December 2010 - January 2011 (4:3)

Issue PDF archive: PDF icon MEAM16.pdf

Marine ecosystems are complex. Despite advances in our understanding over the past century, much remains a mystery about the linkages among species, habitats, and oceanographic factors. Thus, in managing the ocean, uncertainty is unavoidable. Policy makers and managers must make decisions despite incomplete data, imperfect models, and scientific disagreement. To account for this uncertainty, an adaptive approach is necessary: policy decisions are monitored to gauge their effectiveness, then altered as necessary to reflect what has been learned.

This is called adaptive management. Although definitions of the concept vary - from simply "learning from experience" to a more rigorous approach that involves treating policy decisions as actual experiments - adaptive management is widely considered a core concept in ecosystem-based management. What does it look like in practice? Here, MEAM asks several practitioners for their insights; their responses illustrate the range of perspectives on what adaptive management is.

A. Getting the public to understand the "learning as we do it" philosophy

By Laurence McCook, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Australia. E-mail: laurence.mccook [at]

[Editor's note: Laurence McCook is manager of ecosystem health and resilience for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and is the Authority's acting director of climate change. He was lead author of a study "Adaptive management of the Great Barrier Reef: A globally significant demonstration of the benefits of networks of marine reserves", published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (]

On defining "adaptive management" and its application on the Great Barrier Reef

I would use a pretty broad definition for adaptive management: "learning by and from doing". In this I would include things as simple as changing policies as new information becomes available. In our paper [in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences], we illustrate the progression of zoning management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park over the last 35 years in response to increasing knowledge of both the bio-physical system and the people who interact with it.

The more formally our policies follow the adaptive management cycle (iterative planning, implementation, auditing/review of outcomes, and adaptive planning in response to review) the more they fit the stricter definitions of adaptive management. GBRMPA has developed a plan to improve water quality through changes to land-use practices, based on knowledge of impacts on the reef. That plan specifically includes a large monitoring program that aims to inform the adaptation of the plan. More generally, we are also now required by an Act of Parliament to produce a review, every five years, of the state of the environment, the pressures on it, and management effectiveness in addressing those pressures. Although there is no formal requirement to act upon that assessment, there should be very considerable political pressure to do so.

Historically, much of the management of the Great Barrier Reef has involved "passive" adaptive responses to emerging information, rather than proactively incorporating assessment of effectiveness into management actions. However, such monitoring was explicitly implemented through the Marine Park's 2004 rezoning plan and incorporated into recent management efforts to address terrestrial runoff. And more active experimentation has been done as part of a line-fishing experiment, which altered zoning schemes (i.e., opened and closed areas to fishing) to test zoning effects on fish stocks.

On the challenges of practicing adaptive management

In addition to having to gain community acceptance of increased restrictions on uses, the challenges of practicing adaptive management include the lack of public understanding of the "learning as we do it" philosophy. Most community members feel that we should be reasonably sure of the best strategy prior to implementation. We shouldn't do "experiments" that affect their livelihoods! Of course, very often, we simply don't have enough knowledge of the system. Waiting for greater certainty carries the real risk of leading to "do nothing" strategies whilst we seek sufficient information - with the likely outcome of major environment degradation occurring before we finish understanding the system.

The other major challenges are probably matters of scale: the Great Barrier Reef is a really vast area, which makes any management challenging and complex. Similarly, the public's knowledge and understanding of the ecosystem often involves very different time scales to those that management may be able to influence.

To address these challenges, we invest a lot of time and energy in creating partnerships and stewardship within the community, including considerable education and awareness-raising efforts. It is way too easy to under-estimate the investment these things require: they are essential to effective outcomes.

