3173 A Biogeographic/Ecosystem Framework for Marine Spatial Planning

Saturday, February 19, 2011: 9:00 AM
140A (Washington Convention Center )
Lance Morgan , Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Glen Ellen, CA, United States
The National Ocean Policy (NOP) released by the Obama Administration in 2010 outlines a new approach to comprehensive, integrated, and ecosystem-based ocean management.  This policy directs the federal government to undertake Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP).   The direction given by this policy requires that ocean planning and management be based on habitat and biodiversity distributions rather than on sectoral or jurisdictional boundaries.  A bioregional classification is an important component to this process because it will delimit areas of common physical and biological properties that define both benthic and pelagic features and communities.  These classifications provide a hierarchical structure that helps integrate human activities at different spatial scales. 

Bioregionalizations have been usefully applied in several other areas around the world, with Australia providing one of the best examples.  They recently developed a common framework integrating both benthic and pelagic marine ecosystem classifications.   A common North American marine biogeographic classification was created by the North America Commission for Environmental Cooperation, but is not currently used in the USA.  Other relevant examples of bioregionalizations include the Large Marine Ecosystems program, and the marine ecoregions of the world classification that includes coastal and continental shelf waters, but not the deeper ocean or pelagic waters. Creating and adopting a bioregional classification scheme for the USA is an important step in the CMSP process in order to adequately understand cumulative human impacts to ocean ecosystems.   A common, bioregional map that is consistent across all federal and state agencies will help ensure that individual agency actions are integrated into a comprehensive spatial overview, facilitate ecological thinking as part of CMSP implementation and be important to ecosystem-based CMSP within the nine very broad geographic regions outlined in the NOP.  This presentation will discuss science needs and a path towards a national bioregionalization of US waters.