Information is available only to registered users. Access to the registry is protected by passwords, ensuring that spammers will not be able to see your information.

Advisory Group

boesch [at] (Donald Boesch)
Professor and President, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland    

patrickc [at] (Patrick Christie)
Professor, School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington

SusanRCrow [at] (Susan R. Crow Lowrance)
Public Service Associate, College of Agricultural and Enviromental Sciences, University of Georgia, Tifton [at] (Barry Gold)
Marine Conservation Initiative Lead, The Moore Foundation  

eneeley [at] (Liz Neeley)
Assistant Director of Ocean Science Outreach, Communications Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS)

cpeters [at] (Charles Peterson)
Professor, University of North Carolina    

e.pidgeon [at] (Emily Pidgeon)
Senior Technical Advisor, Conservation International

r.pressey [at] (Bob Pressey)
Professor, ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

mary.ruckelshaus [at] (Mary Ruckelshaus)
Team Leader, Salmon Risk Evaluation Group, National Marine Fisheries Service    

shaw [at] (Rebecca Shaw)
Directory of Conservation Science and Planning, The Nature Conservancy   

MWeber [at] (Michael Weber)
Program Officer, Resources Law Group