December 2009 - January 2010 (3:3)

Issue PDF archive: PDF icon MEAM10.pdf

In the months that led up to December's UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, reports forecasting the environmental and socio-economic impacts to come from climate change were sobering. The future for our coasts and oceans? Rising sea levels and coastal flooding. Increased acidification of seawater. Coral bleaching. Poleward shifts in ocean habitats and species ranges. Conceivably, a hundred years from now, our coasts and oceans could look quite different from today.

This poses a challenge for resource managers. Faced with what amounts to a shifting playing field, they must develop ways to manage effectively both for today's world and for tomorrow's. It requires planning ahead: anticipating the changes that may come, assessing vulnerable areas, and working to mitigate the impacts of climate change - or to adapt to them. In this issue of MEAM, we examine several aspects of climate change as they impact ecosystem-based management, and how managers can be proactive in a changing world.

Managing shifting ecosystems

Over the past four decades, many fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean have been shifting northward, with some stocks nearly disappearing from US waters as they move farther offshore. This finding, from a new study by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists, shows the impact of changing coastal and ocean temperatures on fisheries in the region, says lead author Janet Nye. The shifting species, including several commercially important ones like yellowtail flounder and hake, are seeking waters that are cooler than what their traditional habitats have become, says Nye.

"Whether stocks depart from the region - due to changing thermal or oceanographic conditions brought about by climate change - is ultimately beyond human control," she says. "What we can recommend are robust management strategies that account for potential effects of climate change. Stocks facing pressures from overfishing are usually more susceptible to other pressures like climate change. Therefore, managing fisheries so they are sustainable, and thereby allowing for resiliency of individual stocks and the ecosystem, is an excellent start."

Knowing what level of fishing to recommend in order to avoid overfishing, and continually adapting that level to changing conditions (including the movement of species into and out of the region), will require constant and careful evaluation of stock dynamics, says Nye. "Robust management measures, procedures, and processes for today's ecosystems will be germane for future ecosystems," she says. "Managing sustainably [for today's ecosystems] sets us up to do so for future ecosystems, too."

She imagines a future in which the regional fishery management council that oversees US fisheries in her study area could be managing a different suite of species. "The stocks in our region today are a mix of species that are at the southern, middle, and northern extent of their ranges," she says. "It seems likely that if poleward movements of species continue as predicted and observed, then the ratio of southern to northern species will increase in this region." (Nye's study "Changing spatial distribution of fish stocks in relation to climate and population size on the Northeast United States continental shelf" was published in Volume 393 of the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.)

Marine protected areas normally have fixed boundaries and are designated to protect certain species or habitats. As a result, they may be particularly impacted over time by climate-related shifts in those species and habitats. MEAM's sister newsletter MPA News ( has documented several MPA-related strategies for addressing these shifts, including:

Protecting north-south corridors with networks of MPAs - In the March 2005 issue (MPA News 6:8), biologist Satie Airame explained how plans to designate a system of no-take marine reserves up and down the California state coast could be critical to species and habitats currently protected within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in Southern California. Protected species and habitats may eventually migrate northward out of the sanctuary to cooler waters, said Airame. "Because the scale of global warming is much larger than the Channel Islands region, complementary regulations that cover a much larger area - the entire state of California - are likely necessary," she said.

Adjusting protection regimes as species shift - In the same March 2005 article, David Obura of CORDIO, an international research program to respond to coral reef degradation in the Indian Ocean, said comprehensive marine zoning could be managed to follow shifting species and habitats of concern. In other words, protective measures in various zones could be up- or downgraded as needed over time. "If done cleverly, the boundaries of zones within such a system may not need to be changed - just the management regime," he said. He added this might be preferable to creating new MPAs to follow shifting species, or expanding the boundaries of existing MPAs, as those measures could be viewed by resource users as governmental "land grabs".

Protecting geologic features rather than specific habitats or species - In the March 2008 issue (MPA News 9:8), Joe Uravitch of the US National Marine Protected Areas Center cited a need to protect "important geological and persistent oceanographic features" with MPAs. These features, such as canyons and seamounts, are often areas of high biodiversity, he noted. "We can logically assume that ecosystems and species assemblages in these particular locations will change as species move poleward or die off," he said. "But we can also reasonably assume that the geologic features upon which these MPAs were established are the most likely places around which new species assemblages and ecosystems will form over time."

