2. The ecosystem-based 5-module approach and recommendations for strengthening the approach

The ecosystem-based five-module approach to management and assessment of LMEs was described by Sherman (2005), and has proved to be a useful tool to guide the Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) approach for many LME Projects. As every LME is different, and every LME project or programme is guided by unique goals and objectives, the five modules have been adopted and used to a greater or lesser degree.

Figure 1 depicts the five modules used to support the concept of ecosystem-based management, based on the five pillars of understanding the Fish and Fisheries, Productivity, Pollution & Ecosystem Health, Socio-economics and Governance of a System.

Ecosystem-based 5-module approach

Figure 1. Ecosystem-based 5-module approach (from Sherman 2005)

The development of the approach began with the recognition of the interaction between productivity, fish stocks and fisheries, and the interrelationships between the trophic system. The role of pollution and invasive species was recognised later, and the dimensions of socio-economics and governance even more recently (UNESCO 2008).

The first four modules (Productivity, Fish & Fisheries, Pollution & Ecosystem Health and Socio-Economics) are traditionally intended to frame the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis Assessments, while the Governance module is central to guiding the reforms and interventions set out in the SAP as needed for sustainable management of the LME. The Productivity, Fish & Fisheries, Pollution & Ecosystem Health modules are concerned with assessing and sustaining or improving the resource base, while the socio-economics module is also concerned with the sustainable utilization and benefits to be derived from good ecosystem-based management practices.

The five modules are clearly closely interrelated, and the inclusion of all modules in the TDA/SAP process integrates the science with socio-economic and governance aspects of the LME approach, but also provides a framework for multiple sectors to facilitate the comprehensive assessment and integrated management of LMEs (Wang 2004). The five modules have been used in the TDA/SAP process in some LMEs but not all. They serve to support the shift to an EBM approach by specifying the components of the ecosystem that need to be addressed. The modules provide categories of measurement and indicators to assist in quantifying the state, or measuring the changing state of ecosystems. The Gulf of Mexico LME and the Humboldt Current LME are good examples of those that did use the 5-module categorization (GEF UNIDO 2011, GEF LME:LEARN 2017).

Limitations have been identified in the governance and socio-economic modules in several reports and reviews, including Duda (2014 and 2016), which point out that the emphasis has traditionally been on the biophysical modules. The governance and socio-economic modules need to be most urgently revised and updated in order to reflect the importance of these components to the whole LME approach.

Concerns around anthropogenically driven environmental changes, including

climate changes,

ocean warming

ocean acidification, and

sea level changes

leading to

coral bleaching, and

coastal erosion and other impacts,

have sometimes not been explicitly included in the 5-module approach. LME practitioners should be aware that these issues are crosscutting and need to be reflected in the assessments of every module.

Many TDAs include environmental change and climate mitigation as issues that have a serious impact on LMEs, but they often fall outside of the scope of GEF International Waters funding and thus of SAPs.

The Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP)

The Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme arose out of a need for the development of a set of systematic and standardized methods and arrangements for assessing the changing state of transboundary waters systems. The GEF-supported TWAP was initiated in 2009 to establish a methodology for a globally comparative assessment of LMEs as well as other transboundary waters systems (Open Ocean, River Basins, Groundwater Aquifers, and Lakes and Reservoirs), that would help GEF, policy makers and the international community to set priorities for the management of transboundary waters systems. The intention was also to provide a baseline for the monitoring of future changes to the condition of these systems. The ultimate goal was to allow GEF, governments and the international community to set science-based priorities for financial and project resource allocation in international waters, and to effectively monitor and evaluate the impacts of these interventions over time.

The first TWAP project (2009-2010) focused on the development of scientifically robust, indicator based methodologies for assessment of the five transboundary waters systems. TWAP methodology at is available at www.geftwap.org/publications.

The second TWAP project (2013-2015) had two major objectives;

To conduct a global baseline comparative assessment of the status and changing condition of transboundary water systems, which would allow science-based priorities for financial resource allocation to be set.

To establish the institutional arrangements for conducting future assessments and thus to track results of interventions.

An indicator scoring system was used to identify patterns of risk among LMEs, which is useful for comparative purposes, although some indicators are not clearly good or clearly bad, in terms of providing increased risk to the ecosystem. Aside from providing a baseline and a means of tracking change in global LMEs, the TWAP LME assessment can provide data and input into other studies such as the TDAs for individual LMEs, the Ocean Health Index (OHI) for countries of regions, the UN World Ocean Assessment, and for monitoring with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Barbiere and Heileman 2016). Indicators were selected for all five of the LME modules, and this became the first global, indicator-based global comparative assessment of all 66 LMEs.

