The Nearshore Marine Ecology Team is actively involved with the science underlying IEAs. Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs) are an important analytical tool that use statistical analysis and ecosystem modeling to integrate a range of social, economic, and natural science data and information for discrete and often sectoral management objectives. This information can be used by managers and stakeholders for policy and decision-making, as well as for scientists who want to enhance their understanding of ecosystem dynamics. The process of developing an IEA begins with involvement of stakeholders to identify critical management and policy questions relevant to a specific outcome in a specific place, moves to a quantitative assessment of ecosystem health, and concludes with an evaluation of the tradeoffs of management options. Through the tenets of adaptive management, the process reaches full circle to trigger an update of the assessment.
IEAs are designed to fill a critical information gap in achieving an effective ecosystem-based-management understanding of how individual management decisions affect all aspects of an ecosystem, not just the targeted management resource. The goal of an IEA is to better understand the complex web of interactions in an ecosystem and to forecast how changing environmental conditions and management actions affect this web. IEAs brings together citizens, industry representatives, scientists, and policy makers through formal processes to evaluate a range of policy and/or management actions on particularly complex environmental problems.
An IEA results in the following: