The sustainable science-based management of natural resources requires knowledge exchange between scientists and environmental decision-makers; however, evidence suggests that information flow is inhibited by a range of barriers. To date, our understanding of the range and importance of factors limiting knowledge exchange between scientists and decision-makers is based primarily on the perceptions of decision-makers, while the perceptions of scientists have been largely overlooked. This study addresses this knowledge gap by quantitatively assessing the perceptions of scientists, represented by a sample of 78 Australian marine scientists, regarding (i) the role and importance of engaging with environmental decision-makers on a personal level, (ii) the role and importance of engaging with environmental decision-makers at the institutional level, (iii) current barriers to engaging with environmental decision-makers and (iv) options for overcoming barriers to engaging with environmental decision-makers. Survey results suggest that Australian marine scientists feel that they have an obligation to engage decision-makers in their science, and that engaging with and communicating to environmental decision-makers is important on a personal level. This study also identifies a range of barriers that impede engagement activities, including inadequate measures of science impact that do not account for engagement activities, a lack of organisational support for engagement activities, insufficient time to conduct engagement activities in addition to other responsibilities and a lack of funding to support engagement activities. To overcome these barriers, participants identified the need for institutional innovation by research institutions, research funders and decision-making agencies alike to promote a culture whereby knowledge exchange activities are legitimised as core business for research scientists, and recognised and rewarded appropriately. Although difficulties exist in implementing such institutional innovations, doing so will improve two-way knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers and improve the likely success of environmental management.
The focus of the current issue is dedicated to maritime spatial planning featuring a guest column article by the co-chairs of the HELCOM-VASAB Working Group and a considered look of the maritime spatial planning development in the Baltic Sea region
Technological solutions to increase the efficiency of spatial use can play a key role as part of the toolbox of marine spatial planning. Co-locating of multiple ocean uses can potentially increase the production and enjoyment of the ocean while limiting impacts. However, a basic precondition for co-locating or coproduction is that all parties' private incentives are aligned. We use a case study of co-locating an offshore wind energy firm and a mussel aquaculture firm to assess the incentive structure for cooperation and to demonstrate that social benefits from co-locating exist. We find that there is room for cooperation between firms based on potential cost sharing and that the demonstrated social benefits may arise without government intervention.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are proposed to help conserve marine biodiversity and ecological integrity. There is much guidance on the optimal design of MPAs but once potential MPAs are identified there is little guidance on defining the final no-take boundaries. This is especially problematic in temperate zones where ecological boundaries are “fuzzy”, which can be quite complicated during a consultation process involving the government and divergent stakeholder groups. More decision-support tools are needed to help stakeholders and government agencies objectively compare conservation and socio-economic trade-offs among proposed boundary options. To that end, we developed a method to identify which boundary minimizes spatial overlap of highly vulnerable species and a dominant stressor. We used the recently proposed boundary options of a candidate MPA in Atlantic Canada to illustrate our method. We evaluated the vulnerability of 23 key species to bottom trawling, the most prevalent stressor in the area. We then compared the spatial overlap of the most vulnerable species and the 2002–2011 footprint of bottom trawling among boundary options. The best boundary option was identified as that which minimized spatial overlap and total area. This approach identifies boundary options which provide the greatest protection of vulnerable species from their most significant stressor, at limited socio-economic cost. It is an objective decision-support tool to help stakeholders agree on final boundaries for MPAs.