The coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Virgin Islands are some of the most intensively surveyed and threatened tropical ecosystems on earth. These coral reefs vary widely in terms of biophysical structure, seascape context, socio-economic value and exposure to threats presenting a complex challenge for resilience-based management. How and where should managers prioritize actions to maximize conservation outcomes? To meet multiple conservation objectives, a novel map-based decision-support tool was designed which synthesized large amounts of data to help managers identify and rank coral reefs according to multiple ecological qualities, ecosystem services and threats. The spatial framework integrates local expert knowledge from SCUBA divers, scientific field data and spatial models to characterize and rank priority coral reefs. With user-defined flexibility, the tool provides information to guide management processes such as risk assessments of coastal development, management of protected areas, site selection in science and monitoring design, broader marine spatial planning and community education and outreach.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is the European Commission's flagship initiative for the protection of the European Seas, and the first holistic approach to ensuring that European Seas reach and are maintained at what is called a ‘Good Environmental Status’ by the year 2020. Regional cooperation, especially between neighbouring countries, and involvement of all interested parties, are horizontal principles of the MSFD, and particularly apply to the definition of programmes of measures, the principal instrument through which each Member State will implement its marine strategy. This paper presents the results from a dedicated, participatory, structured decision-making process that was implemented within the framework of the ActionMed project, which aimed to bring experts and policy/decision-makers from Mediterranean neighbouring countries together, to discuss and agree upon common measures for implementation in their sub-regions. It shows that a participatory approach, supported by customised, case specific intelligent tools, that follows expertly facilitated, structured workshops can be a successful way to enhance sub-regional collaboration. The paper also presents the top ranking measures, selected by experts and decision-makers for common implementation in two Mediterranean sub-regions.
Spatial decision support systems (SDSS) represent a step forward in efforts to account for the spatial dimension in environmental decision-making. The aim of SDSS is to help policymakers and practitioners access, interpret and understand information from data, analyses and models, and guide them in identifying possible actions during a decision-making process. Researchers, however, report difficulties in up-take of SDSS by the intended users. Some suggest that this field would benefit from investigation of the social aspects involved in SDSS design, development, testing and use. Borrowing insights from the literature on science-policy interactions, we explore two key social processes: knowledge integration and learning. Using a sample of 36 scientific papers concerning SDSS in relation to environmental issues, we surveyed whether and how the selected papers reported on knowledge integration and learning. We found that while many of the papers mentioned communication and collaboration with prospective user groups or stakeholders, this was seldom underpinned by a coherent methodology for enabling knowledge integration and learning to surface. This appears to have hindered SDSS development and later adoption by intended users.
Increasing recognition of the human dimensions of natural resource management issues, and of social and ecological sustainability and resilience as being inter-related, highlights the importance of applying social science to natural resource management decision-making. Moreover, a number of laws and regulations require natural resource management agencies to consider the “best available science” (BAS) when making decisions, including social science. Yet rarely do these laws and regulations define or identify standards for BAS, and those who have tried to fill the gap have done so from the standpoint of best available natural science. This paper proposes evaluative criteria for best available social science (BASS), explaining why a broader set of criteria than those used for natural science is needed. Although the natural and social sciences share many of the same evaluative criteria for BAS, they also exhibit some differences, especially where qualitative social science is concerned. Thus we argue that the evaluative criteria for BAS should expand to include those associated with diverse social science disciplines, particularly the qualitative social sciences. We provide one example from the USA of how a federal agency − the U.S. Forest Service − has attempted to incorporate BASS in responding to its BAS mandate associated with the national forest planning process, drawing on different types of scientific information and in light of these criteria. Greater attention to including BASS in natural resource management decision-making can contribute to better, more equitable, and more defensible management decisions and policies.
Planning for coastal and marine environments is often characterized by conflict over current and proposed uses. Marine spatial planning has been proposed as a way forward, however, social data are often missing impeding decision-making. Participatory mapping, a technique useful for providing social data and predict conflict potential, is being used in an increasing number of terrestrial applications to inform planning, but has been little used in the marine realm. This study collected social data for an extensive coastline in northwestern Australia via 167 in-depth face-to-face interviews including participant mapping of place values. From the transcribed interviews and digitized maps, we inductively identified 17 values, with biodiversity, the physical landscape, and Aboriginal culture being most valued. To spatially identify conflict potential, values were classified in matrices as consumptive or non-consumptive with the former assumed to be less compatible with other values. Pairwise comparisons of value compatibilities informed a spatial GIS determination of conflict potential. The results were overlaid with the boundaries of nine marine protected areas in the region to illustrate the application of this method for marine spatial planning. The three near shore marine protected areas had at least one third of their area exhibiting conflict potential. Participatory mapping accompanied by conflict potential mapping provides important insights for spatial planning in these often-highly contested marine environments.