Policy options for sea level rise: Protect, redesign, rebuild, elevate, relocate, or retreat

In 2007, when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its forecast for sea level rise by the year 2100 (18-59 cm over current levels), it based the projection primarily on the natural expansion of water as it warms. This was because it was unclear at that time how large a role the gradual melting of polar ice sheets (in Greenland and Antarctica) would play. Since then, melting of these sheets has occurred at faster-than-expected rates, leading some scientists to project sea level rise of a meter or more by next century.

For low-lying coastal and island nations, the math is grim. Several small island nations like the Maldives are little more than 1 m above sea level, and may have to abandon their country eventually. Even in Australia, where there is enough land to allow for inward migration, sea level rise is already affecting planning and financial decisions. Last year, an administrative tribunal in the state of Victoria ruled that a project to build homes along the coast could not proceed in light of estimates that sea level rise could flood the site over time. In this case, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal applied the precautionary principle that although there was uncertainty about the magnitude of sea level rise to come, it was evident that such rises were to be expected.

Alan Stokes of the National Sea Change Taskforce, which represents the interests of coastal councils and communities in Australia, also cites a 2008 decision by the South Australian Supreme Court in which subdivision permits were refused because a developer had not adequately addressed the expected effects of sea level rise. "These cases are setting precedents that will no doubt be followed elsewhere in Australia," says Stokes. "We believe this is a positive step because they help to highlight and emphasize the need to factor projected sea level rise and other climate change impacts into coastal planning decisions."

The taskforce is encouraging its member councils to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation considerations in all coastal planning, undertake vulnerability assessments at regional and local scales, and even consider the carbon footprint of future land use and development. (The recommendations are in the taskforce report Planning for Climate Change: Leading Practice Principles and Models for Sea Change Communities in Coastal Australia, available at

A report this year by an Australian House of Representatives committee on climate change spelled out the policy options available to coastal communities in addressing sea level rise: protect, redesign, rebuild, elevate, relocate, or retreat. The report ( described the uncertainties local planning councils will face in deciding which policy would apply best in each circumstance. While some vulnerable coastal communities could be protected by sea walls and levees, there will be areas where it is not physically or financially possible to introduce an engineering-based solution. In the latter cases, a policy of "planned retreat" inland may become the only choice.

In the Netherlands, planned retreat is not an option, says Leo de Vrees, water manager for the country's Rijkswaterstaat North Sea Directorate. "We are a very densely populated country where almost half the population lives below sea level," says de Vrees.

The Dutch have a long history of defending against the sea. "We know from experience and research that it is possible to keep pace with sea level rise, even with higher scenarios," says de Vrees. "Presently, we supply 12 million m3 of sand per year [to maintain the Dutch coastline]. With a sea level rise of 130 cm, which is the higher scenario according to the Delta Committee [a Dutch government advisory committee], this would increase to approximately 85 million m3 per year." He says the main challenge is to balance the maintenance of the coast with the cost of doing so, which is now approximately 60 million euros annually.

Does building up a country's coastline count as ecosystem-based management? De Vrees says it does. "The Dutch coast is a natural dune coast with high natural values," he says. "Most of the coast, including the shallow waters, consists of designated Natura 2000 areas under the European Birds and Habitats directives. Beach nourishment and underwater nourishment as a method of maintaining the coast have been chosen, among other reasons, because of the benefit to the ecosystem. We call it 'building with nature'. Without this nourishment, the coast would erode whereby natural values would be lost. If hard structures were constructed [to defend against sea level rise], natural values would be lost as well."

Sand mining for the coastal maintenance work is even included in Dutch marine spatial planning: the country has dedicated a zone in its North Sea to that activity. "Because of the increased demand for sand and because of the increasing demand for space for other functions (especially offshore wind farms), it was necessary to safeguard certain areas for sand mining," says de Vrees. The sand mining zone extends from the 20-meter depth contour out to 12 nautical miles, covering roughly 5000 km2. The Netherlands is expected to require at least 9 billion m3 of sand over the next 100 years for nourishment (beach and underwater) and commercial purposes. "The sand mining zone is certainly large enough to supply that amount," says de Vrees.

