Ecosystem modelling is increasingly used to explore ecosystem-level effects of changing environmental conditions and management actions. For coral reefs there has been increasing interest in recent decades in the use of ecosystem models for evaluating the effects of fishing and the efficacy of marine protected areas. However, ecosystem models that integrate physical forcings, biogeochemical and ecological dynamics, and human induced perturbations are still underdeveloped. We applied an ecosystem model (Atlantis) to the coral reef ecosystem of Guam using a suite of management scenarios prioritized in consultation with local resource managers to review the effects of each scenario on performance measures related to the ecosystem, the reef-fish fishery (e.g., fish landings) and coral habitat. Comparing tradeoffs across the selected scenarios showed that each scenario performed best for at least one of the selected performance indicators. The integrated ‘full regulation’ scenario outperformed other scenarios with four out of the six performance metrics at the cost of reef-fish landings. This model application quantifies the socio-ecological costs and benefits of alternative management scenarios. When the effects of climate change were taken into account, several scenarios performed equally well, but none prevented a collapse in coral biomass over the next few decades assuming a business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions scenario.
Ecosystem-based Management (EBM)
A major limitation to fully integrated ecosystem based fishery management approaches is a lack of information on the spatial distribution of marine species and the environmental conditions shaping these distributions. This is particularly problematic for deep-water species that are hard to sample and are data poor. The past decade has seen the rapid development of a suite of advanced species distribution, or ecological niche, modelling approaches developed specifically to support efficient and targeted management. However, model performance can vary significantly and the appropriateness of which methods are best for a given application remains questionable. Species distribution models were developed for three commercially valuable Hawaiian deep-water eteline snappers: Etelis coruscans (Onaga), Etelis carbunculus (Ehu) and Pristipomoides filamentosus (Opakapaka). Distributional data for these species was relatively sparse. To identify the best method, model performance and distributional accuracy was assessed and compared using three approaches: Generalised Additive Models (GAM), Boosted Regression Trees (BRT) and Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt). Independent spatial validation data found MaxEnt consistently provided better model performance with ‘good’ model predictions (AUC =>0.8). Each species was influenced by a unique combination of environmental conditions, with depth, terrain (slope) and substrate (low lying unconsolidated sediments), being the three most important in shaping their distributions. Sustainable fisheries management, marine spatial planning and environmental decision support systems rely on an understanding species distribution patterns and habitat linkages. This study demonstrates that predictive species distribution modelling approaches can be used to accurately model and map sparse species distribution data across marine landscapes. The approach used herein was found to be an accurate tool to delineate species distributions and associated habitat linkages, account for species-specific differences and support sustainable ecosystem-based management.
Information about stakeholder aspirations is a fundamental requirement for ecosystem-based management, but the detail is often elusive, and debates may focus on simplistic opposing positions. This is exemplified by the Antarctic krill fishery, which, despite a current operational catch limit equivalent to just 1% of the estimated biomass and actual annual catches much lower than this, is the subject of a high-profile debate framed around ambiguous concepts such as sustainability. Q methodology was applied to explore the detailed views of representatives of three stakeholder sectors (the fishing industry, conservation-focused non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and scientists from seven countries involved in research on the krill-based ecosystem). The analysis distinguished two clear groupings, one of which included the views of all NGO participants while the other included the views of fishing industry participants and a subset of the scientists. Key differences between the groups included the priority given to different management measures, and to continued commercial fishing. However, the results also revealed considerable overlap between viewpoints. Both groups prioritised the maintenance of ecosystem health and recognised the importance of defining management objectives. Also, neither group prioritised a decrease in catch limits. This suggests that most participants in the study agree that management should improve but do not perceive a major problem in the ecosystem's ability to support current catch levels. Cooperation to identify shared management objectives based on stakeholder aspirations for the ecosystem might enhance progress, whereas polarised discussions about preferred management measures or ambiguous concepts are likely to impede progress.
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) sets out a plan of action relating to marine environmental policy and in particular to achieving ‘good environmental status’ (GES) in European marine waters by 2020. Article 8.1 (c) of the Directive calls for ‘an economic and social analysis of the use of those waters and of the cost of degradation of the marine environment’. The MSFD is ‘informed’ by the Ecosystem Approach to management, with GES interpreted in terms of ecosystem functioning and services provision. Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach is expected to be by adaptive management policy and practice. The initial socio-economic assessment was made by maritime EU Member States between 2011 and 2012, with future updates to be made on a regular basis. For the majority of Member States, this assessment has led to an exercise combining an analysis of maritime activities both at national and coastal zone scales, and an analysis of the non-market value of marine waters. In this paper we examine the approaches taken in more detail, outline the main challenges facing the Member States in assessing the economic value of achieving GES as outlined in the Directive and make recommendations for the theoretically sound and practically useful completion of the required follow-up economic assessments specified in the MSFD.
