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Challenges of achieving Good Environmental Status in the Northeast Atlantic


Alexander, KA and Kershaw, P and Cooper, P and Gilbert, AJ and Hall-Spencer, JM and Heymans, JJ and Kannen, A and Los, HJ and O'Higgins, T and O'Mahony, C and Tett, P and Troost, TA and van Beusekom, J, Challenges of achieving Good Environmental Status in the Northeast Atlantic, Ecology and Society, 20, (1) Article 49. ISSN 1708-3087 (2015) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance

DOI: doi:10.5751/ES-07394-200149


The sustainable exploitation of marine ecosystem services is dependent on achieving and maintaining an adequate ecosystem state to prevent undue deterioration. Within the European Union, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires member states to achieve Good Environmental Status (GEnS), specified in terms of 11 descriptors. We analyzed the complexity of social-ecological factors to identify common critical issues that are likely to influence the achievement of GEnS in the Northeast Atlantic (NEA) more broadly, using three case studies. A conceptual model developed using a soft systems approach highlights the complexity of social and ecological phenomena that influence, and are likely to continue to influence, the state of ecosystems in the NEA. The development of the conceptual model raised four issues that complicate the implementation of the MSFD, the majority of which arose in the Pressures and State sections of the model: variability in the system, cumulative effects, ecosystem resilience, and conflicting policy targets. The achievement of GEnS targets for the marine environment requires the recognition and negotiation of trade-offs across a broad policy landscape involving a wide variety of stakeholders in the public and private sectors. Furthermore, potential cumulative effects may introduce uncertainty, particularly in selecting appropriate management measures. There also are endogenous pressures that society cannot control. This uncertainty is even more obvious when variability within the system, e.g., climate change, is accounted for. Also, questions related to the resilience of the affected ecosystem to specific pressures must be raised, despite a lack of current knowledge. Achieving good management and reaching GEnS require multidisciplinary assessments. The soft systems approach provides one mechanism for bringing multidisciplinary information together to look at the problems in a different light.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ecosystem based management, Good Environmental Status, Northeast Atlantic, soft systems methodology, trade-offs
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Human geography
Research Field:Human geography not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Alexander, KA (Dr Karen Alexander)
ID Code:107748
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2016-03-23
Last Modified:2018-04-05
Downloads:171 View Download Statistics

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