Protecting ecosystems, protecting ourselves

A relatively new concept in the marine and coastal management field is ecosystem-based adaptation. It consists of the sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems, with the goal of allowing those ecosystems to continue providing vital services to help people adapt to climate change. Take coral reefs and mangrove forests, for example. They can play a crucial role in protecting shorelines from flooding, erosion, and extreme weather events. By protecting and restoring these ecosystems, managers increase ecosystem resilience and allow coastal communities to adapt better to a changing world.

In a new IUCN report The Ocean and Climate Change: Tools and Guidelines for Action, authors Dorothée Herr and Grant Galland strongly recommend the adoption of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA or EBA) strategies. They also note the distinctions between EbA and ecosystem-based management. "Ecosystem-based management is one of the critical means of delivering EbA, especially for building ecosystem resilience and when considering the needs to reduce other non-climate stressors such as overfishing or pollution," says Herr, of IUCN. "However, since EbA is applied in the context of responding to new situations brought about by climate change, specific EbA interventions might not be directly apparent from an EBM point of view."

To illustrate, she cites mangroves. Under an EBM approach, timber harvest from mangroves could be sustainably managed at a certain level. But from an EbA point of view, says Herr, a reduction in that harvest level might make sense to maintain a higher stand density and reduce the impacts of increased storm surges due to climate change. "While EBM is an overarching approach to protect ecosystem function and key processes as well as to manage natural resources, EbA involves a set of activities that specifically increase resilience and reduce vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change," she says.

Galland, a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, says an EbA approach might not fit the needs of all coastal communities. "It would be naïve to think that the people of Manhattan Island could dedicate the time and space required to restore riparian zones and coastal wetlands in response to the threat of rising sea levels," says Galland. "Also, they can afford large-scale, industrial fixes - including walls, water pumps, etc. - to keep their city safe. Those tactics are complementary to EbA and, under some circumstances, more appropriate than it." A new IUCN guide Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: A Natural Response to Climate Change provides several case examples of how EbA has been incorporated in terrestrial and coastal resource management (

Christian Nellemann of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says that protection of coastal and marine ecosystems is now more critical than ever. This is in light of findings that seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and salt marshes serve as major carbon sinks for the world - meaning they store or sequester carbon dioxide, effectively removing it from the atmosphere. In the new UNEP report Blue Carbon: The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon, Nellemann cites that over half of the biological carbon captured in the world is captured by marine living organisms, and that the above-mentioned habitat types are responsible for most of what is actually stored. By preventing the further degradation of these ecosystems and working to restore them, humans can help offset 3-7% of current fossil fuel emissions over two decades, according to the report. (The report is available at

"We know that improved coastal management will benefit biodiversity, food security, health, and coastal livelihoods," says Nellemann. "But it has not been brought to public attention how crucial many of these ecosystems are for binding and storing carbon, or how large the potential is for sequestration through restoration of these habitats."

Nellemann would like to see the creation of a global "Blue Carbon Fund", as suggested by UNEP, to support and generate investments in the protection and restoration of seagrasses, mangroves, and salt marshes. He says such activities would generate jobs, development, protection of biodiversity, and climate mitigation - all at the same time. "It is an extraordinary win-win opportunity," he says.

Ross Sea: An ideal site for studying climate change?

David Ainley has studied Adélie penguins in the Ross Sea of Antarctica since the late 1960s. Over that time, he has watched climate changes affect penguin populations - sometimes in beneficial ways, sometimes not. Owing to increased winds, nearshore waters have become ice-free earlier in spring (or even in winter), making it easier for the penguins to reach the sea to gather food. On the other hand, the increased winds lead to thinner sea ice in general, which is a problem for nearby Emperor penguins whose colonies depend on the ice to stay in place longer.

