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The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Every month, I skim dozens of newsletters, reports, and articles for material relevant to managing and conserving marine ecosystems. And every month, I’m a little shellshocked by the onslaught of bad news. People ask me how I like my job, and I tell them that I love the oceans, I love the work, and I love the people I work with, but it is profoundly sad to chronicle the decline of ocean ecosystems. I know many Skimmer readers have these same – and perhaps even more intense – feelings and experiences. Several recent studies and a body of recent reporting are now providing a framework for recognizing and legitimizing these feelings and experiences as well as highlighting the need to develop systems to deal with them. This Skimmer provides a brief summary of recent research and news in the hopes it can help marine conservation and management practitioners move forward with their vital work studying, managing, and protecting marine ecosystems.

What is ecological grief?

  • As professionals in the marine conservation and management field, Skimmer readers are hyperaware of large scale and global changes to marine ecosystems changes including loss of biodiversity, top predators, iconic species, and biomass and the degradation of habitats. These changes are due to climate change, overfishing, coastal development, and other human activities.
     
  • New research is now examining the emotional and psychological toll that these changes are having on people, especially:
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: The EBM Tools Network got started in 2005-2006 under the leadership of Patrick Crist, then the director of conservation planning and ecosystem management at NatureServe. Over the past 14 years, the Network has grown to over 11,000 coastal and marine conservation and management practitioners worldwide, and is now run by OCTO, which also publishes this newsletter. For this issue of the Skimmer, we catch up with Crist, now principal at the consultancy PlanIt Forward, to see how conservation planning tools have changed over this time.

Skimmer: What changes have you seen in the use of conservation planning tools since the EBM Tools Network got started in 2005-2006? Are more conservation projects and groups using them? If so, why do you think this change has occurred?

Crist: It is really hard to quantify the use of tools – I haven’t seen any polling or studies on this although it would be really informative. Given that most conservation software is free, it is hard to tease apart casual downloads from actual application. For example, when the NatureServe Vista decision support system became free, there were about 2000 downloads worldwide almost immediately and there have typically been a few hundred every year since then. Periodic polling of the registrants, however, suggests single-digit percentages of actual use.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: In last month’s issue, The Skimmer interviewed three practitioners about their experiences developing and using serious games to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of the conservation and management of coastal and marine ecosystems.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Historically, games were a means for young people to learn critical survival skills. In recent decades, however, games have come to be viewed as simply a source of entertainment. A recent movement – “serious gaming” – is now revitalizing the idea that games can do a lot more than just entertain. It is showing that they can be a powerful tool for teaching, engaging stakeholders, conducting research, and evaluating public policy. For instance, serious games can:

  • Help players better understand complex topics and the interests of a wide variety of groups, promoting thinking about systems as a whole
  • Let players experiment with and see the consequences of different choices over time, promoting longer-term thinking
  • Create a high level of engagement with the public, potentially at lower cost than other more traditional engagement activities
  • Help policymakers and researchers understand stakeholder decision making and the way stakeholders may respond to a variety of policy choices.

This month The Skimmer has compiled information about role-playing/simulation games designed to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation. These serious games allow players to experiment with coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation actions (or inaction) to help players, researchers, and policymakers better understand how coastal and marine ecosystems (including resource users and human communities) work. We also interview a range of game developers about their experiences using their games in the field.

Look through our new compilation for a serious game for your coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation work.

Read about how these games are being used to engage stakeholders, educate students and the general public, and conduct research.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

The Skimmer interviewed three practitioners about their experiences developing and using serious games to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of the conservation and management of coastal and marine ecosystems. Learn about:

One striking commonality of these stories is the ability of games to engage a wide variety of audiences – oftentimes even wider audiences than those for which they were developed – in discussion and learning about the conservation and management of marine ecosystems.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

It’s no secret that news about the ocean is pretty disheartening these days. So, as we get started with 2020, we here at The Skimmer want to highlight a new report that looks at ocean potential. The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy recently released “The Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action”, which quantifies contributions that ocean-based mitigation strategies can make in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, while also delivering other ecosystem services. The report considers the potential contributions of:

  • Scaling up ocean-based renewable energy (e.g., wind, wave, and tidal power)
  • Reducing emissions from freight and passenger shipping
  • Increasing protection and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems (particularly “blue carbon” habitats such as mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses), which would provide carbon mitigation as well as other ecosystem service benefits
  • Shifting diets towards low-carbon sources of protein from the ocean
  • Storing carbon in the seabed.

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