Advancing an Ecosystem Approach in the Gulf of Maine

Linking Ecosystem Health and Services to Inform Marine Ecosystem-Based Management

Katie K. Arkema, and Jameal F. Samhouri


Abstract.—A growing variety and intensity of human activities threaten the health of marine ecosystems and the sustained delivery of services provided by oceans and coasts. The Gulf of Maine (GoM) is no exception to this trend, and as such, an ecosystem- based approach to managing the region has gained traction in recent years. The ultimate aim of marine ecosystem-based management (EBM) is to maintain ecosystem health (i.e., structure and function) and to sustain the full suite of ecosystem services on which people rely. Maintaining ecosystem health and sustaining services are related goals, both from a scientific and management perspective, yet in some cases, the interplay between the two is not well understood. Here, we examine relationships between attributes of ecosystem health and ecosystem services. In particular, we explore how outputs from ecosystem models, originally developed for ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), can be used to quantify and value services of particular relevance to the GoM environments and human populations. We highlight services, such as the provisioning of food from fisheries, that ecosystem models are well equipped to inform and reveal where more work is needed to value other services, such as the protection from erosion and inundation afforded by coastal habitats. EBM also requires knowledge about the costs and benefits of management decisions for humans and ecosystems. We demonstrate how ecosystem models can be used to explicitly illustrate trade-offs between attributes of ecosystem health and ecosystem services that result from alternative management scenarios. By bridging the gap between models developed for EBFM and ecosystem service models, we identify existing science and future needs for informing an ecosystem approach to managing the GoM.