Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 1622
Title: The perils and promise of futures analysis in marine ecosystem-based management
Author: T B Francis, P. S. Levin, C. J. Harvey
Publication Year: 2011
Journal: Marine Policy
Volume: 35
Issue: 5
Pages: 675-681
Keywords: scenario analysis, ecosystem-based management, marine ecosystems, futures

Ecosystem-based management is now widely accepted as the standard strategy for achieving sustainable delivery of marine and estuarine ecosystem services. The ubiquity and rate of change in marine ecosystems necessitate incorporating visions of future ecosystem states into ecosystem management strategies. Creating visions of the future enables policy makers to set realistic objectives and targets, and to explore the consequences of potential management decisions on ecosystems under multiple potential scenarios of change. Several classes of futures are used in marine ecosystem management program, and three are highlighted here: visioning, predictive models, and scenario analysis. Each approach is briefly described, and their use in current marine ecosystem management programs in North America is reviewed. In particular, the importance of using scenario analysis to identify and incorporate the influence of exogenous drivers into management strategies is highlighted. Then, some of the perils and promises associated with each approach are described, and a way forward is proposed that incorporates multiple types of future envisioning approaches into management programs. Key contributions of future analyses include highlighting connections and trade-offs among ecosystem components, setting realistic targets, and incorporating exogenous drivers, and their uncertainties, into ecosystem management programs.