B. Collect the right level of monitoring data to support the decisions you need to make

By Nick Salafsky, Foundations of Success. E-mail: nick [at]

[Editor's note: Nick Salafsky is co-director of Foundations of Success, an organization that works globally with conservation practitioners to help them test assumptions, adapt, and learn ( Salafsky has authored multiple publications on adaptive management, and was closely involved in the development of Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation, which lays out a framework for adaptive management, available at]

On treating management actions as experiments

Adaptive management requires practitioners to treat their actions as experiments, collecting information about whether they have worked as planned and how they can be improved over time. However, it does not necessarily require sophisticated quantitative experimental designs. The key is to collect the right level of monitoring data to support the management decisions you need to make. If you are doing a "routine" application of a tried and true technique, you may only need to collect minimal monitoring data. If, on the other hand, you are trying a novel strategy, or perhaps working in a situation where there is a high cost of failure (for example, managing the last population of an endangered species, or managing a project with lots of reputational risk for your organization), then you have to invest more in your monitoring strategy. Adaptive management requires conceptual clarity regarding the assumptions you are making. As one of my favorite quotes says, "It is better to have approximate answers to the exact questions than to have exact answers to meaningless questions."

On global differences in adaptive management

It is dangerous to generalize what adaptive management looks like in different parts of the world. I have seen residents of rural villages in the developing world do a great job of monitoring and testing the assumptions behind their actions when provided with good coaching support. Meanwhile I have seen sophisticated organizations in the developed world fail miserably because their scientists try to implement the perfect study that becomes the enemy of the good monitoring program. The key in all cases is to use models and terms that are accessible and understandable to the decision makers. One key principle of adaptive management is that it cannot be done by experts for managers. Rather it has to be done with managers.

Another principle is that the iteration cycles should be kept as brief as possible. Be agile and fail fast, rather than create ponderous systems that are difficult to revise except at great expense or with major revisions.

C. Adaptive management amid resource limitations and multi-jurisdictional authorities

By Mike Murray, US Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. E-mail: michael.murray [at]

[Editor's note: Mike Murray is deputy superintendent for programs at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in the US. He coordinated a multi-year process that updated the sanctuary's management plan in 2009.]

On adaptive management in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS)

Adaptive management at the CINMS has taken many forms over the years, based on scientific and social processes, involving many stakeholders, and forging ahead in the face of uncertainty, resource limitations, and other challenges. A recent management plan and regulatory update for the sanctuary ( was based on an adaptive management process that engaged stakeholders and experts and led to comprehensive changes in management. In addition, a zoning process that began in 1999 resulted in the establishment of 11 no-take marine reserves and two marine conservation areas, designated in phases in 2003 and 2007 ( The planning process was highly adaptive in nature, involving a design approach that sought to optimize reserve sizing and placement given biological and socioeconomic goals, available and newly collected data, close stakeholder involvement and consensus building, and scientific review and assessment.

While CINMS managers may not always have the resources to implement new management actions, the adaptive management planning process continues. A biogeographic study of CINMS waters and the surrounding marine region was prepared in 2005. It provided an assessment of physical oceanography and habitats, species distributions, and biologically significant zones relative to a range of options for changing the sanctuary's boundaries ( The idea of expanding CINMS boundaries was raised during the management plan revision process, and the biogeography study will help inform a future boundary change decision.

On challenges of practicing adaptive management

Often management adaptation simply requires financial resources beyond the means of the sanctuary. Another challenge can be the multi-jurisdictional nature of management within the sanctuary's boundaries. CINMS managers do not have unilateral authority to change the rules within the sanctuary, but instead must often coordinate and work through a number of other state and federal agencies, which adds time and complexity to the adaptive management process. Related to this, issues requiring an adaptive management approach often transcend the boundaries of the sanctuary, thus limiting the direct options available to CINMS managers. Finally, tightening federal budgets for national marine sanctuaries and other partners has limited our ability to sustain many ecosystem monitoring programs that offer long-term data to help inform management decision-making. In fact, a 2009 report on the condition of the sanctuary revealed that most of what we and other experts know about the health of the CINMS is often based on professional judgment more than data sets.

