A crucial goal of ecosystem-based management is to maintain the delivery of ecosystem services (ESS) over time. This requires ESS to be assessed repeatedly over time, a task that becomes extremely challenging in data-poor coastal areas, where the lack of data and resources sums up with the intrinsic difficulties of assessing marine and coastal ESS. This implies the need to develop simple ESS assessment methods and to optimize the monitoring effort required to implement them. The aim of this work is to identify which are the key monitoring priorities for ESS mapping in data-poor coastal areas, in the perspective of ecosystem-based management implementation. In order to do so, the ESS provided by Posidonia oceanica meadows in the northern African Mediterranean coastal area have been chosen as a case study, and assessed by mapping the service providing, benefiting and connecting areas. Different input data and methods have been tested to explore how the mapping approach can be kept as simple as possible to ensure a broad applicability, and which are the crucial data required, in order to optimize the monitoring effort. The spatial distribution of the habitat providing the ESS resulted to be the data to which the mapping outcomes are more sensitive, and should be thus considered a key monitoring priority. The other input data can be kept as simple as (1) an expert-driven estimate of the service connecting area, to be understood as an ecologically meaningful range of influence of the focal habitat, and (2) globally available datasets for mapping the service benefiting areas. Overall, this results in an aggregated mapping of the multiple ESS provided by a marine habitat, which, according to our results, seems to be an advisable strategy for a first ESS assessment suitable for application in a data-poor context.
Ecosystem-based Management (EBM)
Coastal systems are constantly in flux, and feedback from monitoring is necessary to support decision making for effective sustainable natural resource management. Frequently natural resources are the ultimate target of management actions, but management programs work through the proximate step of regulating human behavior towards those resources. For example, a marine reserve is considered a conservation success when the abundance and diversity of organisms increase within reserve boundaries, all relative to existing trends that would have affected ecological communities in the absence of a reserve. Biological monitoring can assesses whether reserve management achieves these goals. However, when monitoring data are inconclusive or do not match expectations, managers face uncertainty in understanding why particular biological patterns occurred, whether a reserve is a biologically appropriate management strategy for the system, and what steps to take moving forward. Monitoring human behavior can provide information that may alleviate some uncertainty and help explain observed biological patterns. In this study we illustrate the utility of complimenting biological monitoring data with monitoring of human behavior. We used a before-after control-impact analysis to test for effects of a no-take reserve in the Gulf of California, Mexico on the density and biomass of seven fished species. We failed to detect a positive biological effect of the reserve, and found the density of five monitored species had declined. These results indicated that the reserve was not succeeding, but provided no insight into why. Evaluation of recreational angler use of the reserve provided a possible explanation: first, the frequency of angler visits to the study area was increasing over time. Second, the reserve reduced the propensity of anglers to visit the reserve, but not by enough to offset the overall increasing visitation trend. Biological and human use monitoring results in tandem indicated that a reserve could potentially be an effective conservation tool for the system, and allowed us to suggest modifications that could help the reserve succeed. Our work illustrates the necessity of monitoring human use changes alongside biological responses to a reserve for a holistic portrait of reserve functioning, providing a concrete example of the importance of human behavioral aspects of marine reserve success.
Introduction: Interrelated social and ecological challenges demand an understanding of how environmental change and management decisions affect human well-being. This paper outlines a framework for measuring human well-being for ecosystem-based management (EBM). We present a prototype that can be adapted and developed for various scales and contexts. Scientists and managers use indicators to assess status and trends in integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs). To improve the social science rigor and success of EBM, we developed a systematic and transparent approach for evaluating indicators of human well-being for an IEA.
Methods: Our process is based on a comprehensive conceptualization of human well-being, a scalable analysis of management priorities, and a set of indicator screening criteria tailored to the needs of EBM. We tested our approach by evaluating more than 2000 existing social indicators related to ocean and coastal management of the US West Coast. We focused on two foundational attributes of human well-being: resource access and self-determination.
Outcomes and Discussion: Our results suggest that existing indicators and data are limited in their ability to reflect linkages between environmental change and human well-being, and extremely limited in their ability to assess social equity and justice. We reveal a critical need for new social indicators tailored to answer environmental questions and new data that are disaggregated by social variables to measure equity. In both, we stress the importance of collaborating with the people whose well-being is to be assessed.
Conclusion: Our framework is designed to encourage governments and communities to carefully assess the complex tradeoffs inherent in environmental decision-making.
