Practical implementation of ecosystem monitoring for the ecosystem approach to management

Sven Kupschus, Michaela Schratzberger, David Righton

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25 Citations (Scopus)
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1. The implementation of the ecosystem approach means there is a need to monitor an increased range of environmental conditions and ecological components in the marine environment. Many existing monitoring surveys have successfully added tasks or components to an existing monitoring programme while maintaining consistency of time series. This approach is not practical when the immediate data need for a wide range of ecosystem components requires substantial changes to the programme or when collections of different ecological components have conflicting requirements.
2. We propose a more integrated approach aimed at not only assessing change, but simultaneously delivering evidence of the underlying reasons for observed changes. Using principles developed from observational and modelling efforts in the Barents Sea and the wider literature, we distil the essential characteristics an integrated monitoring programme must exhibit. We demonstrate how such an integrated programme can offer substantial operational efficiencies compared to a coordinated approach.
3. Integrated monitoring based on ecosystem processes has significant advantages over the coordinated approach that uses ecosystem states independently and focuses on maximizing precision of each indicator. While integration is needed to address current policy requirements, changes to monitoring risk time-series consistency. However, we explain how such risks can be minimized while at the same time establishing a framework that allows the incorporation of important information from other less flexible data sources to be used in the assessment.
4. Policy implications. Process-based integrated monitoring is essential for the ecosystem approach. The focus on ecosystem processes provides the essential elements for future proof efficient management: (i) It provides both unbiased status estimates for reporting requirements and describes the causes of state change. (ii) It minimizes risks to historic time series while coping with changing ecological conditions. (iii) It quantifies ecosystem processes and provides the means to test hypotheses on how different processes interact. (iv) It uses all available information efficiently when used in conjunction with integrated assessments. (v) It is effective due to its adaptability to meet future policy demands and ecosystem requirements while using data in the most efficient manner given these demands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236–1247
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number4
Early online date11 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • ecosystem modelling
  • ecosystem variability
  • integrated monitoring programme
  • monitoring policy
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
  • process-based monitoring
  • status-based monitoring

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