Using the integrated ecosystem assessment framework to build consensus and transfer information to managers
Ecosystem-based management is widely regarded as a method to improve the way we manage our coastal marine resources and ecosystems. Effective ecosystem-based management relies upon synthesizing our scientific knowledge and transferring this knowledge into management actions. Integrated ecosystem assessment is a framework to conduct this scientific synthesis and transfer information to resource managers. Portions of the framework were applied to build consensus on the focal ecosystem components and processes that are characteristic of a sustainable South Florida coastal ecosystem that is producing ecosystem services at the level society desires. Consensus was developed through facilitated meetings that aimed to conceptualize the ecosystem, develop ecosystem indicators, and conduct risk analysis. Resource managers, researchers, academics, and non-governmental organizations participated in these meetings and contributed to the synthesis of science and a myriad of science communications to transfer information to decision makers and the public. A proof of concept Bayesian Belief Network was developed to explore integrating the results of this assessment into an interactive management scenario evaluation tool. The four year effort resulted in the development of a research and management coordination network in South Florida that should provide the foundation for implementing ecosystem-based resource management across multiple agencies.
Keywords: Ecosystem-based management, Integrated ecosystem assessments, South Florida, EBM-DPSER, Conceptual ecological models, Bayesian Belief Networks