Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
The United States manages millions of square miles of coastal territories that contain diverse and productive ecosystems. These ecosystems span from the tropics to the Arctic and support a variety of recreational, commercial and subsistence activities. More than four million acres of coral reefs serve as vital economic and biodiversity hotspots in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific. More than 88,569 square miles of coastal wetlands provide nurseries for more than half of our commercially harvested fish species and refuges for 75 percent of all our migratory birds and waterfowl. In addition, there are the countless miles of beaches and bluffs, sea grass beds, oyster reefs and tidal flats, which have long made our coasts popular places to live and visit. Therefore, healthy coastal ecosystems, sustained by their surrounding watersheds, are the foundation of life along the coast.
Keeping coastal ecosystems healthy is a challenge because of the diversity of stressors each system faces. This is further complicated because ecosystems do not adhere to traditional political boundaries. Responsible management of these systems requires new kinds of thinking and actions, often termed ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based approaches require unprecedented levels of coordination among federal, state and local jurisdictions and the active engagement of the people who live, work and play along our coasts. They also require understanding of the characteristics of species, landscapes and their interactions within each ecosystem.
Healthy Coastal Ecosystem Goals as defined by the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan
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- Develop and calibrate new standards, measures and indicators of ecosystem sustainability
- Identify critical uncertainties that impede progress toward achieving sustainability of ecosystems and the goods and services they provide.
- Dynamic ecological systems provide a wide range of ecological, economic and societal services and are more resilient to change.
- Greater public stewardship leads to participatory decision-making and collaborative ecosystem-based management decisions.
- Stakeholders have access to data, models, policy information and training that support ecosystem-based planning, decision-making and management approaches.
- Baseline data, standards, methodologies and indicators are developed to assess the health of ecosystems and watersheds.
- Residents, resource managers, businesses and industries understand the effects of human activities and environmental changes on coastal resources.
- Resource managers have an understanding of the policies that apply to coastal protected species.
- Methodologies are used to evaluate a range of practical ecosystem-based management approaches for planning and adapt to future management needs.
- Resource managers apply ecosystem-based management principles when making decisions.
- Resource managers incorporate laws and policies to facilitate and implement ecosystem-based management.
- Residents, resource managers and businesses integrate social, natural and physical science when managing resources and work with all sectors in the decision-making process.
- Residents, resource managers and businesses understand the importance of the benefits provided by preserving non-degraded ecosystems.
- Residents, resource managers and businesses understand the threats to ecosystems and the consequences of degraded ecosystems.
- Scientists develop technologies and approaches to restore degraded ecosystems.
- Resource managers set realistic and prioritized goals to protect, enhance and restore habitats by incorporating scientific information and public input.
- Resource managers, businesses and residents adopt innovative approaches and technologies to maintain or improve the function of ecosystems.
- Habitats are protected, enhanced or restored.
- Degraded ecosystem function and productivity are restored.
- Number of resource managers who use ecosystem-based approaches in the management of land, water, and living resources as a result of Sea Grant activities.
- Number of acres of coastal habitat protected, enhanced or restored as a result of Sea Grant activities.
- Number of Sea Grant tools, technologies and information services that are used by our partners/customers to improve ecosystem-based management.
- Economic (market and non-market; jobs and businesses created or retained) impacts derived from Sea Grant activities.