Advancing an Ecosystem Approach in the Gulf of Maine

Advances in Understanding Ecosystem Structure and Function in the Gulf of Maine

Michael J. Fogarty, David W. Townsend, and Emily Klein


Abstract .—Here we summarize presentations given at the theme session “Structure and Function of the Gulf of Maine System” of the 2009 Gulf of Maine Symposium— Advancing Ecosystem Research for the Future of the Gulf, covering a broad spectrum of multidisciplinary research underway in one of the world’s most intensively studied marine systems. Our objective was to attempt a synthesis of the current ecological and oceanographic understanding of the Gulf of Maine and, in particular, to document progress in these areas since the 1996 Gulf of Maine Ecosystem Dynamics Symposium more than a decade earlier. Presentations at the session covered issues ranging from habitat structure and function, biodiversity, population structure, trophic ecology, the intersection of the biological, chemical and physical oceanography of the region, and the dynamics of economically important species. Important strides in characterizing the broader dimensions of biodiversity in the region, the establishment of new sampling programs and the availability of new sensor arrays, and the renewed emphasis synthesis and integration to meet the emerging needs for ecosystem-based management in the gulf have all contributed to a deepened appreciation of its dynamical structure. The critical importance of the ecosystem goods and services provided by the gulf, and the factors affecting the sustainable delivery of these services, was clearly demonstrated in the course of the session. The papers presented at the session made it clear how far we have come and how far we need to go to ensure the sustainable delivery of these services into the future.