Ainley says the Ross Sea ecosystem serves as a particularly useful site for studying climate change. The reason, he says, is that it remains relatively pristine. Due in part to the fact it is completely ice covered for seven months of the year (and partially so for the remaining months), the Ross Sea has historically experienced low levels of exploitation from fishing and whaling. As a result, the sea still has a full suite of top predators.

"Having an oceanic ecosystem available that has not been exploited - one in which whole functional groups have not been removed - is a marvelous opportunity to investigate food web processes and the effects and responses of species interactions," says Ainley. "This allows us to understand how food webs once were structured and how these intact food webs once responded (or not) to climate cycles and change." He compares the Ross Sea to other parts of the Southern Ocean, where there was little data collection before most of the whales were gone and huge expanses were fished out of demersal species. "A number of trends in top predators in those areas, thought initially to be related to climate, can be explained as responses to the exploitation of competitors or, more recently, the competitors' recovery," says Ainley.

The Ross Sea is not completely free of exploitation. Since 1996, an industrial fishery for Antarctic toothfish has targeted the sea, with a catch of roughly 3000 tons/year. Before the region entices more fleets to its severe waters, Ainley would like to see the entire Ross Sea set aside as a no-take marine reserve. He is science director of a project, The Last Ocean (, which champions that idea. "The Ross Sea covers 3.2% of the Southern Ocean," says Ainley. "Viewing the Southern Ocean as a whole, it would be wise to set aside portions where there would be no exploitation, thus to benefit the science that is the hallmark of international cooperation under the Antarctic Treaty." He adds a Ross Sea reserve could also help restore depleted species in neighboring areas of the Southern Ocean.

For more information:

Janet Nye, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, US. E-mail: janet.nye [at]

Alan Stokes, National Sea Change Taskforce, Sydney, Australia. E-mail: stokes [at]

Leo de Vrees, Rijkswaterstaat North Sea, The Netherlands. E-mail: [at]

Dorothée Herr, IUCN-USA, Washington, DC, US. E-mail: Dorothee.Herr [at]

Grant Galland, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, US. E-mail: ggalland [at]

Christian Nellemann, UNEP, Lillehammer, Norway. E-mail: christian.nellemann [at]

David Ainley, The Last Ocean, Sausalito, California, US. E-mail: dainley [at]

BOX: More information sources on climate change and EBM

MEAM has compiled a list of 20 useful reports and websites on climate change - from general overviews, to sources that focus on specific aspects (sea level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, etc.). See it here.

By Tundi Agardy, MEAM Contributing Editor. E-mail: tundiagardy [at]

Climate change may change everything, even in the vast and resilient global ocean. How can managers be proactive about climate-induced changes? What kinds of information do they need? How can they work around (or with) the substantial uncertainties that surround how ecosystems will respond, and at what rates?

I have been thinking about the role of science in adapting EBM to a rapidly changing world. My thinking has been spurred by work with the North American Marine Protected Area Network initiative (NAMPAN), which is considering how climate change could impact areas identified by the initiative as high priorities for conservation. (NAMPAN is supported by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation and the three countries that make up the CEC - Canada, the US, and Mexico.)

In my view, science can be used in a spectrum of ways to help planners and managers cope with an ever-shifting mosaic of ecosystems, habitats, and species. The ways range from a basic approach to more complex ones:

  • The simplest approach involves gathering expert opinion on how climate change might affect each particular species or habitat type. These opinions are then passed on to planners and managers who are focused on those specific organisms or habitats.
  • A more systematic approach is to "georeference" the climate change information - applying the gathered expert opinion to specific places. Habitat mapping is needed to do this, at various nested scales: across ecoregions, across habitats, and across particular sites of conservation importance. This allows triage. In other words, effort to predict changes driven by climate would focus primarily on areas deemed to be ecologically significant.
  • The most sophisticated approach uses climate models to predict very specific changes in geography (how habitats and species might move due to climate change), productivity, and ecosystem health. The scenarios produced by such an exercise could guide management in a number of ways. These could include focusing effort on maintaining the resilience of the most ecologically critical parts of the marine system, preventing barriers to the movement of species and communities, and easing harvest pressure on resources predicted to be crucial in maintaining marine food webs in the future.

What is clear is that EBM will have to ramp up its adaptability and its responsiveness to the coming changes to be effective in a climate-changed future.

