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Ecosystem Based Management: An Analysis of National Needs and Opportunities

This project began in July 2017 and will end July 2020

Ecosystem based management (EBM) is a holistic, adaptive approach to developing policies that ensure ecosystem sustainability, food and water security, and improve human health outcomes for future generations. Informed by science, it incorporates the entire ecosystem, including humans, into resource management decisions. We are working to identify three to five regional ecosystems where EBM could be improved by research efforts to fill knowledge gaps that limit effective action.

Why We Care
Ecosystem based management (EBM) aims to achieve ecosystem sustainability by developing policies and implementing actions that take into account the entire ecosystem. NOAA has invested considerable effort in EBM in ocean and coastal areas, including Integrated Ecosystem Assessments. NOAA has also developed separate EBM plans for specific estuarine systems (e.g., Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Mississippi Delta). Some state examples exist (e.g., Special Area Management Plans) where governance structures have been created at different scales to facilitate the connection between research and policy on specific ocean and coastal environmental issues. However, EBM has yet to be routinely considered for regional coastal ecosystems, despite the patterns in variability that characterize these connected ecosystems.

What We Are Doing
We are working to identify three to five regional ecosystems where EBM could be improved by research efforts to fill knowledge gaps that limit effective action. Our work plan is structured to address five specific tasks:

  1. Identify critical regional ecosystem types and issues that are amenable to the EBM approach;
  2. Determine the limitations of current traditional management approaches;
  3. Assess how an EBM, supported by key scientific information currently missing from the process, would lead to outcomes that mitigate or prevent negative natural and societal impacts and how an EBM approach could realistically be implemented using current governance structures;
  4. Determine what natural and social science information tools are needed to fill knowledge gaps and enable EBM;
  5. Recommend a realistic path forward that management agencies in the specified region could pursue to implement EBM approaches.

The project is funded by NCCOS through the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region (CINAR), and is led by Dr. Michael Roman (UMCES/HPL) with Co-PIs William Dennison (UMCES/IAN), Thomas Miller (UMCES/CBL), Fredrika Moser (Maryland Sea Grant Program), Kenneth Rose (UMCES/HPL), Lisa Wainger (UMCES/CBL), and Aime West (UMCES/CBL).

Benefits of Our Work
The project team will identify a broad range of issues in regional coastal ecosystems (e.g., offshore energy production, coastal development). For each of these issues, or class of issues, we will identify specific questions and problems that have inherent trade-offs associated with their resolution, which, in turn, necessitates an EBM approach. Finally, we will evaluate each issue, or class of issues, in specific regional ecosystems. These efforts will result in a list of candidate issues and locations that would benefit from an EBM approach. This list will be evaluated by a project advisory board, established in concert with the NCCOS Program Manager, to produce the final list of issues and locations where EBM approaches should be focused.

To achieve the list of candidate issues and locations, in 2018 we conducted an online survey and semi-structured interviews with coastal scientists and managers to describe practitioners’ perspectives on EBM. We also used a variety of additional information sources to identify emerging research opportunities to support EBM implementation. Results of the survey will be compiled and delivered as a final report to NCCOS.

Additional Resources

Click to expand resource list(s).

Products, Datasets & Reports

Conferences and Seminars
NOAA Central Library Seminar: Regional Research Needs for Coastal Marine EBM: Messages from the Practitioners with Amie West, Chesapeake Biological Lab, University of Maryland. 11 December 2019.

ASLO 2019 Aquatic Sciences Meeting: Planet Water: Challenges and Successes. 23 February – 2 March, 2019, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Special Session SS014: Ecosystem Based Management: Holistic Approaches to Effective Management of Regional Ecosystem. Wednesday, 27 February, 2019 (see program page 63)

Chairs: Michael Roman, Univ. of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Felix Martinez, NOAA/NOS/NCCOS; Amie West, Univ. of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Oral Presentations:
• Schwing, F.; Link, J.; Brady, P.: Planning and Implementing a Regional Ecosystem
Approach to Fisheries Management: A Case Study for Federal Ecosystem-Based
• Marshak, T.; Link, J.: Characterizing and Comparing Marine Fisheries Ecosystems in
the United States – Successful Factors in Moving Toward Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management
• Strand, E.; Goodbody-Gringley, G.: Characterizing Bermuda’s Baitfish Populations to Improve Management and Fishery Sustainability
• Williams, N.; Rose, K.: Towards Ecosystem-Based Management for Coastal Louisiana:
Evaluation of Data Availability and Constraints
• Martin Bras, M.; Cabral Guadalupe, A.; Fernandez Porto, J.; Latz, M.; Carter, M.: Supporting Local Education and Conservation by Integrating Researchers on Science Education and Training Local Researchers to Build Transferable Capacity
• Dennison, W.; Orth, R.; Lefcheck, J.; Landry, B.: Creating and Communicating Environmental Intelligence for Chesapeake Bay Research and Management
• West, A.; Roman, M.; Martinez, F.; Dennison, W.; Miller, T.; Moser, F.; Rose, K.; Wainger, L.: Perceptions of Ecosystem-Based Management: Tales From the Field.

Project Research Survey
Project Research Survey: Critical Needs in Ecosystem-Based Management. 4 October 2018. Survey Introduction: A group of researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science are working in cooperation with NOAA's NCCOS to review regional research needs that, if met, might encourage or support ecosystem-based management (EBM) strategies. We are seeking individuals working in coastal marine ecosystems who can offer valuable insight into regional issues and research needs. Would you be willing to share your knowledge and experience in a brief online survey? Results from this research will be used to guide agencies toward filling critical science gaps and encourage a more holistic approach to coastal ecosystems management. We anticipate the survey to take approximately 15–20 minutes. We appreciate your help. Please feel free to forward this email to others with experience in coastal marine resource management that might also be willing to participate.

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