On addressing those challenges

One approach to facilitate adaptive management in the face of jurisdictional complexity, limits on CINMS authority, and the limited geographical range of the sanctuary has been to commit to a long-term engagement of numerous resource agencies in the management of the Channel Islands area. We do this primarily through inviting ten federal, state and local agencies to join our 21-member, community-based Sanctuary Advisory Council. The council meets every two months to discuss issues, learn from experts, and craft advice that helps guide adaptive management. This forum has helped agency partnerships to develop and be sustained, aiding government institutions in finding ways to navigate jurisdictional roadblocks to adaptive management.

D. Balancing the change implied by adaptive management with the certainty implied by spatial planning

By Bud Ehler, Ocean Visions, Paris, France. E-mail: charles.ehler [at]

[Editor's note: Charles "Bud" Ehler is co-author with Fanny Douvere of the UNESCO guide Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-Based Management ( He is also a consultant to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO.]

On adaptive management and spatial planning

Marine spatial planning (MSP) promotes the idea that plans should be flexible and incorporate new information as it becomes available - i.e., MSP should be continuing and adaptive. New plans and their management measures should build upon the results of previous experience, and change appropriately to achieve specific environmental and social objectives. Therefore, performance monitoring and evaluation and a framework for altering course if conditions warrant are essential ingredients of MSP.

At the same time, MSP promises to add certainty to both governmental and business decision-making through the identification of areas that are suitable or unsuitable for development or conservation, or in some cases, specific uses: e.g., renewable energy, shipping, military activities, or protected areas. Adaptive management is not new to businesses. Businesses implement adaptive management all the time - or they go out of business.

On the practice of adaptive planning in The Netherlands and Norway

Marine spatial plans should not be changed too substantially too soon after implementation. Small adjustments might be needed, but radical change soon after implementation might suggest that the MSP process and its analyses were faulty, its monitoring defective, or something else was seriously flawed. Even small changes, accumulated over time, might move the plan so far from its initial objectives and management measures that it might suggest a top-to-bottom review of objectives, analyses, and monitoring. Good practice suggests that plan revisions should be made regularly on a three- to five-year cycle.

That is exactly what is happening in two countries where MSP is mature enough to move into second- and third-generation plans. The Netherlands and Norway both use an adaptive approach to MSP. The Netherlands, one of the early MSP pioneers, has made several adjustments to its plan over the past six years, primarily due to more specific national guidance on the amount of wind energy expected to come from offshore areas. The first plan (2005) talked about various opportunities to designate 1000 km2 for wind energy that could produce 6000 MW of power. The second plan refined that objective to produce a specified amount of energy close to the coast and the remainder farther away. A principle of the approach of The Netherlands is to not make irreversible decisions too soon, leaving options open for as long as possible, and demonstrating to the private sector that other possibilities will be available in the future. Not all the ocean space of The Netherlands is allocated to specific uses. This approach allows new users (e.g., offshore aquaculture) assurance that space will be available.

Similarly in Norway, the first plan for the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea (2006) is now being revised, based on experience from its implementation. A new plan will be completed in 2011. Few questions about adaptation versus certainty have arisen at the strategic level thus far in the plan revision process - e.g., the goal of sustainable use of marine resources has not been questioned. On the other hand, tactical-level decisions regarding small changes to zoning plans are being discussed, but are not expected to have much impact on the new plan. General agreement exists that the original plan allows for enough certainty for the business sector to make its decisions. The fact that the plans are explicitly adaptive has gained greater acceptance by users of decisions that initially have gone against their interests. The users know that, in a later revision, they can raise the same questions about decisions they may have lost in the first round of planning.

[Bud Ehler thanks Leo De Vrees and Titia Kalker of The Netherlands and Erik Olsen of Norway for updating him on plan revisions in their respective countries.]

E. Building adaptive capacity may be more important than adaptive management

By David Obura, CORDIO East Africa, Kenya. E-mail: dobura [at]

[Editor's note: David Obura is East Africa regional coordinator of CORDIO, an international research program to respond to coral reef degradation in the Indian Ocean. Obura co-authored the report A Framework for Social Adaptation to Climate Change, published by IUCN in 2010 and available at]

On the relationship between adaptive management and adaptive capacity

My take on management in general has always been that it is just one of the tools available to take action on various things. For example, in developing countries, "management" may be irrelevant without also improving welfare and education so that people can make better choices. There has tended to be an overly strong focus in the marine conservation world on "management" and "managers" as if it/they exist in isolation from broader society. Since we have so little scope to do much with management in developing countries - or, at least, there are many more important/socially relevant things to work on (such as welfare and education) - the focus on management can miss the forest for the trees.

