Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 1727
Title: Dealing with Uncertainty in Ecosystem Models: The Paradox of Use for Living Marine Resource Management
Author: Jason S. Link, T. F. Ihde, C. J. Harvey, Sarah K. Gaichas, J. C. Field, J. K. T. Brodziak, H. M. Townsend, R. M. Peterman
Publication Year: 2012
Journal: Progress in Oceanography
Volume: 102
Pages: 102-114
Keywords: ecosystem based management,ecosystem model,living marine resources,uncertainty,best practices,fisheries management,

To better manage living marine resources (LMRs), it has become clear that ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is a desired approach. To do EBFM, one of the key tools will be to use ecosystem models. To fully use ecosystem models and have their outputs adopted, there is an increasingly recognized need to address uncertainty associated with such modeling activities. Here we characterize uncertainty as applied to ecosystem models into six major factors, including: natural variability; observation error; inadequate communication among scientists, decision-makers and stakeholders; the structural complexity of the model(s) used; outcome uncertainty; and unclear management objectives. We then describe best practices to address each of these uncertainties as they particularly apply to ecosystem models being used in a LMR management context. We also present case studies to highlight examples of how these best practices have been implemented. Although we acknowledge that this work was compiled by ecosystem modelers in an LMR management context primarily for other ecosystem modelers, the principles and practices described herein are also germane for managers, stakeholders and other natural resource management communities. We conclude by emphasizing not only the need to address uncertainty in ecosystem models, but also the feasibility and benefits of doing so.

Theme: Ecosystem Approach to Management for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Foci: Conduct integrated ecosystem assessments that produce metrics and criteria that will improve ecosystem forecasts and predictions.
Describe the interaction between human activities and ecosystem status and resilience.