Interdisciplinary Spatial Modeling to Foster Decision-Making in Marine Ecosystems

EPA Grant Number: FP917381
Title: Interdisciplinary Spatial Modeling to Foster Decision-Making in Marine Ecosystems
Investigators: Ribera, Marta M
Institution: Boston University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Emerging Environmental Approaches and Challenges: Social Sciences


Ocean ecosystems are complex, dynamic and spatially heterogeneous systems, and policies managing its resources should reflect these characteristics. The objective of this project is to create a spatially explicit model to help managers determine the optimal location for various fishing activities and conservation areas in the Gulf of Maine, with the end goal of ensuring a healthy and resilient ecosystem while still providing socio-economic benefits for its users.


This project will have two clearly defined stages. The first stage will use advanced spatial analysis techniques, such as Neural Networks, to determine the distribution of socio-ecological hotspots (areas characterized by an overlap of high biological productivity and human activities and where conflicts between conservation and commercial activities are most likely) across the Gulf of Maine. Secondly, once the locations of socio-ecological hotspots have been identified, a model will locate the optimal spatial distribution of different fishing activities and conservation areas. At the end of the project, this information will be integrated with a pre-existing Decision Support Tool named Marine Integrated Decision Analysis System (MIDAS) to ensure the modeling results can be visualized and used by fisheries managers.

Expected Results:

In recent years, fisheries managers in the Gulf of Maine have started to move from single-species to ecosystem-based management (EBM). Due to the spatially heterogeneous nature of many marine resources, one of the tools that can be used for EBM is Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which provides a systematic, integrative and participatory process for managing the target ecosystem. Spatial analyses of available data from the Gulf of Maine will identify areas with both exceptionally high productivity and high intensity of human activities. The proposed spatial model then will recommend the optimal distribution of fishing and conservation activities, which can potentially ease the MSP process and help resolve current conflicts.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

The results of this research should enhance managers’ understanding of, and therefore ability to manage sustainably, the complex and dynamic ecosystem of the Gulf of Maine. As a result, the ecological integrity of the system, as well as the many ecosystem services it provides, should be preserved for future generations. Moreover, with further refinement, this process could be potentially applied to other systems.

Supplemental Keywords:

Gulf of Maine, ecosystem-based management, marine spatial planning, spatial modeling, hotspot mapping, decision-making

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final