Tundi's Take: Integration - How Can Something So Simple Be So Confounding?

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

By Tundi Agardy, MEAM Contributing Editor (tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net)

Integration is the cornerstone of EBM. The lack of it is why sectoral management typically fails to stem ecosystem decline - which, in turn, is why most everyone agrees that integration is necessary. But what, exactly, needs to be integrated in order to achieve EBM?

A key facet of management that requires integration is the science upon which management is based. EBM must counter an ever-accelerating trend toward specialization in the sciences; otherwise managers have difficulty "seeing the forest for the trees", missing the big picture of what is going on. The kinds of scientific information that need to be brought together, and assessed jointly, include:

  • Ecological information collected from all biomes that require improved management (this includes the primary ecosystem that is the target of EBM as well as associated ecosystems that are ecologically connected to it);
  • Information on environmental impacts caused by all involved sectors;
  • Socio-economic data on all affected stakeholder groups; and
  • Trends in each of these information sources over time.

The above states the obvious - that all kinds of science need to be brought together. But not so obvious is the need to also integrate language: the language of monitoring, of assessment, of management response. Along with the specialization in the natural and social sciences, there is increasing specialization in jargon used by the various disciplines. Without a common way of explaining concepts, there can be no common understanding - making steps toward the common goal of EBM more difficult.

Another crucial facet of EBM that requires integration is governance. Governance affects not only how management will be executed, but also how information will be collected, synthesized, and shared - well in advance of a management response. Thought must be given to the most appropriate framework for marine and coastal governance in any EBM context. Clear lines of authority (not necessarily top-down) that allow cross-sectoral management, as well as management across various scales (communities and institutions through to national and international) should be part of any EBM process.

Finally, governance is meaningless without mandates. EBM integration must include requirements that management authorities work together toward the common goal of EBM. Witness the number of times well-meaning initiatives have been launched to integrate scientific information about marine ecosystems, foster cooperation among agencies, and allow ecosystem approaches - only to die on the vine because the integration was voluntary (and typically underfunded). Mandates and the resources needed to carry them out will ensure that steps toward EBM are actually taken. In turn, cross-disciplinary science, common language, and effective integrated governance frameworks will help to make such mandates achievable.

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