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Guiding ecological principles for marine spatial planning


  • Foley, Melissa M.
  • Halpern, Benjamin S.
  • Micheli, Fiorenza
  • Armsby, Matthew H.
  • Caldwell, Margaret R.
  • Crain, Caitlin M.
  • Prahler, Erin
  • Rohr, Nicole
  • Sivas, Deborah
  • Beck, Michael W.
  • Carr, Mark H.
  • Crowder, Larry B.
  • Emmett Duffy, J.
  • Hacker, Sally D.
  • McLeod, Karen L.
  • Palumbi, Stephen R.
  • Peterson, Charles H.
  • Regan, Helen M.
  • Ruckelshaus, Mary H.
  • Sandifer, Paul A.
  • Steneck, Robert S.


The declining health of marine ecosystems around the world is evidence that current piecemeal governance is inadequate to successfully support healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems and sustain human uses of the ocean. One proposed solution to this problem is ecosystem-based marine spatial planning (MSP), which is a process that informs the spatial distribution of activities in the ocean so that existing and emerging uses can be maintained, use conflicts reduced, and ecosystem health and services protected and sustained for future generations. Because a key goal of ecosystem-based MSP is to maintain the delivery of ecosystem services that humans want and need, it must be based on ecological principles that articulate the scientifically recognized attributes of healthy, functioning ecosystems. These principles should be incorporated into a decision-making framework with clearly defined targets for these ecological attributes. This paper identifies ecological principles for MSP based on a synthesis of previously suggested and/or operationalized principles, along with recommendations generated by a group of twenty ecologists and marine scientists with diverse backgrounds and perspectives on MSP. The proposed four main ecological principles to guide MSP--maintaining or restoring: native species diversity, habitat diversity and heterogeneity, key species, and connectivity--and two additional guidelines, the need to account for context and uncertainty, must be explicitly taken into account in the planning process. When applied in concert with social, economic, and governance principles, these ecological principles can inform the designation and siting of ocean uses and the management of activities in the ocean to maintain or restore healthy ecosystems, allow delivery of marine ecosystem services, and ensure sustainable economic and social benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Foley, Melissa M. & Halpern, Benjamin S. & Micheli, Fiorenza & Armsby, Matthew H. & Caldwell, Margaret R. & Crain, Caitlin M. & Prahler, Erin & Rohr, Nicole & Sivas, Deborah & Beck, Michael W. & Carr,, 2010. "Guiding ecological principles for marine spatial planning," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 955-966, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:marpol:v:34:y:2010:i:5:p:955-966

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Katikiro, Robert E. & Macusi, Edison D. & Ashoka Deepananda, K.H.M., 2015. "Challenges facing local communities in Tanzania in realising locally-managed marine areas," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 220-229.
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    9. Stelzenmüller, Vanessa & Vega Fernández, Tomás & Cronin, Katherine & Röckmann, Christine & Pantazi, Maria & Vanaverbeke, Jan & Stamford, Tammy & Hostens, Kris & Pecceu, Ellen & Degraer, Steven & Buhl-, 2015. "Assessing uncertainty associated with the monitoring and evaluation of spatially managed areas," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 151-162.
    10. Brennan, Jonathon & Fitzsimmons, Clare & Gray, Tim & Raggatt, Laura, 2014. "EU marine strategy framework directive (MSFD) and marine spatial planning (MSP): Which is the more dominant and practicable contributor to maritime policy in the UK?," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 359-366.
    11. Frazão Santos, Catarina & Domingos, Tiago & Ferreira, Maria Adelaide & Orbach, Michael & Andrade, Francisco, 2014. "How sustainable is sustainable marine spatial planning? Part I—Linking the concepts," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 59-65.
    12. Rees, Siân E. & Fletcher, Stephen & Gall, Sarah C. & Friedrich, Laura A. & Jackson, Emma L. & Rodwell, Lynda D., 2014. "Securing the benefits: Linking ecology with marine planning policy to examine the potential of a network of Marine Protected Areas to support human wellbeing," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 335-341.
    13. Martín, P. & Muntadas, A. & de Juan, S. & Sánchez, P. & Demestre, M., 2014. "Performance of a northwestern Mediterranean bottom trawl fleet: How the integration of landings and VMS data can contribute to the implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 112-121.
    14. Malone, Thomas C. & DiGiacomo, Paul M. & Gonçalves, Emanuel & Knap, Anthony H. & Talaue-McManus, Liana & de Mora, Stephen, 2014. "A global ocean observing system framework for sustainable development," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 262-272.
    15. Shucksmith, Rachel & Gray, Lorraine & Kelly, Christina & Tweddle, Jacqueline F., 2014. "Regional marine spatial planning – The data collection and mapping process," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(PA), pages 1-9.
    16. Maxwell, Sara M. & Hazen, Elliott L. & Lewison, Rebecca L. & Dunn, Daniel C. & Bailey, Helen & Bograd, Steven J. & Briscoe, Dana K. & Fossette, Sabrina & Hobday, Alistair J. & Bennett, Meredith & Bens, 2015. "Dynamic ocean management: Defining and conceptualizing real-time management of the ocean," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 42-50.
    17. Eli D. Lazarus, 2017. "Toward a Global Classification of Coastal Anthromes," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(1), pages 1-27, February.
    18. Zaucha, Jacek, 2014. "Sea basin maritime spatial planning: A case study of the Baltic Sea region and Poland," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(PA), pages 34-45.
    19. Melaku Canu, Donata & Solidoro, Cosimo, 2014. "Socio-economic analysis and stakeholder involvement: Mussel-farming in the Gulf of Trieste," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 55-62.
    20. Caldow, Chris & Monaco, Mark E. & Pittman, Simon J. & Kendall, Matthew S. & Goedeke, Theresa L. & Menza, Charles & Kinlan, Brian P. & Costa, Bryan M., 2015. "Biogeographic assessments: A framework for information synthesis in marine spatial planning," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 423-432.


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