Spatially-explicit Zoning

Traditionally, ocean management has centered on the management of individual sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, marine mammal conservation, shipping, oil and gas, and mining. Management decisions concerning these areas are often completed in a bubble, focused by sector, unaware of potential cross sector implications and cumulative effects. In the future the coastal ocean is seen to have potential for providing clean energy solutions; marine protected areas for conservation and include recreation and commercial extraction such as fisheries. Conflicts between these users have already illustrated a demand for spatial planning of the coastal ocean using decision making tools such as trade-off analyses to facilitate management decisions. Currently such trade-offs are made implicitly or with little forethought; management will be much more effective and less controversial with a means for explicitly and transparently evaluating these decisions. These services can provide a proactive management framework for coastal ecosystems. By forecasting conflicts of use, the impacts of mismanagement can be reduced through prior insight.

For example:

  • Researchers from the PISCO intertidal biodiversity teams worked with collaborators to evaluate how ecosystems may respond to wave energy development. These findings have been presented as a report to the California Energy Commission and California Ocean Protection Council. Wave energy devices are part of an integrated strategy for energy independence and as such are being increasingly proposed along coastal states. Information generated from PISCO monitoring was used to make predictions as to the likely environmental impacts to the nearshore and the relationship between technology type and impact.
  • PISCO advised marine reserve and related ocean zoning policy processes. PISCO scientists and staff occupy important niches as active and strategic communicators in the science-policy interface, at state, federal, and international levels for example with the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process.
  • In 2008, the PISCO program converged on the principal challenge of identifying and understanding the connections among marine populations and habitats, and applying this to spatial management decisions. These connections are best described through circulation/transport models, modified to be appropriate for particular species and verified through genetics, microchemistry, and field measurements of recruitment. The effort spans all PISCO campuses and includes a wide range of collaborators. Major accomplishments include:
    1. manuscripts review cross-shore connections between offshore larval supply and successful recruitment
    2. PISCO data and expertise contribute to a major publication about modeling larval dispersal in southern California
    3. important progress on analyzing results from the 2007 biophysical coupling field study
    4. larval dispersal models for central California are incorporating nearshore coastal processes and larval behavior

These models will soon be used in spatial management policy in the MLPA process in California. The models must be validated before they can be used in any policy process, and PISCO data provide the principal support for this effort.

PISCO is uniquely poised to develop analytical tools to assess the trade-offs associated with a holistic ocean zoning approach. PISCO science is finding a wide range of applications to inform wise planning for human uses of the ocean’s biological and physical resources. In the past year, program findings have been used for: marine protected area monitoring and evaluation, wave energy zoning and impact assessments, on-going oil spill recovery assessments, impacts of hypoxia on fished species, endangered species listing, and other advances that have direct applications to spatial management of the oceans.

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