As a consequence of global climate-driven changes, marine ecosystems are experiencing polewards re-distributions of species – or range shifts – across taxa and throughout latitudes worldwide. Research on these range shifts largely focuses on understanding and predicting changes in the distribution of individual species. The ecological effects of marine range shifts on ecosystem structure and functioning, as well as human coastal communities, can be large, yet remain difficult to anticipate and manage. Here, we use qualitative modelling of system feedback to understand the cumulative impacts of multiple species shifts in southeastern Australia, a global hotspot for ocean warming. We identify range-shifting species that can induce trophic cascades and affect ecosystem dynamics and productivity, and evaluate the potential effectiveness of alternative management interventions to mitigate these impacts. Our results suggest that the negative ecological impacts of multiple simultaneous range shifts generally add up. Thus, implementing whole-of-ecosystem management strategies and regular monitoring of range-shifting species of ecological concern are necessary to effectively intervene against undesirable consequences of marine range shifts at the regional scale. Our study illustrates how modelling system feedback with only limited qualitative information about ecosystem structure and range-shifting species can predict ecological consequences of multiple co-occurring range shifts, guide ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, and help prioritise future research and monitoring.
We reconstructed the structure of a tropical marine food web and then analyzed it to evaluate how the trophic network could respond to anthropogenic pressures such as the removal of species by fisheries. To reconstruct the presence/absence of predator-prey interactions, we assembled detailed quantitative information from the scientific literature on the stomach contents of 80 predator species (elasmobranchs, teleosts and invertebrates) collected in the Golfo de Tortugas (Colombia) between 1990 and 2009. We tested three conceptual models of network structure (random, small-world, and scale-free), characterized by different system properties and tolerance to perturbations, to evaluate which one better fitted the reconstructed food web. Our results suggest that this network has small-world structure and scale-free properties. An impact on one species may therefore spread to many species through short interaction chains; only a few nodes with high centrality values would support the network structure. However, contrary to current theory, our analysis revealed no clear relationships between species with high centrality and the large-scale structural patterns observed in the network (small-world and scale-free properties). This observation indicates that ecosystem-based fisheries management should prioritize not only high-centrality species (e.g., shrimps, which furthermore are species of high commercial value in the area), but should also consider species with unique structural properties such as those with little or no topological redundancy such as large sharks. For this reason, top predator conservation needs more attention than currently received in fisheries management.
The three countries of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME), namely Angola, Namibia and South Africa, have committed to implementing ecosystem-based management (EBM) including an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) in the region, to put in practice the principles of sustainable development in ocean-related matters. There is also recognition of the need for marine spatial planning (MSP) as a process for informing EBM with regard to the allocation and siting of ocean uses so that ecosystem health is ensured and trade-offs between ecosystem services are appropriately dealt with. Marine spatial planning is both an integrated and an area-based process, and this paper produces a spatial characterisation of the BCLME for achieving a common basis for MSP in the region, focusing on the oceanography, biology and fisheries. Recognising spatial variation in physical driving forces, primary and secondary production, trophic structures and species richness, four different subsystems are characterised: (1) north of the Angola–Benguela Front, (2) from the Angola–Benguela Front to Lüderitz, (3) from Lüderitz to Cape Agulhas, and (4) from Cape Agulhas to Port Alfred on the south-east coast of South Africa. Research and monitoring requirements of relevance for MSP and EBM in the region are identified, focusing on understanding variability and change, including with regard to the boundary areas identified for the system. To this end, 14 cross-shelf monitoring transects are proposed (including seven that are already being monitored) to estimate fluxes of biota, energy and materials within and between the subsystems. The usefulness of models for understanding ecosystem variability and changes is recognised and the need for fine-scale resolution of both sampling and modelling for adequate MSP as input to EBM for the often-conflicting interests of conserving biodiversity, and managing fisheries, recreation, offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation, offshore mining and shipping routes, is emphasised.
The Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modelling tool was used to simulate trophic interactions in the Red Sea ecosystem, with emphasis on its fisheries. Time-dynamic simulations were run to quantify the impact of fisheries, which represent the main anthropogenic impact on the ecosystem. The model was fitted to a time series of observed catch and effort data to improve its ability to mimic changes in the Red Sea ecosystem. EwE was also used to predict the consequences of different fishing scenarios: maintaining the status quo, banning all fishing, and projecting into the future at the present growth rate of the fisheries. Monte Carlo simulations were used to examine the sensitivity of the predictions to changes in model input parameters and the risk of fish abundance falling below selected thresholds. Equilibrium surplus-yield analyses were carried out on the major groups affected by the fishery. Finally, the model was used to examine the conflict between artisanal and industrial fisheries in the Red Sea by running scenarios where the fishing effort of each of these sectors was doubled.
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) conducted a sur- vey of fisheries stakeholders on the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States to learn their views on ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) of fisheries resourc- es. The survey asked a series of attitude and opinion questions along with general environmental literacy and demographic questions to a sample of 7,850 fisheries stakeholders, stratified by region. Results indicate that respondents’ knowledge of the status of fisheries resources is qualitatively similar to NMFS ratings, though generally respondents were less than satisfied with current fisheries management. Results also suggest that, despite concerns over sev- eral specific measures, respondents gener- ally see potential in an EBFM approach to management.
Coastal states around the world are currently adopting an integrated and ecosystem-based approach to the management of coastal and ocean areas. The main aim is to promote resource use while protecting the integrity of the marine ecosystems. Focus is therefore on the conflict between economic development and conservation. Less attention is paid to the complex uses of the ocean and the conditions for regulating industrial activities and solving multi-use conflicts. This paper discusses principles for dealing with use conflicts in the context of ecosystem-based management. It argues that resolving use conflicts is not only an important issue in its own right, but can also be important for the marine environment and biodiversity. As an illustration, we look at the relationship between the fishing industry and the offshore oil and gas industry in Norway and Vietnam.