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Ecosystems Dynamics & Assessment Branch

conceptual ecosystem
Figure 1. Examples of some important ecosystem services (blue icons), stressors (red), adverse effects (yellow), and issues of special concern (green) that will be considered in Ecosystem-Based Management on the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf (adapted from image by Barbara Ambrose, National Coastal Data Development Center).

There is now broad agreement that we need to adopt a more holistic approach to marine resource management at both the national and international levels. To accomplish this goal, the foundation of marine Ecosystem-based Management is now being developed and refined. Virtually all specifications of marine EBM share at least three common elements: (1) a commitment to establishing spatial management units based on ecological rather than political boundaries, (2) consideration of the relationships among ecosystem components, the physical environment, and human communities, and (3) the recognition that humans are an integral part of the ecosystem. We need to account for the important goods and services derived from marine ecosystems and the diverse and cumulative impacts of human activities in these systems (Figure 1) to forge a sustainable future.

The importance of implementing marine Ecosystem-based Management in the United States has recently been highlighted with the adoption of a new National Ocean Policy, established under presidential order on July 19, 2010. This policy identifies nine objectives, the first of which establishes Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) as its guiding principle. The second priority highlights the importance of Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning as a tool for EBM. It is clear that the impetus toward adopting the basic tenets of EBM is gaining momentum. We need to establish the scientific architecture in support of EBM in the region to meet these emerging challenges and opportunities. The objective of our Ecosystem Considerations website is to provide a broad overview of the ecology of the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf to support this overarching need. This region as a whole is recognized as one of more than 60 Large Marine Ecosystems distributed throughout the world ocean.

This site comprises several inter-related components designed to address different issues and needs. We seek to provide basic information on fundamental ecological properties of the system to the broad spectrum of stakeholders who will be engaged in the discussion of policy alternatives to meet the needs for Ecosystem-Based Management in the region. We build on the longstanding commitment of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center to understand and monitor changes in ecosystem structure and function in this region with the objective of informing management decisions.

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