Priority scientific issues for North Sea Ecosystem Managmenet - Eco-system approach
At the 5-NSC, the Ministers aim to agree to establish an Ecosystem Approach to management. This has been defined as integrated management of human activities based on knowledge about the ecosystem to achieve sustainable use and its protection. The implementation of an Ecosystem Approach is based on a framework that includes:
- setting of operational environmental objectives,
- monitoring the status and trends in the ecosystem,
- conducting research to get better insight into the workings of the ecosystem,
- assessing the status of the ecosystem and the degree of human impacts,
- providing scientifically objective advice to management,
- making appropriate policy decisions and management actions,
- involving stakeholders to improve transparency and responsibility.
Scientific expert conference
A scientific expert conference related to the 5th North Sea Conference was held in Bergen 20-22 February 2002. The aim of the expert conference was to identify priority issues for scientific research and monitoring to support the implementation of an ecosystem approach to management and protection of the North Sea.
The North Sea ecosystem has been studied extensively for many years but despite this, we still have limited description and understanding of its structure and function. Setting priorities for further research therefore becomes of foremost importance. These priorities must be guided by the need to understand the North Sea as an ecosystem and to assess the degree of human impact on this system.
North Sea Ecosystem Science Programme
The scientific expert conference recommended that a North Sea Ecosystem Science Programme should be established as a framework for further focused ecosystem research.
In this programme there should be close links:
- between research and monitoring
- to work on integrated assessments
- to provision of scientific advice
- to work on ecological objectives
- to management frameworks
ICES (The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) and GLOBEC (Global Ecosystem Dynamics) should be invited to contribute to the development of the North Sea Ecosystem Science Programme.
Well-designed, co-ordinated and co-operative long-term monitoring of the North Sea is necessary, and needs continued funding support. This should be given priority along with the supporting scientific research identified below.
Priority Science Issues
The following scientific issues have been identified as priorities for the short (3-5 years) and longer term (>5 years).
- Operational description of currents and water masses (ICES/EuroGOOS North Sea Pilot Project on Oceanography and Fish Stocks).
- Production of the first generation habitat map of the North Sea.
- Mapping and monitoring of spawning areas of commercial fish populations.
- Experimental studies of the effects on benthic species, communities and habitats following closure of areas to bottom trawling.
- Identification of threatened, declining and rare species and habitats.
- Further development of ecological objectives and indicators for monitoring changes in the ecosystem and for measuring the effects of management actions.
- The role of species richness (including the issues of key species, species diversity, species redundancy, and rare species) for the functioning of benthic communities.
- Mechanisms influencing transfer efficiencies between phytoplankton and higher trophic levels and the implications on ecosystem dynamics.
- Resolution of habitats and processes influencing the population dynamics of key species.
- Food web and life history interactions among fish populations and other ecosystem components (plankton, benthos, seabirds and marine mammals).
- Physical and biological transport and biological and ecological effects of contaminants.