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Resource Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling Program

Alaska Integrated Ecosystem Assessments

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Apr-May-June 2013
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figure 1,see caption
Figure 1.  The Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Program website.
 
 

The national Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Program website team has recently completed an IEA website (Fig. 1) which is now live at www.noaa.gov/iea. The website serves as a portal for IEA research and highlights a number of recent advancements in regional IEAs. In addition, IEA scientists have recently completed a manuscript detailing the process for developing IEAs in a given region and it will be published soon in ICES Journal of Marine Science (Levin et al. in press).

Lastly, an integral component of the IEA process is to synthesize the response of ecosystem indicators to changes in natural and anthropogenic drivers (e.g., fishing and climate change) and develop ecosystem indicators and targets for conducting risk analyses. Ecosystem components identified as at risk are then targeted for intervention and evaluated for management actions through subsequent management strategy evaluations.

AFSC and IEA scientists have recently leveraged efforts of an ongoing North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) working group (WG-28) and FATE (Fisheries And The Environment) funded project to derive a composite index of ecosystem condition from combined risk scores for Alaskan marine habitats. The approach provides information on the relative risk of each habitat to combined climate and anthropogenic pressures (Fig. 2) as well as an overall index of the present condition of the ecosystem that can be compared to a target ecosystem reference point (ERP).

  figure 2,see caption
Figure 2.  Click image to enlarge.
 

The ERP and Riskh values can also be used to evaluate the probability of dropping below a specified ERP (and/or individual Riskh) threshold under status quo or future climate conditions and management actions.

Ecosystem reference points (ERP) and included risk scores will be applied directly to the Alaska IEA and reported annually in the Ecosystem Assessment section of the regional stock assessment and fishery evaluation (SAFE) report. This report is reviewed annually by regional members of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Some promising groundwork towards an ecosystem risk assessment has recently been completed and new IEA and FATE support will help move this work towards a comprehensive synthesis for GOA and EBS marine ecosystems. Final Riskh and ERP values calculated and evaluated through this project will directly inform the Risk Assessment step of the Alaska IEA and will serve as a framework for ecosystem risk analysis in regional IEAs that are in development elsewhere.

Further, since the Riskh and ERP values can be improved through management actions as well as increased research and data quality (i.e., increase the certainty score), then this project can help identify both future management and research priorities.

By Kirstin Holsman
 

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