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The role of marine habitat mapping in ecosystem-based management

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) and the related concept of large marine ecosystems (LMEs) are sometimes criticized as being too broad for many management and research applications. At the same time there is a great need to more effectively develop substantive scientific methods to empower EBM. Marine habitat mapping (MHM) is one example of an applied set of field methods that directly support EBM and contribute essential elements for conducting integrated ecosystem assessments. This paper places MHM practices in context with biodiversity models and EBM. We build the case for MHM being incorporated as an explicit and early process following initial goal setting within larger EBM programs. Advances in MHM and EBM are dependent on evolving technological and modeling capabilities, conservation targets, and policy priorities within a spatial planning framework. In both cases, the evolving and adaptive nature of these sciences requires explicit spatial parameters, clear objectives, combinations of social and scientific considerations, and multiple parameters to assess overlapping viewpoints and ecosystem functions. To examine the commonalities between MHM and EBM, we also address issues of implicit and explicit linkages between classification, mapping, and elements of biodiversity with management goals. Policy objectives such as sustainability, ecosystem health, or the design of marine protected areas are also placed in the combined MHM–EBM context.

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