Therefore, having said that, adaptive management is just one component of the more holistic concept of adaptive capacity in socio-ecological settings. My work, which has traditionally focused on understanding coral bleaching to improve reef management under climate change, is now turning toward using that knowledge of reefs to increase the resilience of coastal communities/societies (i.e., increasing their adaptive capacity). Among the outcomes of this will be less destructive use of reefs and increased resilience of coral reefs and other ecosystems (we hope). There are many other ethically important outcomes as well - at individual, community, and institutional levels.

On resource management in the Western Indian Ocean region

In this region, I don't think there are any marine management regimes that are effectively protecting resources and ecosystems from long-term change (climate and increasing human populations). They are all too small, too parochial, not inclusive enough, too driven by institutional agendas/personalities/funding cultures. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be there; it just means that they are not truly effective.

In terms of adaptive management in the region, probably the new community-based initiatives - such as Velondriake in Madagascar, and the Kuruwitu community-run marine park in Kenya - are "adaptive" in that they have been set up recently in response to social and resource pressures. But they are not strictly adaptive in the sense that they don't have clear rules of engagement that are set and then scrupulously followed (or further adapted for solid reasons). In general the problem is that management in Africa tends not to be based on information yet, but more on institutional, personal, or historical factors. So decisions tend not to be made on clear guidelines or knowledge, but on other factors in response to unfolding events.

BOX: More sources on adaptive management

"Adaptive co-management for building resilience in social-ecological systems", Environmental Management (2004).

Adaptive Management: A Tool for Conservation Practitioners. Published by Biodiversity Support Program (2001).

Miradi Adaptive Management Software - assists conservation practitioners in designing, managing, monitoring, and learning from their projects. Free trial available.

"The need and practice of monitoring, evaluating and adapting marine planning and management - lessons from the Great Barrier Reef", Marine Policy (2008).

Recent issues of MEAM covered the central role of science in EBM, including whether science should drive the process or just inform it (MEAM 4:1, 4:2). What was not addressed is what should drive or inform the science. Everyone, including scientists, holds particular biases: pro-conservation, pro-industry, etc. And these biases, if not controlled, can affect the science generated to support EBM. The result is a mix of science and advocacy.

In EBM, there is a place for advocacy and there is a need for science, with a large gray area in between. Some practitioners prefer that scientists avoid all temptations to advocate for political positions. Others believe scientists are perfectly placed to advocate for needed policies. Here we present a debate on the subject between two EBM practitioners:

  • Jake Rice, senior national advisor for ecosystem sciences with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and
  • Michael Sutton, director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans at Monterey Bay Aquarium in the US, and a member of the California Fish and Game Commission.

The framing statement for this debate is:

"Scientists should never allow advocacy to enter their work."

Arguing in support of the framing statement - Jake Rice

When decision-makers have important environmental choices to make, they receive many documents to consider. Many come from interest groups - industries, environmental NGOs, communities - prepared by well-credentialed experts. They all have in common that their contents advocate the objectives of their organizations. They get treated as comparably partisan lobbying. Lobbying is appropriate in a democracy, but it starts with a desired outcome and selectively builds the strongest possible case to support that outcome.

Science advice is different. It is more than just one more document on the decision-maker's desk. It doesn't start with a desired outcome: it starts with a balanced view of all relevant information (including uncertainties). It identifies the consequences and risks associated with each option fully, clearly, and objectively. The conclusions are determined by the evidence, not the objectives of the authors. Correspondingly it has a much more privileged position in decision-making.

