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Ecological function as a target for ecosystem-based management: Defining when change matters in decision making
Fulford, R., M. Russell, D. Dantin, J. Harvey, AND A. Almario. Ecological function as a target for ecosystem-based management: Defining when change matters in decision making. CERF 2015, Portland, OR, November 08 - 12, 2015.
We developed a community classification system based on economic, environmental, and social characteristics and compared community types based on a measure of human well being. This is intended to inform community level decision support by providing locally relevant reference points for measures of well-being.
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) accounts for both direct and indirect drivers of ecological change for decision making. Just as with direct management of a resource, EBM requires a definition of management thresholds that define when change in function is sufficient to merit management action. Here we present a conceptual model of how to translate this question from a well-defined management problem (fishery management) to a lesser defined management problem (coastal habitat restoration) based on nitrogen sequestration as a target function. Thresholds in functional rates are a necessary part of making scientific information useful to decision makers. Such thresholds can be defined based on the concept of functional equivalency (FE) of ecosystem components. For any given ecosystem good or service (EGS) we can identify ecosystem components that contribute to its production and define that contribution as a target function of that ecosystem component. When ecosystem changes, such as habitat loss, result in change in EGS production, we can say that the function has changed. A threshold can be defined beyond which a change in function results in a loss of EGS production sufficient to say the ecosystem is no longer functionally equivalent to the undisturbed state. Decision makers need both a measure of the reduction in function, as well as the meaningful reference point in order to make use of scientific information. This FE approach to linking ecosystem attributes to functional equivalency is well established in fishery management and has been linked implicitly to resource sustainability. In habitat management, the FE paradigm is used but not well defined as an operational concept, particularly for evaluating resource sustainability. Our goal is to provide a conceptual map for the FE paradigm to questions of habitat management and in so doing identify meaningful and measurable thresholds for decision making in coastal estuaries.