The deployment of Hybrid Offshore Wind and Wave Energy Systems (HOWiWaES) towards the simultaneous exploitation of the corresponding offshore renewable energy sources, may efficiently address the common challenge of the offshore wind and the wave energy sector to reduce their costs, with multiple additional benefits. A prerequisite at an early stage of the realization of a HOWiWaES project is the determination of marine areas suitable for the deployment of HOWiWaES. In the present paper, a methodological framework for identifying the most appropriate marine areas in Greece towards the deployment/siting of HOWiWaES is developed and presented. The framework is based on the combined use of multi-criteria decision making methods and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At the first stage of the analysis, the unsuitable for the deployment of HOWiWaES marine areas are identified through the development of a GIS database that produces thematic maps representing exclusion criteria related to utilization restrictions as well as to economic, technical and social constraints. Then, at the second stage of the analysis, eligible marine areas not satisfying exclusion criteria are evaluated and ranked using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), based on evaluation criteria related to economic, technical and socio-political factors. The AHP's implementation is supported by the developed GIS database, eliminating significantly the subjectivity in judgments. The results of the paper illustrate the potential for deploying HOWiWaES in Greece, especially in the offshore areas of Crete and in a lengthwise zone extended from North-central to central Aegean.
With an internationally lauded approach to conserving Southern Ocean ecosystems (1), the healthiest marine ecosystems on Earth, the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), has committed to adopting marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters around Antarctica (2). But conflict over MPAs has led CCAMLR member states to disregard the best available science, distort the foundational rules of their convention, break trust, and threaten the integrity of one of the world's most well-regarded science-based multinational governance efforts. With negotiations resuming at the CCAMLR meeting beginning 17 October, we offer recommendations aimed at implementing effective Southern Ocean MPAs, upholding CCAMLR's mandate, and maintaining its global leadership in ecosystem-based management. Given the historic conservation and diplomatic success of CCAMLR and Antarctic governance writ large, if we cannot adopt meaningful MPAs in the Southern Ocean, it does not bode well for doing so in the rest of the high seas.
Effective conservation requires knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers to enable learning and support evidence-based decision-making. Efforts to improve knowledge exchange have been hindered by a paucity of empirically-grounded guidance to help scientists and practitioners design and implement research programs that actively facilitate knowledge exchange. To address this, we evaluated the Ningaloo Research Program (NRP), which was designed to generate new scientific knowledge to support evidence-based decisions about the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park in north-western Australia. Specifically, we evaluated (1) outcomes of the NRP, including the extent to which new knowledge informed management decisions; (2) the barriers that prevented knowledge exchange among scientists and managers; (3) the key requirements for improving knowledge exchange processes in the future; and (4) the core capacities that are required to support knowledge exchange processes. While the NRP generated expansive and multidisciplinary science outputs directly relevant to the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park, decision-makers are largely unaware of this knowledge and little has been integrated into decision-making processes. A range of barriers prevented efficient and effective knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers including cultural differences among the groups, institutional barriers within decision-making agencies, scientific outputs that were not translated for decision-makers and poor alignment between research design and actual knowledge needs. We identify a set of principles to be implemented routinely as part of any applied research program, including; (i) stakeholder mapping prior to the commencement of research programs to identify all stakeholders, (ii) research questions to be co-developed with stakeholders, (iii) implementation of participatory research approaches, (iv) use of a knowledge broker, and (v) tailored knowledge management systems. Finally, we articulate the individual, institutional and financial capacities that must be developed to underpin successful knowledge exchange strategies.
This report analyzes options for improving agency decision making under existing authorities to support development of the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan.
Indicators have been recognised as a useful tool aiding the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries in marine ecosystems. Studies, such as the IndiSeas project (www.indiseas.org), use a suite of indicators as a method of assessing the state and trends of several of the world's marine ecosystems. While it is well known that both fishing and climatic variability influence marine fisheries in the southern Benguela ecosystem there are currently few studies in support of fisheries management that make use of environmental indicators in order to include climatic impacts on marine fish populations. Trends in ecological, fishing and environmental indicators can be utilised in a way that allows an overall ecosystem trend to be determined, and can therefore be used to aid decision support within southern Benguela fisheries. In this study trends in indicators were determined using linear regressions across three time periods, Period 1: 1978–1993, Period 2: 1994–2003 and Period 3: 2004–2010. These time periods were selected based on the timing of regime shifts within the southern Benguela, including changes in upwelling, wind stress and temperature. Each ecological indicator received a score based on the direction and significance of the observed trend with respect to fishing. To account for the impacts of fishing and environmental drivers on ecological indicators, scores were adjusted by predetermined factors, depending on the extent and direction of trends in these indicators. Weightings were applied to correlated ecological indicators to account for their redundancy, and lessen their impact on overall ecosystem score. Mean weighted scores were then used to establish an overall ecosystem score for each time period. Ecosystem classification was determined as follows: 1–1.49 = improving, 1.5–2.49 = possibly improving, 2.5–3.49 = no improvement or deterioration, 3.5–4.49 = possible deterioration, 4.5–5 = deteriorating. The ecosystem was observed to neither deteriorate nor improve across Period 1 or 2 (mean weighted scores: 2.75 and 2.56 respectively), however, during Period 3 a possible improvement was observed (mean weighted score: 1.99). This study shows that the sequential analysis of suites of ecological, fishing and environmental indicators can be used in order to determine ecosystem trends, accounting for both the impacts of fishing and the environment on ecosystem components.