Core Element 2: Scientific Evidence

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) relies on the best available information from natural and social sciences for decision-making. Scientific monitoring of the ecosystem measures progress toward EBM goals.

Focus Questions

  • What is the current scientific understanding of how living and non-living components of the ecosystem produce nature’s services in the focal geographic area?
  • How can methods from the field of economics be used to measure values that people place on nature’s services, including services that are not bought and sold in markets?
  • Based on scientific analysis, how has the ecosystem and delivery of nature’s services changed in the past, and what are the potential tradeoffs among future management alternatives?
  • How can scientific monitoring and models be used to measure future changes in nature's services, outcomes of management actions, and progress toward EBM goals?

Learn More

Listed below are selected resources for learning about and implementing this Core Element of EBM. The list is far from comprehensive and highlights only a few especially useful examples.


Chapter 3: Ecosystem Information and Science in Ocean and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management: Implementation Handbook
By Kathryn Mengerink, Adam Schempp, and Jay Austin (Environmental Law Institute)

By Daniel S. Holland, James N. Sanchirico, Robert J. Johnston and Deepak Joglekar

6.1 Establish a Monitoring Plan and 6.2 Establish an Evaluation Plan in Science Tools to Implement Ecosystem-Based Management in Massachusetts (PDF)
MRAG Americas, Inc., and Massachusetts Ocean Partnership

Chapter 7: Monitoring and Evaluation in Ecosystem-Based Management for the Oceans
Edited by Heather Leslie and Karen McLeod

Case Studies

The San Luis Obispo Science and Ecosystem Alliance (SLOSEA) is an integrated group of scientists, resource managers and stakeholders studying and supporting marine resources on the California Central Coast.

Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas: First 5 Years of Monitoring 2003-2008
The State of California is using biological and socioeconomic monitoring for adaptive management of marine protected areas (MPAs).


Ecological Service Value Index (ESVI)
The Ecological Service Value Index (ESVI) indicates the relative value of a location based on a composite measure of biological resources and human uses of natural resources.

Seascapes: Getting to Know the Sea Around Us. A Guide to Characterizing Marine and Coastal Areas
The marine area characterization process described in Seascapes produces a well-rounded, comprehensive, and reliable compendium of scientific information for addressing environmental and resource management issues.

Integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA)
An IEA is a formal synthesis and quantitative analysis of information on relevant natural and socio–economic factors in relation to specified ecosystem management goals.

Ecoregional assessment (ERA)
An ERA compiles, organizes, and analyzes information about distribution and vulnerability of species, habitats, and nature’s services.


Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools
Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools (MGET) is an open-source geoprocessing toolbox designed for coastal and marine researchers and GIS analysts who work with spatially-explicit ecological and oceanographic data in scientific or management workflows.

Marxan is a stand-alone decision-support tool for identifying multiple-use zoning plans and conservation plans that minimize social, economic and ecological cost.

MarineMap is a web-based decision-support tool that enables diverse stakeholders to participate in marine spatial planning and that evaluates prospective plans based on scientific criteria.

SimCoast is a fuzzy logic, rule-based expert system designed to enable researchers, managers and decision-makers to create and evaluate policy scenarios for coastal zone management.


National Ocean Economics Program
The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) provides a full range of the most current economic and socio-economic information available on changes and trends along the U.S. coast and in coastal waters.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)
OBIS provides a portal or gateway to many datasets containing information on where and when marine species have been recorded.

Economic Values of Coral Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses: A Global Compilation (PDF)
Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservational International, Arlington, VA, USA.

Connection with other Core Elements (CEs) of EBM

CE1:Nature's Services,CE4:Ecological Linkages, CE5:Cumulative Impacts, CE6:Tradeoffs Among Human Activities
Scientific evidence is essential for understanding nature's services, ecological linkages, cumulative impacts, and tradeoffs among human activities.

CE3:Geographic Scales
Scientific data and information for a range of geographic scales must be accessible and integrated to support EBM decision-making.

CE7:Adaptive Management
EBM decisions are grounded in scientific evidence.

CE8:Network of People and Information
Scientific evidence and concepts must be shared effectively among diverse participants in EBM initiatives.


Read about Core Element 3: Geographic Scales