A cocktail of land-based sources of pollution threatens coral reef ecosystems, and addressing these has become a key management and policy challenge in the State of Hawaiʻi, other US territories, and globally. In West Maui, Hawaiʻi, nearly one quarter of all living corals were lost between 1995 and 2008. Onsite disposal systems (OSDS) for sewage leak contaminants into drinking water sources and nearshore waters. In recognition of this risk, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) is prioritizing areas for cesspool upgrades. Independently, we applied a decision analysis process to identify priority areas to address sewage pollution from OSDS in West Maui, with the objective of reducing nearshore coral reef exposure to pollution. The decision science approach is relevant to a broader context of coastal areas both statewide and worldwide which are struggling with identifying pollution mitigation actions on limited budgets.
The accumulation of aquatic organisms on the wetted surfaces of vessels (i.e., vessel biofouling) negatively impacts world-wide shipping through reductions in vessel performance and fuel efficiency, and increases in emissions. Vessel biofouling is also a potent mechanism for the introduction and spread of marine non-indigenous species. Guidance and regulations from the International Maritime Organization, New Zealand, and California have recently been adopted to address biosecurity risks, primarily through preventive management. However, appropriate reactive management measures may be necessary for some vessels. Vessel in-water cleaning or treatment (VICT) has been identified as an important tool to improve operating efficiency and to reduce biosecurity risks. VICT can be applied proactively [i.e., to prevent the occurrence of, or to remove, microfouling (i.e., slime) or prevent the occurrence of macrofouling organisms – large, distinct multicellular organisms visible to the human eye], or reactively (i.e., to remove macrofouling organisms). However, unmanaged VICT includes its own set of biosecurity and water quality risks. Regulatory policies and technical advice from California and New Zealand have been developed to manage these risks, but there are still knowledge gaps related to the efficacy of available technologies. Research efforts are underway to address these gaps in order to inform the regulatory and non-regulatory application of VICT.
Climate-driven changes in ocean currents have facilitated the range extension of the long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) from Australia’s mainland to eastern Tasmania over recent decades. Since its arrival, destructive grazing by the urchin has led to widespread formation of sea urchin ‘barrens’. The loss of habitat, biodiversity and productivity for important commercial reef species in conjunction with the development of an urchin fishery has led to conflicting objectives among stakeholders, which poses complex challenges for regional management. Stakeholder representatives and managers were engaged via a participatory workshop and subsequent one-on-one surveys to trial a structured decision-making process to identify effective ecosystem-based management strategies. We directly and indirectly elicited each stakeholder’s preferences for nine alternative management strategies by presenting them with the 10-year consequences of each strategy estimated from an ecosystem model of Tasmanian reef communities. These preferences were included in cost-effectiveness scores that were averaged (across stakeholders) to enable strategy ranking from most to least cost-effective. Rankings revealed strategies that included sea urchin removal or translocation of predatory lobsters were the most cost-effective. However, assessment of stakeholders’ individual cost-effectiveness scores showed some disparity among stakeholders’ preferences in high ranking strategies. Additionally, evaluating inconsistencies within some stakeholders’ scores that included direct or indirect preferences revealed conflicting objectives and cognitive bias as the most plausible explanations for these inconsistencies. Our study illustrates how structured decision-making can effectively facilitate ecosystem-based management by engaging stakeholders step-by-step towards management strategy implementation, identifying psychological barriers to decision-making and promoting collective learning.
Marine policy and management has to cope with a plethora of human activities that cause pressures leading to changes to the natural and human systems. Accordingly, it requires many policy and management responses to address traditional, cultural, social, ecological, technical, and economic policy objectives. Because of this, we advocate that a fully-structured approach using the IEC/ISO 31010 Bow-tie analysis will allow all elements to be integrated for a cost-effective system.
This industry-standard system, described here with examples for the marine environment, will fulfil many of the demands by the users and uses of the marine system and the regulators of those users and uses. It allows for bridging several aspects: the management and environmental sciences, the management complexity and governance demands, the natural and social sciences and socio-economics and outcomes. Most importantly, the use of the Bow-tie approach bridges systems analysis and ecosystem complexity. At a time when scientific decisions in policy making and implementation are under question, we conclude that it provides a rigorous, transparent and defendable system of decision-making.
Prioritization of marsh-management strategies is a difficult task as it requires a manager to evaluate the relative benefits of each strategy given uncertainty in future sea-level rise and in dynamic marsh response. A modeling framework to evaluate the costs and benefits of management strategies while accounting for both of these uncertainties has been developed. The base data for the tool are high-resolution uncertainty-analysis results from the SLAMM (Sea-Level Affecting Marshes Model) under different adaptive-management strategies. These results are combined with an ecosystem-valuation assessment from stakeholders. The SLAMM results and stakeholder values are linked together using “utility functions” that characterize the relationship between stakeholder values and geometric metrics such as “marsh area,” marsh edge,” or “marsh width.” The expected-value of each site’s ecosystem benefits can then be calculated and compared using estimated costs for each strategy. Estimates of optimal marsh-management strategies may then be produced, maximizing the “ecosystem benefits per estimated costs” ratio.
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.