International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Large Marine Ecosystems: Key Points to Consider

  • The size and scale of LMEs can be far greater than that of rivers, lakes and aquifers (although not always). Consequently, the project will need to ensure the TDA and more importantly the SAP take this into account. There may be a need to manage expectations regarding what can be accomplished.
  • As with all other water systems, there can be a paucity of data and information. Again though, due to the scale of some LMEs, this can result in considerable gaps in information.
  • Most GEF LME projects are working towards ecosystem-based management and consequently need to consider the LME approach. Although there has been a tension between the TDA/SAP and the LME approach in the past, both approaches are not incompatible. In fact both can inform the other:
  • The 5 LME Modules (productivity, fish and fisheries, pollution and ecosystem health, socioeconomics, governance) can support the development of the TDA (both the Gulf of Mexico LME and the Humboldt Current LME have used this approach).
  • By integrating ecosystem-based management into the SAP process, the LME approach can ensure there is a whole systems approach to interventions within the SAP.
  • In order to carry out an effective TDA and to design a SAP that is likely to be approved, there is a need to have at least an approximation of the economic value of the LME’s goods and services. This is difficult, especially when it comes to considering the non-use values. Leverage points have to be based on an action that a government is prepared to finance. Hence a good economic analysis based on the value of a service helps.
  • LMEs are not discrete systems - coastal zones and river basins are component parts of an LME but are often poorly characterised in TDA documents for LME projects. The project will need to closely consider the scope of the TDA and the SAP. For example, what can the TDA and SAP include? How does the TDA consider causes and impacts from river basins and the coastal zone? What does the SAP focus on?
  • LMEs are usually split into EEZs and Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) – the TDA therefore has to cover both aspects and this makes the analysis more complex under ABNJ transboundary considerations: ballast water, biodiversity reduction (migratory species, introduction of exotic species for mariculture etc).
  • Typically the land-sea interface is not dealt with sufficiently by land use planners and those responsible for Marine Protected Areas in the context of the improved management of LMEs as there is not much interaction between the two groups. For example, dead rivers don’t discharge water regularly to the sea (as all the water is used under excessive and badly planned irrigation schemes or potable water requirements), but this loss of estuarine function as a natural nursery for marine and riverine species obviously has a negative impact on the recruitment of marine species. This lack of interaction between land use planners and those responsible for Marine Protected Areas can have a significant impact on the SAP.
  • Climate change obviously affects both land and marine environments – however the LME functions to regulate climate (via CO2 absorption, O2 generation, heat absorption and redistribution) are of greater importance than land-based systems because the impact from a climate change modified LME system has global impacts e.g. ENSO events modified due to climate change induced sea surface temperature changes.