Without zoning, marine planning will be ineffective

Dear MEAM:

I totally agree with Tundi Agardy ("MSP in Europe: Can MSP Help Achieve EBM without Ocean Zoning?", MEAM 3:2). I am concerned that certain proposals for marine planning are concentrating far too much on just integrating different user interests and balancing environmental, social, and economic interests without understanding the key issues. This is being sold as a "win-win" for everyone, which it would be if it were truly to deliver an ecologically sustainable long-term solution.

Marine plans require an ecological foundation - such as incorporating zoning or an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas -- to be effective. Those without such a foundation miss the point that we, including our long-term social and economic interests, are dependent on ecological systems. "Zoning in which environmental protection is harmonized with uses of the sea is likely the most effective approach to mitigate and possibly reverse extensive and increasing human impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems," as Agardy quotes, is absolutely right!

Melanie Gomes
Marine Policy Officer, Northern Ireland Marine Task Force, Ulster Wildlife Trust

Dear MEAM:

This is just a short note to support Tundi's honest recognition of the futility of MSP without zoning. Only a very small proportion of humans accept reductions in freedom voluntarily. If even a few break the "plan" (for consequent personal gain), then even the highly moral minority will tend to see the futility of following the plan. I think that any open observation of human behavior, including in the fishing community, will show this.

Graeme Kelleher AO.
Consultant (former Chairman of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority), Australia

EBM and definitions

Dear MEAM:

I was disappointed with your material on defining ecosystem-based management ("Communicating EBM: Facing the Challenge of Describing a New Management System to Various Audiences", MEAM 3:2). The general treatment seemed to be along the lines of "What is the appropriate name for a recognized activity?" That should be the least of our worries. Call it Operation X, Z, or Omega for all I care. What does matter are the precise definitions of various activities or objectives.

Sidney Holt
Biologist and consultant, Italy

Marine spatial planning (MSP) aims to organize the use of marine space in a way that balances demands for development with the need to protect ocean ecosystems. By allocating specific human activities to particular areas, MSP can help reduce user conflicts (when there is spatial overlap among uses) as well as conflicts between uses and important natural areas.

For such planning to take place, information is needed on where human uses are currently happening, and ideally what impacts those uses are having. As MSP receives greater attention from management institutions worldwide, the need to map existing human uses of the ocean is increasing, too.

Below, MEAM talks with practitioners about two projects that assessed human activity in the oceans. One mapped human uses in waters off eastern Canada to inform future MSP efforts. The other measured the cumulative impact of human activities in oceans worldwide, for potential application to global or regional planning projects.

Mapping human uses as a baseline tool

Published by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in 2007, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland: Atlas of Human Activities provides planners with detailed maps of human activities on the Grand Banks, a group of underwater plateaus southeast of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The activities include fisheries for more than 24 species, oil and gas production, maritime traffic, oceanographic research, submarine cables, and military waste disposal. The atlas is available at

Sigrid Kuehnemund is section head for integrated management in DFO's Newfoundland and Labrador region, which managed the atlas project:

MEAM: How is the atlas being used?

Sigrid Kuehnemund: The atlas is the only comprehensive spatial depiction of the array of human activities occurring on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland during a specific time period (2000-2003). This publication allows government agencies and stakeholders to develop a better understanding of the spatial extent of activities, areas of overlap, and potential user conflicts. This is useful as a baseline tool for marine spatial planning purposes as a means of implementing integrated management in the Placentia Bay - Grand Banks Large Ocean Management Area.

DFO has also been using the atlas as an information source to aid in assessing threats from human activities to valued ecosystem components. This is done both at the Large Ocean Management Area scale and at the finer scale of Ecologically/Biologically Significant Areas.

MEAM: What were the main challenges DFO faced in producing the atlas?

Kuehnemund: The most significant challenge was timely acquisition of the numerous data sets required to represent all of the themes defined in the scope of the project. Much of the data came from within DFO, but considerable information had to be tracked down from outside sources. This was achieved through effective communication: the objectives of the atlas were clearly explained to all data-providers to ensure data requirements were met and that maps could be produced as quickly as possible. As part of the quality-control/quality-assurance process, these lines of communication were also invaluable for review purposes, allowing data-providers additional input on the final product.

MEAM: Considering that uses of the ocean can change over time, how often will the atlas need to be updated to maintain its usefulness for planning?

Kuehnemund: A five-year timeframe [for revision] seems reasonable given the level of effort involved in data acquisition, time required for new data sets to be developed, and availability of resources and time. Integrated management is a continuous process of planning, monitoring, and evaluation. As a contribution to planning, spatial depiction of human activities can be a component of monitoring that can be revisited as part of the evaluation of the integrated management plan. The integrated management plan objectives will inform what spatial updates may be required.

MEAM: Most of the data in the atlas are relatively recent, from 2000-2003. Is there a role for older, more historical data on human uses in a project such as this?

Kuehnemund: Given the time and resources available to acquire and map the data associated with this very labor-intensive project, it was decided to display recent activities since that would be most manageable. It was also in keeping with the concept of the atlas as a planning tool for the immediate future. The production of this atlas is a starting point that can serve as a historical record as integrated management moves forward.

For more information: Sigrid Kuehnemund, Fisheries and Oceans, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. E-mail: Sigrid.Kuehnemund [at]

Mapping human impacts

To the extent it has been implemented, marine spatial planning has generally been based on maps of current human uses of the ocean: for example, this activity is happening here and that activity is happening there. In contrast Ben Halpern, a biologist with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California at Santa Barbara, led a project to measure the extent to which human activities are impacting the oceans.

Combining 17 global data sets on human-related impacts (from fishing to maritime traffic to atmospheric pollution and climate change), the project found that no area of the oceans is unaffected by anthropogenic influence. A large fraction of the oceans (41%) is "strongly affected" by multiple drivers, according to the study, which produced color-coded maps to show areas of high, medium, and low cumulative impacts. The project website

Halpern says the process and maps offer flexible tools for regional and global efforts to allocate conservation resources, implement ecosystem-based management, and inform marine spatial planning:

MEAM: In your view, should MSP be based on human impacts rather than human uses?

Ben Halpern: This question gets at a really important distinction. Maps of human uses - or, in other words, the "footprint" of human uses - provide important information on what happens where (and how much), but not whether the uses actually have any consequence for the marine ecosystems. Ecosystems and species have very different vulnerabilities to different human uses, so not all human uses lead to ecosystem change. Impact maps provide you all of this information, and marine spatial planning needs all of it.

Practically, MSP has two planning objectives: to separate incompatible uses (e.g., oil extraction and trawl fishing) and to ensure sustainable use and ecosystem health within each zone. The latter objective requires an understanding of how ecosystems actually respond (or do not respond) to human uses so that we can assess changes in overall ecosystem health.

MEAM: You have written that your framework can be applied to local- or regional-scale planning. Have any planners at that scale approached you?

Halpern: Yes. We have completed two regional-scale analyses, one for the west coast of the U.S. and Baja California (Mexico), and one for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. We are also working on analyses for the state of Massachusetts and for the Great Lakes. All of these projects have been supported or encouraged by planning agencies and organizations. An independent effort used our framework at a very local scale for the north end of San Francisco Bay.

The tools we have developed were designed for use by anyone, and so anyone could apply the tools. But there are lots of issues that emerge when conducting these analyses at a new location. We are happy to help advise new projects, either informally or in a collaborative capacity, and encourage people interested in pursuing these kinds of analyses to contact us.

MEAM: In your model, the highest possible score - in terms of impact on the oceans - is 90.1. Yet you describe any score over 15.5 as "very high", and only a tiny number of cells score higher than 50. Is there a possibility that some people might look at the low relative scoring and conclude that the oceans are actually not very impacted in general?

Halpern: Our translation of cumulative impact scores into ocean condition was done by ground-truthing our results to independent estimates of overall ocean health from around the world. So while 15.5 might seem low compared to the global maximum (90.1), these independent measures of ocean health tell us that scores higher than 15.5 mean the overall ocean health there is really bad (i.e., very high impact). Cumulative impact scores in the 50s, 60s, and up to 90.1 are places on the planet that are truly trashed.