Decision-makers don't have to follow science advice. However, their accountability for accepting potentially harmful consequences (even uncertain ones) of their choices is far higher than their accountability for not taking the actions promoted in a document that was designed to advocate some pre-selected outcome. As soon as science advice is developed to advocate a pre-determined outcome, however important that outcome is in the views of those who drafted the advice, it loses any right to a privileged role in decision-making. The science advocates join the industries, communities, etc. as just one more lobby group selectively building a partisan case for something they believe in. Democratic? Yes. Science? No longer.

Arguing against the framing statement - Michael Sutton

My friend Carl Safina, the great ocean scientist and author, once wrote, "Imagine Rome was burning, and Roman scientists confined their studies to the nature of combustion?!" Scientists are not simply another special-interest group; they usually don't take sides in a particular debate unless one side is overwhelmingly supported by science. But they can and should advocate for their science to be incorporated into decision-making. And they can and should focus on solutions rather than just a more precise understanding of the nature of problems.

Science can inform, but seldom drives, decision-making on natural resource issues. Politics usually takes center stage and forces science into the back seat. That's why, for example, many fisheries under management have been decimated or destroyed by overfishing despite repeated warnings from scientists. Time and again, political compromises have violated biological bottom lines. As a result, the history of fishery management in North America can be summed up in two words: serial depletion. Politics trumps science every time, and fishermen and the marine environment are the losers.

One reason science isn't more influential is that most scientists are such poor communicators. They don't receive training in how to communicate with decision makers or journalists. They speak in jargon at public hearings. They write only for peer-reviewed journals and the gray literature, most of which does not influence decisions. Only by escaping from the ivory tower and advocating more effectively for their own science will scientists become more influential in decision-making.

Jake Rice

Mike's thesis includes two myths: politics necessarily forces science into a back seat in decision-making, and most scientists necessarily are poor communicators.

Training to communicate to scientific peers does not make scientists incapable of communicating with journalists and the public. The skills to do that are simpler and more common than the skills to understand marine ecosystems; it is a lack of willingness, not ability, to do the latter well and the former poorly. And if one can communicate, one can inform all the parties in political dialogue about consequences of alternatives.

This puts science in the heart of the dialogue; not on the margins. If our science is sound and central in the debate, it should carry the day. If it isn't good enough to carry the day, what is the justification for winning by playing the same partisan politics that one thinks biases the decision-making process to begin with?

Michael Sutton

"Sound science...should carry the day"? Lawyers are often similarly naïve, thinking that strong laws should necessarily prevail. But we have ample evidence that politics usually controls decision making despite sound science and tough laws. Many of our fisheries have suffered serial depletion notwithstanding ineffectual warnings by scientists who turned out to be right all along.

A few scientists are natural communicators, but most are not. Many focus solely on communicating with their peers rather than those who can really influence decision making such as journalists, politicians, and decision makers themselves. COMPASS, the Communication Partnership for Science of the Sea (, has helped scientists learn to communicate better and thus enjoy a far greater role in social discourse. When science migrates from the peer-reviewed journals to the New York Times, and scientists learn how to speak in terms most people can understand, each will have greater influence on decision-making.

Jake Rice

So Mike and I do agree that scientists can communicate effectively when the will is there. Create the will with better incentives; don't distort messages to make them juicier.

It is only partly the strength of laws that make them effective or ineffective. Largely it is strength of evidence brought to adjudications. Prosecutors who try to strengthen their cases by knowingly suppressing evidence face disbarment if caught, just as researchers risk disciplinary action if they knowingly falsify research results. Selectively cherry-picking literature to build arguments for a pre-selected message (advocacy science) is no different, ethically or practically.

I know well that "other considerations" often over-ride good science advice. Politics teaches us, though, that making science advice more strident only makes proponents of "other considerations" more strident, too. Rationality loses even more. Ecological advice integrated with socio-economic considerations brings the debate onto rational grounds, where our chances improve - a better option than advocacy science.

Michael Sutton

Whenever I see calls to "balance" or "integrate" science with socio-economic concerns, I'm reminded of what happened to Atlantic cod. *[See editor's note below.]

