What is ecosystem-based management?
Oceans and coastlines are home to some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. As overfishing, pollution, coastal erosion, climate change, and other stressors continue to take their toll, conventional “single-issue” marine management strategies have proven inadequate to address such complex problems. Consequently, national and international bodies including the US Commission on Ocean Policy, The Pew Ocean Commission, and Agenda 21 have called for a shift toward more comprehensive ecosystem-based marine management.
At its core, ecosystem-based management (EBM) is about acknowledging connections. Instead of focusing on the impacts of single activities on the delivery of individual ecosystem services, EBM focuses on the array of services that we receive from marine systems, the interactive and cumulative effects of multiple human activities on these complex systems, and the importance of working towards common goals across sectors.
New book on EBM from Island Press
Synthesizing the state of knowledge and current practice, Ecosystem-Based Management for the Oceans is the first comprehensive guide to utilizing ecosystem-based approaches in the marine environment. It provides a conceptual foundation for students and professionals who want to understand and utilize this powerful approach, and it employs case studies that draw on the experiences of practitioners to demonstrate how EBM principles can be applied to real-world problems.
Read a recent review of the book in Science magazine.
What’s the relationship between EBM and Marine Spatial Planning?
Ecosystem-based management refers to a new way of thinking about the relationships between people and coastal marine environments, and is really a shift in management paradigm, rather than a specific management strategy. A number of tested marine management strategies, including marine spatial planning (and related tools like marine protected areas, area-based management and no-take marine reserves), habitat restoration, catch shares, quotas, and other ways of controlling effort in fisheries, can be used to implement ecosystem-based management.
Marine spatial planning (MSP), where managers, scientists, and other stakeholders engage in a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas in order to achieve diverse ecological, economic, and social objectives, is of particular interest in the US right now. The US Ocean Policy Task Force developed a framework for marine spatial planning, and regional ocean governance organizations, like the Northeast Regional Ocean Council and associated Regional Planning Body, are actively engaged in translating this policy guidance into in-the-water activities in particular US ocean places.
Check back soon to learn more about the lab’s engagement in marine spatial planning in the Northeast and other parts of the world.
Why consider resilience?
One key to the successful application of EBM is understanding the factors that contribute to social and ecological resilience, that is, the extent to which a system can maintain its structure, function, and identity in the face of disturbance. Utilizing the resilience framework, professionals can better predict how systems will respond to a variety of disturbances, as well as to a range of management alternatives.