The TWAP outputs can assist TDA/SAP projects with multiple aspects, including by providing:

Identification and delineation of water bodies. A key output of the TWAP has been to update and improve the delineation of transboundary water bodies. In particular, the identification and delineation of transboundary aquifers has been greatly improved through the TWAP.

Background data and information on the relevant transboundary aquifers, lakes, rivers and LMEs, such as biophysical, geographic, socioeconomic, and governance information (analysis of arrangements and effectiveness).

Indicator results which can be used as a starting point, particularly in the TDA, to identify some of the key issues in the relevant water bodies, as well as an initial assessment of their severity and potential priority. Indicator results include both a baseline assessment, as well as projected scenarios for the 2030s and 2050s.

Indicator frameworks, and underlying indicator methodologies and data sources, which can be used as starting points for undertaking assessments during a TDA and providing baseline for the subsequent implementation of the SAP to complement national and regional indicators specific to the TDA/SAP region.

Access to data partners and stakeholders. Partners involved in TWAP may be able to assist with filling data gaps. Though much of the data used was primarily assessed at a global resolution, a significant amount of data is likely to be available at a resolution that is applicable at the individual water body level. In some cases, partners may have updated datasets to a finer resolution since the completion of the TWAP baseline (2015). In some cases, TWAP assessments involved local stakeholders who could contribute to the TDA/SAP processes. This was particularly true in the case of transboundary aquifers and lakes.

►TDA/SAP Manual

The TWAP web portal provide information and contact details of significant value to projects undertaking TDA/ SAPs in providing waterbody-type specific guidance and potential indicators that can be utilised. Further brief details on TWAP and all waterbody reports and guidance can be found on www.geftwap.org.

The TWAP LME assessment provides an up-to-date robust, tested and harmonized assessment methodology for all modules, and as such, at least the minimum set of core indicators should be tracked as far as possible by LME Projects or partners in all LME regions.  

The modules are presented below, with specific recommendations for strengthening the approach in general, and socio-economic and governance modules in particular, using the TWAP assessment recommendations as a minimum set of indicators which should be collected consistently, within every LME, where possible, and with additional recommendations and tools from other sources.

2.1 Productivity module

The productivity module addresses the LME carrying capacity for supporting fisheries. It is surmised that the maximum global level of productivity for supporting the worlds fisheries has been reached, and that large scale increases in biomass yields are likely to be from fisheries changing their target species and trophic level to fish further down the food web, at trophic levels below fishes (Pauly et. al. 2002). In several regions, nutrient runoff into coastal ecosystems has been related to harmful algal blooms and the spread of pathogens such as vibrio, cholera and shellfish toxins (Epstein 1993).

2.1.1 Parameters measured

The parameters that are usually measured include photosynthetic activity, zooplankton biodiversity and oceanographic variability. Measurements are made to assess the status and temporal changes of these elements, which also incorporates anthropogenic influences by indicating coastal eutrophication, for example (Wang 2004).

2.1.2 Core indicators

The core indicators recommended by the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (IOC-UNESCO 2011) are:

Primary productivity

Chlorophyll a

Sea surface temperature (SST)

2.1.3 Other indicators

Other ecosystem indicators used to measure the changing state of productivity include zooplankton and species composition, zooplankton biomass, water-column structure, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), transparency, chlorophyll a, nitrite, nitrate, and primary production. Plankton can be measured over long time scales by deploying continuous plankton recorder systems monthly across ecosystems from commercial vessels of opportunity (Batten and Burkill 2010), and accessing archived data in the World Ocean Atlas. Additional data on physical state such as Sea Surface Temperature (SST), fluorescence, salinity, oxygen, nitrate and zooplankton biomass and diversity are also useful (IOC UNESCO 2011).

2.2 Fish and Fisheries module

The fish and fisheries module seeks to quantify the changes in fisheries biomass and biodiversity, as well as to understand their causes. LMEs are thought to be the source of over 80% of the global fish catch, and are thus a significant source of food, livelihoods and foreign exchange. Biodiversity changes can be due to overexploitation, pollution and habitat destruction as well as environmental shifts related or unrelated to climate change.

2.2.1 Parameters measured

Information collected to inform this module includes standardized fisheries independent trawl surveys as well as acoustic biomass surveys. Physical fish specimens provide samples for DNA analysis, identification, stomach content analysis, age and growth studies, and pollution studies.

