• Academic publication

Toward a network perspective in coastal ecosystem management

Gladstone-Gallagher R, Thrush S, Low J, Pilditch C, Ellis J & Hewitt J
(November 2023)

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Coastal environmental management has been challenged by complex cumulative effects when many small issues result in large ecological shifts. Current environmental management focuses on identifying and limiting problematic stressors via a series of assessment techniques. Whilst there is strong desire among environmental managers to manage cumulative effects, current approaches for assessing risk focus on breaking down the issues into multiple cause and effect relationships. However, uncertainty arises when data and information are limited, as is commonly the case, and this creates decision paralysis.

Here, we discuss how ecological understanding of networks of interactions in coastal marine ecosystems can be used as a lens to view environmental issues. We list and describe four characteristics of marine ecosystem interaction networks. We then link these four characteristics to three case studies of common environmental issues to demonstrate how a general understanding of ecological interaction networks can enhance priorities for stressor management that can be applied even when specific data is limited.