As part of an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management (EBFM), the heterogeneity of biological communities, key ecological processes and human uses must be understood. Although fishing effort distribution and marine habitat distribution and use are increasingly well understood, little research has quantified spatio-temporal changes in fishing effort or investigated drivers of these changes. Here, a holistic approach was taken to investigate socio-economic, environmental and technological drivers of change in fishing effort distribution of the Northumberland pot-fishery (2004–2014) using Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) analyses. BBNs were populated using large-scale high resolution spatial and temporal fisheries monitoring data, quantitative and qualitative interviews with fishers and expert opinion. Increases in fishing effort over time were explained by a combination of changes in fleet composition and fishers’ behaviour. Increasing vessel and engine sizes, combined with an increased uptake of improved fishing technology have resulted in a greater ability for vessels to fish a greater number of pots. This increase in vessel and fishing capability has resulted in fishers’ increased ability to fish in harsher weather conditions, as well as target specific areas or habitats quickly and opportunistically. Non-technological factors, such as declines in stocks of finfish and nephrops and the increasing operational costs of participating in these fisheries may have resulted in fishers solely fishing in the less regulated pot-fishery, targeting high value European lobster on a full-time basis. Increasing costs of pot-fishing in Northumberland coupled with stagnating crab and lobster landings prices may have resulted in increased fishing effort to maintain profitability.
Beaches are basically managed mirroring user’s perception and normative requirements to obtain performance standards or distinctions made on well-known Quality Management Systems and/or Environmental Management Systems. However, when these systems are used in the management of these natural public goods, present practices do not fit with the Ecosystem Approach Strategy (EA) launched by United Nations at the end of last Century. To overcome this reality, an application of the Ecosystem-Based Management System (EBMS) was developed recently as a formal way to practice this approach at the beach social-ecological system. The EBMS is a stepwise process that combines environmental quality and risk management system theory with the EA principles. The EBMS is composed of three interactive pillars: Managerial, Information and Participatory. The Managerial pillar is the “engine” of the EBMS, following the classical Plan-Do-Check-Act managerial policy scheme. As a part of the Planning phase, a factual approach to decision making is suggested: DEMA (DEcision-MAking) tool. DEMA is a formal prioritization tool intended to help managers to determine, based on a social cost-benefit analysis and the vision established for a particular social-ecological system, which projects should be the first. DEMA uses risk management theory to decide what future activities should be selected in the policy cycle to avoid those identified risks that could impede us to get the desired vision for the beach under management. DEMA is using a framework of indicators related to the identified ecosystem services given by these systems, valuating and rating them to further prioritization of actions.
The ecosystem approach to fisheries management requires ecosystems to be perceived in a holistic way, including the dynamics not only within an ecosystem but also between the ecosystem and society. This implies that people involved in decision-making processes should understand why fish and fisheries are important for society, that is, be aware of the socio-cultural values that people associate with fisheries. In this paper, the justification theory of Boltanski and Thévenot is applied to material collected through a literature review to identify socio-cultural values relating to Baltic salmon, and the potential of the approach for fisheries governance is discussed. The analysis demonstrates that fish resources can have multiple meanings to society. Justification theory is found useful for identifying socio-cultural values related to fisheries, since it suggests shifting attention from opposing interests to the common good. Agreeing on the common good is crucial for the legitimacy of governance. However, because the common good can be defined in multiple ways, these definitions have to be made transparent through empirical analysis so that they can be further deliberated, evaluated and agreed upon by governors, stakeholders and others involved.
International instruments of fisheries governance have set the core principles for the management of highly migratory fishes. We evaluated the progress of tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs) in implementing the ecological component of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). We first developed a best case tRFMO for EBFM implementation. Second, we developed criteria to evaluate progress in applying EBFM against this best case tRFMO. We assessed progress of the following four ecological components: target species, bycatch species, ecosystem properties and trophic relationships, and habitats. We found that many of the elements necessary for an operational EBFM are already present, yet they have been implemented in an ad hoc way, without a long-term vision and a formalized plan. Overall, tRFMOs have made considerable progress monitoring the impacts of fisheries on target species, moderate progress for bycatch species, and little progress for ecosystem properties and trophic relationships and habitats. The tRFMOs appear to be halfway towards implementing the ecological component of EBFM, yet it is clear that the “low-hanging fruit” has been plucked and the more difficult, but surmountable, issues remain, notably the sustainable management of bycatch. All tRFMOs share the same challenge of developing a formal mechanism to better integrate ecosystem science and advice into management decisions. We hope to further discussion across the tRFMOs to inform the development of operational EBFM plans.
