OOS 22-9 - Coupling ecosystem services and related concepts for more robust ocean policy

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 10:50 AM
Portland Blrm 256, Oregon Convention Center
Karen McLeod and Erica Goldman, COMPASS

Ocean ecosystems provide a diverse array of benefits that feed and sustain our lives. The cumulative effects of human activities and their consequences, from overfishing to ocean acidification to climate change, are collectively transforming the ocean and threatening its ability to support human well-being. Effectively managing the risks facing these valuable ecosystems requires a shift to more coordinated and cohesive governance. Such an approach must sustain the full range of benefits that ecosystems provide to people, account for the cumulative impacts of a spectrum of activities across multiple scales, and ultimately build ecological and social resilience in the face of future change. In this talk, we’ll share progress on policy uptake for ecosystem-based management (EBM) and related approaches that account for ecosystem services in decisions. We will argue that tighter coupling between ecosystem services and closely related concepts, that to-date have been largely disconnected, especially in the policy realm, will lead to more robust outcomes for the ocean and people.


In the early 2000s, a pair of high-level, national commissions called for a shift away from focusing on single species, sectors, or threats to management that focuses on the system as a whole and its ability to provide a range of services over time – i.e., EBM. State and regional policies have adopted EBM in principle and in some cases, in practice, and EBM is foundational to the U.S. National Ocean Policy adopted in 2010. Meanwhile, over two decades, the policy discourse around ecosystem services evolved on a parallel, yet discrete track. During the Obama Administration, multiple drivers, including Hurricane Sandy, brought the importance of ecosystem services and natural capital into sharper focus, with broad guidance on incorporating ecosystem services in federal decision-making issued by the White House at the close of Obama’s term.

Scientists, particularly ecologists working closely with other disciplines, have played key roles in informing the discourse around EBM and incorporating ecosystem services into decision-making. And while future traction for EBM, the National Ocean Policy, and ecosystem services within this administration are not yet clear, the engagement of scientists will be crucial to the implementation of these and related concepts that can shape more robust ocean policy. Given the pace, rate, and scale of changes we’re witnessing in the ocean today, it is essential to continue to advance the underlying science and its application to ensure that these ecosystems, and their services, can thrive into the future.