Marine Biology

Second Major

Business Administration (General)


Dr. William R. Gordon, Jr.

Advisor Department

Landscape Architecture




Planning; Content Analysi; : Spatial Concepts; Exclusion Mapping; boundaries; Marine Protected Areas (MPAs); Marine Reserves


In the last fifty years, man has demonstrated an increased interest in gaining access to and apportioning the near and offshore marine environment. Governments, coastal and marine managers, economic-based users, stakeholders, and academics have gained an interest and involvement in the demarcation of marine boundaries. Many land-based spatial applications, utilized from disciplines such as planning, geography, landscape architecture and regional science have been applied to the spatial acquisition and management of ocean resources. In the last four decades new marine applications have emerged, they include: 1) Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), 2) Marine Reserves, 3) Marine Zoning, 4) Marine Sanctuaries, and 5) Marine Parks, and most recently in the last couple of decades, a new interest in 6) ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), that appears to be a reconceptualization of the 7) Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) approach to large region-based marine planning. Marine Zoning and 8) Seascape/ Marine Design, are the most recent spatial endeavors to sectionalize the ocean environment. Land-based spatial concepts have been utilized within each of these distinct topics, and in a partial review of the literature we determined that most of these terms were being used in either confusing, or in inappropriate ways. This conclusion suggested that hundreds of natural science trained investigators, managers and stewards were unaware of the origin of these land-based spatial concepts, and that they were mostly ignorant of their correct means of application.

The premise of our research project has evolved over the last nine months. Originally we wanted to investigate the lack of involvement by planners and landscape architects in artificial reef design and construction. Our review of the ocean planning literature soon revealed a much greater involvement of spatial terminology that we determined to be applied in an incorrect fashion. Dr. William Gordon, our Honors Advisor, who is recognized as one of the first land-based planners who applied land-based planning concepts within the artificial reef-literature, identified this initial major oversight. Further investigations of the marine literature subsequently revealed that this trend was present within several distinct fields of marine studies (as noted above). We are collectively referring to these individual fields of study as: Marine Spatial Management (MSM). Currently, there are thousands of peer-reviewed publications that address the eight sub-fields noted above. The authors of these articles come from a diverse pool of expertise, composed primarily of marine biologists, ecologists, conservationists, and oceanographers. Fewer social scientists have been involved, they include: economists, legal specialists; political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and geographers. Unfortunately, a majority of the authors reviewed, when commenting on how to properly 'design', 'evaluate', 'implement', and 'plan' the aforementioned topics, were oblivious to entire fields of study that specializes in spatial planning and regional concepts. Regional scientists, landscape architects, and planners work with large and small-scale settings on a daily basis and utilize proven techniques to achieve efficient land use. Yet, these spatial specialists remain largely excluded from ocean spatial applications. Not only are land use experts absent from the planning process in the creation of MPAs and similar zones, but also fundamental spatial concepts and theories are overlooked.

We conducted a broad content analysis of this literature as based upon recognized methodologies utilized in other fields of research, and ironically within the methodological approaches used within our (study-sample) literature cross-section. In analyzing approximately 300 articles, we used the Web of Science (ISI) as the Source Database, and conducted keyword searches for key planning terms within the initial body of literature, for each respective field. By sorting the sample by “relevance,” and selected key planning terms, we identified study articles and required that they possess the key term application term, such as Marine Reserves for example, to be included in the article’s title. As we printed each paper, we used the “find” tool found within the Word ® word-processing program, to locate key spatial terms throughout the article being reviewed. We documented the extent and range of misuse for twenty planning and management terms. The purpose here is two-fold: 1) there is a need to involve planners and landscape architects in Marine Spatial Management, as many of their methods are being used incorrectly, and 2) the natural science community must be brought up to speed in the correct use of these concepts, especially as it seems that they intend to extend their literature in the years ahead with respect to spatial applications.

Our current research project contends that by including professional planners, regional scientists, and landscape architects, spatial applications such as MPAs, Marine Reserves, Zones, Parks and Sanctuaries, etc., will not only be more efficient in meeting their respective goals, but should also be more successful in achieving their research project goals; because of the need to eliminate inefficiencies created by misuse of spatial terminology. Instead of reinventing the “spatial” wheel, natural scientists should cooperate with these social scientists, rather than assuming their roles as both social scientists and planners. How can natural scientists expect to succeed in their marine spatial endeavors, in creating policy and plans when this has never been part of their formal education? This simply makes a mockery of all the years spent by social scientists in developing and validating the appropriateness of their spatial methodologies. The fact that the groups identified above misuse rudimentary terms such as “comprehensive,” “scale,” borders,” “planning,” and “design,” demonstrates either an ignorance or arrogance as to the apparent simplicity of the spatial fields they are now basing their biological investigations upon. Interdisciplinary cooperation is long overdue.

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