Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8214
Title: Developing ecosystem indicators for responses to multiple stressors
Author: Jennifer L. Boldt, Rebecca G. Martone, J. F. Samhouri, R. Ian Perry, Sachihiko Itoh, Ik Kyo Chung, Motomitsu Takahashi, Naoki Yoshie
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: Oceanography
Keywords: indicators,stressors

Human activities in coastal and marine ecosystems provide a suite of benefits for people, but can also produce a number of stressors that affect the system’s population dynamics.  Multiple stressors can act additively, synergistically, or antagonistically to change ecosystem structure, function, and dynamics in unexpected ways that differ from single stressor responses.  Scientific tools that can be used to evaluate the effects of multiple stressors are needed to assist decision making.  In this paper, indicator selection methods and general approaches to assess indicator responses to multiple stressors were reviewed and example ecosystem assessments were compared.  Based upon this review and comparison, recommendations were identified for choosing and assessing suites of indicators to characterize responses to multiple stressors.  Indicators should be chosen based upon defined criteria, conceptual models linking indicators to pressures and drivers, and defined strategic goals and ecological or management objectives.  Indicators should be complementary, non-redundant, and integrate responses to multiple stressors and reflect the status of the ecosystem.  An initial core set of indicators could include those that have been tested for the effects of climate and fishing and then expanded to include indicators of other pressures and ecosystem-specific feature-pressure interactions.  Identifying indicators and evaluating multiple stressors on marine ecosystems requires a variety of approaches, such as empirical analyses, expert opinion, and model-based simulation.  The ultimate goal is to identify a meaningful set of indicators that can be used to assist with the management of multiple types of human interactions with marine ecosystems. 

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Assess ecosystem status and trends.
Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management