Knowledge and Capacity-Building to Support Ecosystem-based Management for Sustainable Coastal Marine Systems 2004-present


Distributed Graduate Seminar  

Data-driven Review of Ecosystem-based Management Efforts/Distributed Graduate Seminar

Over the last decade there have been a wide range of efforts to implement ecosystem management in various systems (e.g., Everglades, Greater Yellowstone, Interior Columbia Basin, Serengeti-Mara, Great Barrier Reef). Although there have been several recent reviews of ecosystem management, these have not been quantitative or deeply analytical. This project employed a Distributed Graduate Seminar model to examine information regarding past ecosystem-based management efforts. Participants considered factors such as explicit goals, key elements and sequencing of the process, institutional attributes, implementation, degree of integration of science and decision-making, and outcomes. Faculty and graduate students collaborated to assess successes and failures. They evaluated why particular efforts succeeded and failed, and identified lessons learned for management of coastal marine systems. Locally, participants in each seminar collaborated to synthesize data for a particular example of ecosystem-based management and to develop a database of EBM activities and attributes. A final meeting, involving a total of 43 graduate students and faculty members from all participating universities, was held at NCEAS in February of 2005 to synthesize information from all case studies.   

Andelman, Sandy

Participating Universities: September 2004 - January 2005
Ben Gurion University, Israel
Florida International University
University of New Hampshire
University of Queensland, Australia
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of Washington
Virgina Institute of Marine Science

Working Groups 

Coastal Reserves

Systematic conservation planning in marine environments has generally operated independently of land conservation planning. However, there is potentially strong coupling between land use, watershed processes, and coastal riverine, estuarine, and marine ecosystems. There is increasing recognition of the impacts of human activities in the coastal zone and the need for conservation policy and design of coastal management systems to account for these impacts. The goal of this Working Group, with funding from the Resources Legacy Fund, was to identify key principles and research needs for a scientifically credible approach to conservation site prioritization, design, and ecosystem management in coastal environments. The Working Group focused on conservation planning for coupled terrestrial and marine ecosystems in central coastal California, but its findings have broader applicability.


Davis, Frank

Conservation Planning for Ecosystem Functioning: Testing Predictions of Ecological Effectiveness for Marine Predators

At a major symposium on marine ecosystem-based management at the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting, one of the three principal themes deemed critical for future progress was interaction web dynamics, the way in which species interact with one another and their physical environment. In particular, the scientific basis for marine ecosystem-based management must better incorporate understanding of the influences of multiple predator species on interaction web dynamics. These interactions are increasingly recognized as critical to the maintenance and restoration of marine communities and hence to the planning of marine reserves and other conservation strategies. This Working Group will directly tackle this important issue. Participants will ask which approaches are most successful in estimating the interaction strength, also termed ecological effectiveness, of predator species on nearshore communities. They also will examine how to use limited information about these effects to best conduct conservation planning in these ecosystems. Initial efforts will focus on three extremely well-studied predator guilds of near shore communities on the west coast of the United States: sea otters in kelp forests, predatory whelks in mid-intertidal benthic communities, and wading shore birds in high to mid intertidal communities. For each of these very different systems, extensive data exist on the effects of predator abundance, physiology, and individual behavior. Participants will assemble these diverse data sets and use them to develop detailed interaction models. They also will develop more broad-brush models that may be applicable to less-well-studied communities. The overall goal of the Working Group is to use these models to ask which aspects of predator physiology and behavior, and which aspects of prey community structure, most determine the ecological effectiveness of predators. Accordingly, the Working Group will identify understanding necessary to plan viable marine conservation strategies.

Doak, Daniel
Estes, Jim
Wootton, Tim
Williams, Terrie  

Measuring Ecological, Economic, and Social Values of Coastal Habitats to Inform Ecosystem-based Management of Land-Sea Interfaces

The recent Australia cyclone and the 2005 Caribbean hurricane season, coupled with the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, have stimulated interest in protective services provided by near-shore estuarine, wetland and mangrove habitats. The popular press now links the loss of human life and property to the degradation of interface ecosystems. These events provide a unique opportunity to quantify the value of protective services provided by near-shore vegetated habitats and compare them with economic gains from habitat conversion (e.g. forestry, shrimp farms, or development). The Working Group will use these habitats in a case study for developing and testing assessment and planning tools for ecosystem-based management (EBM) that incorporates terrestrial and marine environments. Participants including economists, ecologists, geographers, social scientists, and coastal managers will (1) collect and distill existing but scattered data on coastal zone services and value (2) assess local community attitudes and institutions, and disseminate information about short-term versus long-term values to help managers determine conservation zones, and (3) use data and modeling to plan EBM strategies that incorporate the interface nature of these systems.

