Connecting Biodiversity and Process Research to Management

Substrate type
Substrate type [gravel (gray), sand (yellow), and mud (brown)] and depth (lighter shades are shallower) of areas inside the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
Project Summary:

We are using Stellwagen Bank as a case study to develop and illustrate a framework that connects knowledge of fundamental (often small-scale) ecological processes with management-level goals based on ecosystem services.


This project represents the first known effort in the Gulf of Maine to create a model of ecosystem services in a framework designed to connect scientific studies at multiple scales with management goals and objectives.

The framework will act to reconcile scientific knowledge at the varied scales of research with geographic and temporal scales appropriate to management, it will address system inputs and outputs including both human and non-human factors, and it will include both resident and migrating species.

  • Lewis Incze, University Southern Maine;
  • Peter Auster, University of Connecticut
  • Gulf of Maine Area Program
Stellwagen Bank
Project Detail:

The GoMA program needs a working demonstration of how to exchange information that is useful across a very wide spectrum of interests that extend at one extreme, from the need to “decide now”, and at the other, from the desire and need to understand how systems function. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides a rich source of multi-disciplinary data at scales from 10s of meters to bank-wide surveys of fish and large marine mammals, and it was historically a very productive fishing ground. Thus, it provides a good pilot for developing a framework for ecosystem approaches to management (EAM) that encompasses small- and larger-scale process studies, modeling, and meso- to large-scale management choices. The historically high fisheries yields depended on seasonal migrations of fish production from other regions, and probably much higher local forage production (benthic, demersal and/or pelagic) that supported the high seasonal biomass of migrators. The bank also benefits from advective inputs, and disperses products such as propagules to downstream locations. The study thus includes wider ecosystem interactions, will integrate with findings from local historical studies, and will help to quantify the ecological underpinnings of restoration goals. We are using the notion of ecosystem services as a way to integrate across system functions.

We propose that a useful interface between management and scientific investigations occurs at a level that we can call “operational objectives” for managers. These are objectives that managers can aim to achieve through regulations and other forms of governance, and results, in the form of definable services, can be monitored. At the same time, these objectives serve as integration and advice targets for the scientific community without dictating the details of scientific research that continues in traditional ways below this level (Fig. 2). The objectives can help define research needs and encourage research. The objectives are established through management and scientific deliberations and can change through time, being adaptive to new findings and/or refined goals.

More Information:

The attached poster provides additional details of our approach.
Stellwagen Bank Poster (PDF 2.7MB)