Scientists don't have to twist or exaggerate their findings to communicate the implications of their science. Advocates sometimes distort science to suit their agendas. All the more reason scientists should advocate for their science! Being a more effective communicator doesn't require misrepresenting science.

Politics may drive decision-making, but that doesn't mean science is irrelevant. If scientists fear to communicate the implications of their science for humanity, then all decision makers will be left with are the opinions of advocates. Decisions then become merely political compromises between opposing factions. Only when scientists step up and communicate the implications of their science for society is there any hope we will see better decisions. Scientists need to advocate for the accurate interpretation of their work, not leave it to be misrepresented by others.

* [Editor's note: Jake Rice was involved in conducting science on Atlantic cod in the 1980s and 1990s. For his response to this particular comment, including views on cod science and its communication, go here.]

For more information:

Jake Rice, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ottawa, Canada. E-mail: ricej [at]

Michael Sutton, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California, US. E-mail: msutton [at]

BOX: Your thoughts?

What did you think of this debate? Do you agree with Jake? Michael? Both of them?

Please let us know: editor [at] We will print responses in a future issue.

By Tundi Agardy, MEAM Contributing Editor (tundiagardy [at]

Debates about the role of science in policy can be polarizing. But one thing on which most everyone agrees is that management, once instituted, needs to be monitored to determine its effectiveness in meeting goals. Here the role of science is clear and uncontroversial: without it, restrictions on use cannot be appraised for their benefits, and no one can be sure if sacrifices made in the interests of keeping ecosystems intact and resource uses sustainable are really worthwhile.

Yet in hard economic times, monitoring regimes are often the first casualty of the need to limit expenditures in marine management. Why? In part, it is because monitoring, and the adaptive management that can flow from it, have no champions. No scientist has achieved fame from collecting and analyzing such data; publishing can only be sporadic after years of data are collected; and the time-consuming and methodical work that monitoring requires has little cachet. Monitoring can be an expensive draw on agency budgets, and often the argument is, "Well, the management measure has been taken, so why pour additional money at the problem?" Especially at sea, continual data collection across seasons - necessary in dynamic marine systems - can be exorbitant.

Recent austerity measures taken by governments support the claim that monitoring of management is one of the easiest things to slash, with adaptive management suffering indirectly as a result. In the UK, draconian measures were taken to trim the public sector (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs suffered major reductions in budget and staff), and everything from marine reserve science to fishery observer programs seems at risk. The US Congress has yet to agree to a budget for this year, but cuts in all environmental programs are likely. And it is not just national investments in marine management that are being curtailed: in the economic downturn, international aid has suffered, too, leading to the termination of grants programs across the globe. The termination of the Coral Reef Targeted Research (CRTR) program - financed by the Global Environment Facility and World Bank and operating in Mesoamerica, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and Oceania - is one alarming example.

Yet if there is any silver lining to the cloud of economic crisis, it may be in the forcing of scientists and planners to be more efficient in collecting information. This might mean utilizing sources of information obtained by other agencies for other purposes, in order to evaluate and amend management. Or it might mean looking for co-management opportunities in which users are tasked with collecting certain kinds of information. In addition it could mean catalyzing a shift in the burden of financing monitoring programs: from government (which usually shoulders the burden alone) to private sector financing in the form of payments for ecosystem services or other innovative financing schemes. Finally, tough times demand tough choices and vocal advocacy for the choices that are made. The many scientists and managers involved in generating information necessary for adaptive management and EBM may finally be finding a voice. There is certainly no better time than now to express why monitoring science is crucial and must be funded.

How has the economic downturn affected your ability to do science in the service of management, if at all? Please let me know: tundiagardy [at]

Webinar: Real Steps toward EBM along the West Coast of the US

Date: 13 January 2011
Time: 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST (6:00-7:30 p.m. GMT)

MEAM and the EBM Tools Network are co-hosting a live webinar with lessons on real-world EBM implementation from the West Coast EBM Network, which connects local EBM efforts in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Speakers will include the network coordinator and representatives from initiatives in the network.

