Resilience concepts poised to aid management of coastal marine ecosystems

January 2, 2008

Journal devotes section to how new approaches can benefit economically vital yet ecologically complex areas
The January 2008 issue of BioScience includes a special section entitled “Managing for Resilience in Coastal Marine Ecosystems.” The four articles in the section highlight different aspects of attempts to incorporate modern concepts from mathematical ecology into ecosystem-based management of coastal marine areas.

Appreciation of the economic importance of services that marine ecosystems provide has grown in recent years, as has the awareness of those ecosystems’ imperiled state and their susceptibility to sudden ecological shifts. To understand how to sustain these valuable ecosystem services in the face of overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution, among other challenges, researchers need to know how marine ecosystems often continue to function despite disturbances--in other words, they need to know what makes these systems resilient when they are subjected to externally imposed changes.

The introductory article by Simon A. Levin and Jane Lubchenco provides an overview of the theoretical approach adopted by the authors of the other articles in the section. The theoretical constructs suggest a number of ways that management for resilience might be improved. Levin and Lubchenco emphasize that marine ecosystems are usefully seen as complex and adaptive. Interactions among the “agents” of these systems at small scales shape whole-system dynamics, which in turn affect the smaller scales.

The introduction is followed by an article that summarizes lessons learned about recovery, reversibility, and resistance to change of marine ecosystems. Authors Stephen R. Palumbi, Karen L. McLeod, and Daniel Grünbaum hold that these three components, ideally studied together, are key elements of resilience. They stress the need to analyze long-term population data to recognize trends in species’ occurrence that could foretell far-reaching disturbances.

Gretchen E. Hofmann and Steven D. Gaines next discuss emerging technologies that can be used to understand natural variability in marine ecosystems, which is essential to managing marine ecosystems for resilience. The technologies they discuss range from space-based monitoring to tagging of large pelagic organisms to the use of genomics to assess the distribution, abundance, and health of marine life.

In the last article of the section, Mary Ruckelshaus, Terrie Klinger, Nancy Knowlton, and Douglas P. DeMaster describe practical experiences and scientific and governance challenges arising from attempts to use the concept of resilience in coastal marine management. Although comprehensive case studies of ecosystem-based management of marine areas do not yet exist, Ruckelshaus and her colleagues detail challenges for fisheries and conservation efforts in the Southern Ocean, the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and coastal California that could be--and in some cases are being--alleviated by ecosystem-based management approaches. .

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: Protection of our marine life requires more resilience

Related Stories

Protection of our marine life requires more resilience

September 14, 2015

Management of the world's marine habitats needs to look beyond only Marine Protected Areas and put achieving ecosystem resilience at the top of the agenda, according to research by an international group of scientists led ...

Understanding reef systems at the genetic level

September 8, 2015

(—Coral reefs are the most diverse marine ecosystems, biodiversity hotspots now under anthropogenic threat from climate change, ocean acidification and pollution. Efforts are underway to protect and expand shrinking ...

Saving Louisiana's coast

August 27, 2015

It was Day Nine after Katrina struck in 2005 when Sarah Mack's bosses at the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans called her back to work.

The 'end of the high seas', or we watch the seas die

August 16, 2015

Even optimistic estimates for what might be achieved at December's Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris will not be enough to save the world's coral reefs, according to a Plenary session analysis presented at the Goldschmidt ...

Recommended for you

Could 'The Day After Tomorrow' happen?

October 9, 2015

A researcher from the University of Southampton has produced a scientific study of the climate scenario featured in the disaster movie 'The Day After Tomorrow'.

Image: Sentinel-1A captures Azore islands

October 9, 2015

This Sentinel-1A radar image was processed to depict water in blue and land in earthen colours. It features some of the Azore islands about 1600 km west of Lisbon, including the turtle-shaped Faial, the dagger-like Sao Jorge ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.