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Ecosystem-Based Management

What is an Integrated Ecosystem Assessment or IEA?

An integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) is an approach for assessing the status of an ecosystem relative to specific management goals and evaluating probable outcomes of alternative management strategies. IEAs aim to provide a more integrative, ecosystem-based approach to resource management than the more commonly used single-species and single-sector management approaches.

Integrated Ecosystem Assessment loop flow chart diagramNOAA’s IEA Framework

NOAA’s IEA program has developed a framework with six steps in a loop that uses diverse data and ecosystem models to forecast future conditions and evaluate management actions in an iterative fashion through adaptive management (see box title “The IEA loop”).

An IEA can help resource managers with the following needs:

  • Identifying management goals and objectives for the ecosystem
  • Assess current status of the ecosystem
  • Assess current and potential future stressors to the ecosystem
  • Predict outcomes of alternative management choices
  • Evaluate economic and ecological trade-offs
  • Evaluate success of management action to achieve target future conditions


The types of questions that an IEA can help to answer include:

  • What is the current state of the ecosystem?
  • How does the current state compare to specific management targets?
  • What natural or human-based stressors are acting on the ecosystem?
  • What is the relative importance of different stressors?
  • How will the ecosystem state change in response to a specific management action?
  • Did a management action achieve the expected outcome?

NOAA's IEA program draws on multiple Program lines and is anticipated to consist of eight regions, based on NOAA's Regional Ecosystems (US Large Marine Ecosystems). A California Current Region IEA (CCIEA) has been under development since 2007. A summary of the California Current IEA program's progress through 2012 will be available soon (estimated release April 2013).

How is the Sanctuary involved?

MBNMS views the CCIEA as a tool to support our efforts to understand the status and health of the sanctuary's complex marine ecosystem, to inform decision making among different management options, and to communicate this information to stakeholders.

Past Collaboration

Since 2007, MBNMS staff have been working with the CCIEA science team. We have provided input on various components of the CCIEA, including available regional data sets, MBNMS management needs and priorities, alternative management scenarios, and pressures and stressors on sanctuary resources. This collaboration has resulted in the development of ecosystem models for central California, which have been used to:

  1. Evaluate the best available data and indicators of ecosystem health;
  2. Explore the potential influence of hypothetical management scenarios on both groundfish and ecosystem health indicators;
  3. Evaluate two different approaches for conducting a risk assessment.

In addition, in 2012 MBNMS staff worked with the CCIEA communications team to develop communication and education products for resource managers and stakeholders, including webinars and short videos.


Looking forward

In 2013-2014 MBNMS involvement with the CCIEA will be focused on indicator development and management plan review.

Indicator Development:

In 2013-14, MBNMS will be updating our 2009 MBNMS Condition Report and developing research and monitoring plans for Sanctuary Ecologically Significant Areas (SESAs). MBNMS would like to work with the CCIEA program to identify key indicators of ecosystem status and trend. Current data on these indicators would be used to update ecosystem status and trend information in the condition report. In addition, these indicators would be the focus of long-term monitoring efforts implemented in SESAs.

Management Plan Review:

In 2013-14, MBNMS will be reviewing the 2008 MBNMS Management Plan and updating management needs and priorities. MBNMS would like to work with the CCIEA program to build on the pilot risk assessment (completed in 2012) to examine the relative importance of different stressors on sensitive resources. Additionally, the CCIEA could be used to explore targets for ecosystem status and evaluate potential management actions to achieve these targets.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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