2.2.2 Core Indicators

Core indicators that can be measured to assess and track the fisheries module that are recommended by the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme are:

Reported landings

Value of reported landings

Marine Trophic Index and Fishing in Balance Index

Ecological footprint of fisheries

Stock- status plots

2.2.3 Other indicators

Additional useful indicators include:

Catch from bottom-impacting gear

Fishing effort (and cost of fishing)

Projected catch potential (2005/2055)

LME carrying capacity in relation to maximum sustainable yield (IOC UNESCO 2011)

2.3 Pollution and Ecosystem Health Module

The pollution and ecosystem health module deals with marine and coastal pollution, a major impact on the status and functioning of LMEs. Persistent organic pollutants and substances that move between water and air / aerosols, tend to have the highest transboundary impacts (Sherman et. al. 2009), and there can be a direct impact on human health via chemical contamination or spread of disease. Monitoring of water quality and biological indicator species are used to measure the impacts of pollution on ecosystems.

2.3.1 Parameters measured

The state of health of ecosystems can be measured on the basis of measurements of biodiversity, stability, yields, productivity and resilience. In order to be considered healthy, an ecosystem should maintain its structure, organization, and be resistant to external stress (Costanza 1992). Monitoring programmes might look at water analysis, fish tissue analysis, and substrate analysis. Bioaccumulation of toxins can also be assessed to determine impacts on species and populations. The incidence and frequency of harmful algal blooms, and evidence of disease can also inform this module (Sherman et. al. 2009).

2.3.2 Core indicators

The TWAP recommends at the very least, the active monitoring of indicator chemicals currently earmarked for monitoring under existing legislation (eg the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)).

Inshore marine habitats provide a vast range of provisioning and non-provisioning services to coastal populations, including food, livelihoods, coastal protection, water filtration, carbon sequestration, recreation and tourism (Nellemann, et. al. 2009). Coastal ecosystems include corals reefs, mangrove stands, salt marshes, sandy beaches, rocky shores, estuaries, lagoons and seagrass beds, all of which are highly productive ecosystems. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is particularly concerned with the protection of critical habitats, which have since been proposed as indicators for the TWAP LME assessment. These core indicators include:

Seamounts at risk

Change in protected area coverage

Change in extent of mangrove habitat

Percentage extent of saltmarsh habitat

Extent of seagrass habitat

Reefs at risk index

Deltas at risk index

2.3.3 Other indicators

The presence and change in abundance and distribution of invasive species has not, thus far, been explicitly included in the 5-module approach. Although invasive species are generally considered to be a threat to ecosystem health, and would be identified through the causal chain analysis if they posed a problem, the quantification of their presence should be assessed as part of the Ecosystem Health module. The Global Invasive Species Programme has prepared a toolkit for the economic analysis of invasive species (Emerton and Howard 2008).

►A Toolkit for the Economic Analysis of Invasive Species

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a suite of five coastal condition indices: water quality, sediment quality, benthic communities, coastal habitat, and fish tissue contaminants, as part of a collaborative effort with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey, and other agencies.

TWAP recommends the monitoring of mercury and other nutrients, and also that shipping density is monitored as one of the indicators of ecosystem health and risk of pollution (IOC-UNESCO 2011).

Other indicator tools may predict cumulative impact from a number of stressors, and be a useful tool for LMEs. The indicator cumulative human impacts on marine ecosystems predicts the impact on marine biodiversity and ecosystems from multiple anthropogenic stressors. An increase in the cumulative impact score indicates that a stressor or suite of stressors is having an increased impact on biodiversity. (Halpern et. al. 2015)

Additionally there are other indicator frameworks that might be used by LMEs, or to which participating countries or LMEs might consider contributing data; for example the Ocean Health Index (OHI).

2.4 Socioeconomics Module

The socioeconomics module addresses the human dimensions of LMEs. It assesses the social and economic state of human populations and communities depending on LMEs. Costanza et. al. (1997) calculated that coastal waters of LMEs contributed US$12.6 trillion to the global economy in 1997 and US$28 trillion by 2016 (IOC/UNESCO and UNEP 2016). Socioeconomic analyses integrate social and economic indicators to identify and evaluate management options that are beneficial to coastal communities.

