Goal and trend assessment to define coastal ecosystem management initiatives

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Initiating ecosystem management in a coastal region is facilitated if multiple stakeholders recognise common problems. New management initiatives arise from a comparison of shared goals embodied in law and in planning documents with trends in the environment and society. Applying this approach to the Narragansett Bay ecosystem in the north-eastern US produces four types of relationships. Each relationship leads to different actions that managers and others may wish to pursue. First, when trends are consistent with goals, management activities limited to monitoring are appropriate. For example, in the Narragansett Bay ecosystem, the trend of declining metal loading is consistent with the goal of increased water quality and requires only passive observation to confirm its continuation. Second, when trends important to achieve specific goals are uncertain or unknown, applied research is an appropriate management response. Recent questions about the causes of low oxygen in selected Bay waters and about the magnitudes of different nitrogen sources call for additional applied research. Third, when known trends are inconsistent with goals, then managers and stakeholders must collaborate to devise new programmes. Fisheries decline and increasing nitrogen loading are examples where new management initiatives are mandated. The former has received important attention through changes in state legislation. Finally, the goals themselves may be uncertain, as in the case of a major port development. In this situation, managers can play an important role in clarifying goals through creating processes to enable better understanding of underlying values.

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Local Environment