3995 Marine Spatial Planning Through the Lens of Ecological Resilience

Friday, February 18, 2011: 8:30 AM
140A (Washington Convention Center )
Heather Leslie , Brown University, Providence, RI
Climate change is predicted to affect coastal marine ecosystems in myriad ways, including ocean warming and acidification, increased variability of storm events, and changes in the distribution of ecologically and commercially important species. The temporal and spatial variability of these impacts, along with the uncertainty of exactly how physical changes will translate into ecological effects, is a particular challenge for marine spatial planners.

Despite these uncertainties, we have more evidence than ever before of how ecosystems resist and recover from disturbances like those caused by climate change. For example, protected, predator-rich California kelp forests resist disturbances like storms and disease better than unprotected kelp forests. With intact food webs, healthy kelp forests provide benefits that people value, such as seafood and recreational opportunities. Ecologists also have found that ecosystems linked to one another, for example, by ocean current or animal migrations, can be more resilient to coastal storms and rising air temperatures than isolated coastal systems. Finally, we have emerging examples of how species have coped with rapid environmental change in the past. From these observations of how individual organisms and whole ecosystems respond to climate change-like challenges, we can develop recommendations for how to manage for ecological resilience.

Resilience approaches to marine management focus on the dynamic nature of ecosystems through time and space. Integration of key concepts – including diversity, connectivity and adaptability – into marine spatial plans may increase the likelihood that ecosystems and the benefits they provide will be resilient to the impacts of climate change. But in order to truly manage for resilience (rather than plan to do so), marine spatial plans will need to be actually implemented. Dr. Leslie will end her presentation with a discussion of the outlook for integration of resilience science in one of the most active areas of the nation in terms of marine spatial planning, the Northeast U.S.

Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>