Low Elevation Coastal Zones (LECZ) are located at less than 10 m above sea level. Because of human encroachment, combined with sea level rise and increased storminess, LECZ are at an increasing risk of flooding and erosion. In consequence, there is a growing need for shoreline protection. Traditionally, hard infrastructure was used, with positive local results, but negative regional impacts when flows were not maintained. Therefore, ecosystem-based coastal protection has been considered as an alternative. We explored the scientific literature to look for evidence that proves the effectiveness of natural ecosystems for protection against flooding and erosion, when these events are a problem to society. We found that although the protective role of vegetation has been mentioned for over 50 years, most of the studies date from the last decade and have been performed in the USA and the Netherlands. Mangroves, saltmarshes and coastal dunes are the ecosystems most frequently studied. The evidence we found includes anecdotal observations, experimental tests, mathematical analyses, models and projections, economic valuations and field observations. Although mostly effective, there are limitations of an ecosystem-based approach and probably, different strategies can be combined so that protection is improved while additional ecosystem services are maintained. We conclude that, besides improving coastal protection strategies, it is fundamental to reduce human pressure by mobilizing populations inland (or at least promoting new developments further inland), and minimizing the negative impact of human activities. We need to be better prepared to deal with the climate change challenges that will affect LECZ in the not very distant future.
Planning frameworks such as Ecosystem-Based Marine Spatial Planning are based on socio-ecological systems and require effective design of management goals and objectives, a task often overlooked in conservation and resource planning. This paper discusses research undertaken in a coastal council of Australia, to assess the significance of well-defined goals and objectives as drivers of management plans. SMART criteria and Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation approaches were integrated into a framework to examine management scope of existing plans; assess the quality of stated goals and objectives; analyse the use of natural and socio-economic targets; and provide recommendations for the development of future plans. Findings provided no indication of organizational learning through revision of previous plans, revealing an ongoing planning cycle with ad-hoc reviews frequently driven by policy changes. Main weaknesses identified included linguistics ambiguity; unclear planning hierarchy; lack of clear time-frames; and adoption of highly ambitious plans. The absence of measurable and time-bounded goals and objectives was noted. Additionally, poor definition of targets resulted in goals not meeting the impact-oriented criteria, and objectives were not outcome-oriented. Recommendations drawn in support of mainstreaming the Ecosystem Based Approach in future coastal and marine plans include: explicit definition of societal values; developing complementary cross-realm management goals and objectives; increasing commitment to produce ‘on-the-ground’ outcomes progressively within each planning period; a greater use of pro-active management measures; and providing an economic context to the plans, fostering alignment of financial resources and future investments with the vision developed by the council.
The use of a one-dimensional interdisciplinary numerical model of the coastal ocean as a tool contributing to the formulation of ecosystem-based management (EBM) is explored. The focus is on the definition of an experimental design based on ensemble simulations, integrating variability linked to scenarios (characterised by changes in the system forcing) and to the concurrent variation of selected, and poorly constrained, model parameters. The modelling system used was previously specifically designed for the use in “data-rich” areas, so that horizontal dynamics can be resolved by a diagnostic approach and external inputs can be parameterised by nudging schemes properly calibrated. Ensembles determined by changes in the simulated environmental (physical and biogeochemical) dynamics, under joint forcing and parameterisation variations, highlight the uncertainties associated to the application of specific scenarios that are relevant to EBM, providing an assessment of the reliability of the predicted changes. The work has been carried out by implementing the coupled modelling system BFM-POM1D in an area of Gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic Sea), considered homogeneous from the point of view of hydrological properties, and forcing it by changing climatic (warming) and anthropogenic (reduction of the land-based nutrient input) pressure. Model parameters affected by considerable uncertainties (due to the lack of relevant observations) were varied jointly with the scenarios of change. The resulting large set of ensemble simulations provided a general estimation of the model uncertainties related to the joint variation of pressures and model parameters. The information of the model result variability aimed at conveying efficiently and comprehensibly the information on the uncertainties/reliability of the model results to non-technical EBM planners and stakeholders, in order to have the model-based information effectively contributing to EBM.