The event is free of charge. You may register for the webinar at A recording of the webinar will be available afterward at For any questions, contact Sarah Carr at sarah_carr [at]

Rhode Island (US) releases ocean zoning plan

The first state-wide ocean zoning plan in the US was released in October by the state of Rhode Island. Called the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), it lays out an ecosystem-based approach for the development and protection of Rhode Island's ocean resources. It also dictates the location of future offshore wind energy projects in the plan region, which covers 3800 km2.

The development of offshore wind energy was a main driver in creation of the SAMP. The state believes the plan - which significantly streamlines the siting of new offshore energy installations - could help shorten the leasing process for such installations from ten years to two years. The plan is available at A press release is at

Best practices on mapping human uses of the ocean

The US National Marine Protected Areas Center has released a 12-page manual on best practices for mapping human uses of the ocean. Designed to inform marine spatial planning, the manual is principally based on lessons learned from the Center's participatory GIS-based process to map human uses in waters off the state of California. The brief but informative manual walks readers through a step-by-step process of planning and managing workshops with local experts and stakeholders, as well as processing and mapping data from those workshops. The National MPA Center (in partnership with the Marine Conservation Biology Institute) has also released an online mapping tool to help people visualize the results of its project to map California ocean uses. The California Ocean Uses Atlas online mapping tool and the manual Mapping Human Uses of the Ocean are available at

Guidelines on ecosystem approach to aquaculture development

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released guidelines to help policy-makers adopt an ecosystem approach to aquaculture. The guidance aims to integrate aquaculture within wider ecosystems so that it promotes sustainable development, equity, and social and ecological resilience. The guidelines are available at

New report on links between invasive species and climate change

Climate change and invasive species are major threats to biodiversity and to ecosystem services that human communities need. When combined, the impacts of these threats can compound one another, leading to ever-greater ecosystem degradation. A new report from the Global Invasive Species Programme (an international partnership) examines the links between invasives and climate change, and how policy-makers and researchers can respond. Invasive Species, Climate Change and Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: Addressing Multiple Drivers of Global Change is at

Guide to restoring degraded reef ecosystems

A new manual provides step-by-step advice on how to rehabilitate degraded coral reefs - from planning a project, to constructing coral nurseries, to transplanting the coral, and more. Published by the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management Program of GEF, the guidebook compiles lessons learned by researchers and practitioners worldwide. Although the manual aims to help minimize the failure of reef rehabilitation projects, the authors emphasize that success cannot be guaranteed. "Although restoration can enhance conservation efforts, restoration is always a poor second to the preservation of original habitats," they write. The Reef Rehabilitation Manual is available at

Canada/US council releases report on shared marine ecosystem

The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment fosters cooperative action by Canada and the US to enhance environmental quality in their shared Gulf of Maine ecosystem, along the countries' North Atlantic coastline. The council has released a report on the state of that ecosystem to introduce readers to the Gulf's natural and socio-economic environment. It also recently released a draft habitat restoration and conservation plan to address regional issues of degraded water quality, lost habitat, toxins, invasive species, and climate change. Both documents are available on the council website at

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

A recent study by researchers from Duke University in the US found that the process for developing most EBM software tools is fundamentally different from the development of commercial software. Many EBM software tools, for example, are a by-product of academic research and are therefore not developed with a formal business plan or significant start-up funds. In addition, the developers of many EBM software tools are opposed to charging license or service fees because they limit who is able to use the tool.

Nonetheless, like commercial software, EBM software does require sources of sustained revenue - to keep tools up to date with new technology and research, to fix bugs, and to improve functionality. The Duke report looked at factors that made EBM software tools financially sustainable and offered recommendations for developers. These include:

  • Plan for development of documentation, training, marketing, technical support, and software maintenance after the software has been released;
  • Use professional software engineers and engineering practices that promote sustainability;
  • Seek multiple revenue streams;
  • Explore open source licensing models; and
  • Commit to "championing" the tool for at least several years.

The full report is available at

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