Granek, Elise
Koch, Evamaria
Barbier, Ed
Stohms, David
Aswani-Canela, Shankar

Science Frameworks for Ecosystem-based Management    

This Working Group will develop a modeling and data integration framework for ecosystem-based management. Participants will then apply the framework to a case study from coastal California. The Working Group will link policy specialists with experts in modeling natural and human systems. Thus, the group will develop a policy-relevant modeling approach that includes the dynamics of social, biophysical, and economic components of the ecosystem and critical feedbacks among them. The approach will also include an explicit risk assessment component. Then, in collaboration with scientists and managers knowledgeable about the coastal California system, participants will develop a detailed case study using this modeling approach as a basis. Key questions about how to cope with uncertainty, how to define ecosystem boundaries, and what constitute appropriate and effective indicators of ecosystem health and performance will be addressed through the case study. The result will be a tool that scientists and policy makers can use to develop an ecosystem-based approach to management of this system and, by extension, others.

Micheli, Fiorenza
Rosenberg, Andrew

Governance Feasibility of Marine Ecosystem-based Management: a Comparative Analysis    

This Working Group has three main goals: (1) Assess how to modify governance structures to facilitate effective ecosystem-based management (EBM) in developing and developed world contexts (2) Generate practical ecological and social indicators for EBM (3) Produce analyses and planning materials useful for scientists, EBM practitioners, and policy makers around the world. Participants will draw together disparate socioecological datasets from the Philippines, southwestern Africa, the Caribbean, and Hawaii to assess EBM success as measured by common social and ecological goals of various programs. These results will be used to develop synthetic, peer-reviewed journal articles. Results also will form the basis for an empirically-based guidebook and training program to support coastal EBM.

Christie, Patrick
Pollnac, Richard 

Other Research 


Mapping Current Threats and Impacts of Human Activities on Global Marine Ecosystems

Human activities now impact virtually every marine ecosystem in the world. Coastal ecosystems are particularly at risk because they are subject to an extraordinary number and variety of threats from terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems. In response to this magnitude of threat, conservation and resource management organizations have focused on prioritizing their efforts using models with different criteria. Some models, for example, rank locations according to diversity or intensity of threats, whereas others focus on number or proportion of threatened species.

How does one determine vulnerability of a given ecosystem or severity of a given threat? Traditionally, conservation planners have discriminated among the effects of threats on different species or ecosystems by soliciting expert opinion at workshops and representing the experts' judgments on maps. Rarely have these efforts documented how the final results were compiled. Accordingly, it is difficult to understand how the outcome was achieved, to modify or adapt the results to new goals and circumstances, or to incorporate emerging information. It is often difficult to evaluate whether results might have been different had different experts been involved, or to reference the information on which the experts based their recommendations. Moreover, none of the well-known threat assessments to date have considered how the impacts of threats vary among ecosystem types, despite the fact that some threats can be devastating to one ecosystem but relatively benign to another.

This project aims to provide a transparent, repeatable, and quantifiable approach to mapping the individual and cumulative impacts of all human threats to marine ecosystems around the world. Mapping is being conducted at a resolution meaningful to local and regional planning efforts. This approach incorporates not only information on the geographic distribution of threats, but also the magnitude of threats and the relative vulnerability of different marine systems to the individual and cumulative threats. Project leaders have developed a tool for evaluating and ranking the impacts of threats on specific ecosystems. They are now using this tool, in conjunction with data on global marine ecosystems and threats to those systems, to map the distribution and intensity of human threats and impacts to marine ecosystems.

Results from this research can also be viewed interactively.

Related research on mapping human threats to marine ecosystems

Halpern, Ben
Selkoe, Kim
Micheli, Fiorenza
Kappel, Carrie

Implementing Ecosystem-based Management: Governance Conflicts, Gaps, and Needs

Supported by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Collaborator: Environmental Law Institute

NCEAS is pleased to collaborate with The David and Lucile Packard Foundation in facilitating this Working Group organized by scientists and attorneys at the Environmental Law Institute. The group aims to understand how to engage the legal and regulatory community to implement ecosystem-based management. In particular, participants will explore how to make ecosystem-based management an integral part of the legal and regulatory community's daily operations, instead of a goal that is peripheral to normal activity. To address these challenges, the Working Group will (1) identify key decision-makers, regulators, and managers required for implementation (2) determine the legal and institutional constraints and conditions under which those actors operate (3) identify specific obstacles and opportunities for actors with respect to implementation, and (4) identify specific, practical, and concrete best practices for each key implementing group. The ultimate goal is to outline a framework for implementation that considers laws, regulations, policies, and institutions at local, state, national, and multilateral levels. Participants will develop materials that will provide practical information to federal, state, and local governance institutions. These materials will highlight best practices, identify conflicts and synergies, and recommend actions to achieve effective ecosystem-based management.

McElfish, James
Mengerink, Kathryn

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.

Advisory Board    

boesch [at] (Donald Boesch)
Professor and President, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland [at] (Barry Gold)
Marine Conservation Initiative Lead, The Moore Foundation    

mmantell [at] (Michael Mantell)
Attorney, Resources Law Group    

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

spolasky [at] (Steven Polasky)
Professor of Ecological and Environmental Economics, University of Minnesota    

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

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