For more information: Ben Halpern, NCEAS, University of California, Santa Barbara, US. E-mail: halpern [at]

BOX: More examples of mapping ocean uses

Beaufort Sea Integrated Ocean Management Planning Atlas (2009)
Illustrates activities in the Beaufort Sea Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA), off Canada's Arctic coast.

California Ocean Uses Atlas Project (ongoing)
Mapping human uses in waters off the coast of California.

Atlas of the Patagonian Sea: Species and Spaces (2009)
Illustrates the use of the Patagonian Sea by animal species, not humans. (The sea spans from southern Brazil to southern Chile.) The atlas uses satellite-tracking data from 16 species of marine animals, and is intended to inform regional policy on fisheries and maritime transportation.

Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools for facilitating EBM processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network (, a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.

By Sarah Carr

Monitoring a variety of ecological and socioeconomic indicators is essential to planning and measuring the effectiveness of EBM. Some useful tools exist to help develop monitoring plans, including:

Miradi (, a conservation planning and implementation tool that helps users identify and prioritize monitoring indicators to measure the status of conservation targets and assess the effectiveness of their strategies. Eventually, the tool will also facilitate the storage and analysis of key monitoring data.

Sampling Design Tool for ArcGIS (, a free ArcGIS 9.2 tool for selecting a sample from a population and performing sample design analysis. When these functions are done iteratively, the tool can help develop an optimal sampling design which minimizes cost.

Visual Sample Plan (, a free tool that supports the development of sampling plans. It includes sample location visualization capabilities and optimal sampling design and statistical analysis strategies.

Learn more about these tools and related resources at (FAQs #22 and 23).

(Sarah Carr is coordinator for the EBM Tools Network. Learn more about EBM tools and sign up for Network updates at

UK passes Marine and Coastal Access Act

In November, the UK passed the Marine and Coastal Access Act, establishing a wide-ranging policy to enhance protection of the marine environment, improve fisheries management, and allow for easier coastal access. The Act also lays the framework for developing a national marine planning system that will set priorities and guide managers in the sustainable use and protection of marine resources.

Specifically, the Act prescribes the following measures, among others:

  • A process to develop a national marine policy statement, which will be used to support an integrated approach to management and a series of regional marine plans;
  • Establishment of a new Marine Management Organisation to regulate development and activity at sea, centralize information resources, and enforce marine environmental protection laws;
  • Planning and designation of a national network of MPAs (called Marine Conservation Zones under the Act) to protect important species and habitats;
  • Simplification of the marine licensing system;
  • Reform of inshore, migratory, and freshwater fisheries management; and
  • Creation of a single coastal path around England to allow people to enjoy the benefits of the coast.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, "This historic, ground-breaking legislation fulfills the Government's 2005 commitment to introduce a new framework for managing the demands we put on our seas, improve marine conservation, and open up access for the public to the English coast."

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will oversee marine planning, licensing, and conservation, and is intended to serve as a "one-stop-shop" for any developers whose projects have an impact on the sea. The goal is to provide a more streamlined, consistent process for considering license applications while also allowing managers to view each project and its potential impacts in more of a holistic, ecosystem-based manner than previously done. For more on the Marine and Coastal Access Act, go to

South Africa's coastal management law takes effect

A law to guide management of South Africa's coastline took effect on 1 December 2009. The Integrated Coastal Management Act, signed in February of this year by then-President Kgalema Motlanthe, covers conservation and sustainable development of the coastal zone.

In a statement to mark the law's taking effect, the national Department of Environmental Affairs said, "The 'evolution' of integrated coastal management has culminated in this tool that recognizes the ecological, social, and economic interactions within the ocean and land interface. The Act is based on a national vision for the coast, which includes the socially justified sharing of benefits derived from a resource-rich coastal area without compromising the ability of future generations to access those benefits." The law is available at

Presentations available from symposium on marine spatial planning

A symposium on 16 November 2009 sponsored by the US Office of National Marine Sanctuaries examined how science (natural and socioeconomic) has been applied to coastal and marine spatial planning. Presenters described cases from across the US. Fifteen presentations from the symposium are available online at