The Blue Economy

Modern ocean policy in many countries is focused on the Blue Economy, a relatively new concept framing the intent to maximise the sustainable benefit from ocean, coastal and marine economic activity. The blue economy is expected to play a major role in the sustainable economic growth of many developing countries, from sectors such as tourism, fisheries, aquaculture, transport, ports, mining and energy generation.

In Africa, for example, the African Union (AU) Commission champions the Blue Economy concept in the AU’s 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AU 2012). In addition, Regional Economic Communities and Intergovernmental Organizations are also developing strategies, for example the Indian Ocean Commission is developing a Blue Economy Action Plan for its members. At national level, Blue Economy strategies are being pursued in Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa.

South Africa has begun Operation Phakisa which was conceptualized as a fast delivery programme to support the National Development Plan. One of the seven themes of Operation Phakisa is the Oceans Economy, under which four areas that are expected to provide the most sustainable benefit are:

Marine Transport and Manufacturing,

Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration,

Aquaculture, and

Marine Protection Services and Ocean Governance.

A policy handbook has been developed, particularly for African States, to enable them to mainstream the Blue Economy into national development plans, strategies and laws. This is a useful general reference tool and contains guidelines on social geopolitical and climate considerations as well as a step-by-step guide to developing blue economic policy (UNECA 2016).

Africa’s Blue Economy: A policy handbook

The blue economy and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP)

With the increased demands on ocean space, and the recognition of the need for improved spatial planning in the coastal and marine space, MSP activities have often commenced alongside blue economy policy. In strengthening the 5-module approach, the socio-economics module must address blue economy policy as well as evaluate any MSP activities in the LME of concern. Marine Spatial Planning Toolkit

Approximately 90% of TDA-SAP processes have identified the need for cost-benefit analyses or value chain analyses to justify political support for management and policy reform (UNDP 2017). The completion of a rigorous socio-economics assessment is thus critical to the assessment process, and for guiding and informing the interventions agreed to in the SAP. Environmental valuations should be built into the TDA-SAP process design from the outset.

Susan and Interwies (2017) developed a guidance document on Economic Valuation of Ecosystem services in International Waters Projects. Although not confined to LMEs, useful tools and methodologies are presented.  
Economic Valuation of Ecosystem services in International Waters Projects

The Union for the Mediterranean has recently published a summary of the Blue Economy in the Mediterranean. It presents a current state of the blue economy, highlighting challenges, opportunities and trends as well as the potential areas for sustainable development. Main sectors are tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, maritime transport, shipbuilding and recycling, and blue energy. The Blue Economy report is notable in that it takes into account the ICZM Protocol of the Barcelona Convention as well as the EU directive (adopted in 2014) to create a common framework for Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in Europe (Anon 2017).

The TEEB report on Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation is also very relevant to ecosystem valuations in LMEs, with some of the following recommendations
(De Groot et al. 2010):

Ecological functioning and economic values are context, space and temporally variable. Ecosystem assessments should be spatially and temporally explicit at scales meaningful for policy formulation.

Assessments should first quantify service delivery in biophysical terms to provide a solid underpinning to the assessment.

Clear distinctions must be made between functions, services and benefits

Valuation studies must properly represent the ‘costs’ including societal costs and missed opportunities, and not just focus on the benefits, in order to be properly representative.

Ecosystem assessments should integrate an analysis of risks and uncertainties to acknowledge the limitations of data/knowledge.

2.4.1 Parameters monitored

The Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island has developed a framework for monitoring and assessment of the human dimension of LMEs and for incorporating socioeconomic considerations into an adaptive management approach for LMEs (Sutinen 2000).

Tools and parameters chosen would be LME-specific, but the Environmental Economics Toolkit provides an overview of the tools that are useful for LME practitioners. These include:

Economic impact assessment

Risk analysis/vulnerability assessment

Climate change economics (damage assessment, adaptation planning, ecosystem-based adaptation and blue carbon)

Valuation of ecosystem services (JNCC valuation toolkit, WRI (World Resources Institute )guidance manual on coastal capital, VALUES method for integrating ecosystem services, UNEP guidance manual on value transfer, Ecosystem services valuation database, TEEB – the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, and the UNEP Guidance manual for the valuation of regulating services).

Natural capital accounting (SEEA - system of environmental-economic accounting, EEA – Experimental Ecosystem Accounts, and the UNEP guidance manual for Small Island Developing States (SIDS)).

Natural Capital Protocol to engage the private sector, and

Economic appraisal frameworks (Cost-effectiveness analysis, Cost-benefit analysis and multi-criteria analysis).

2.4.2 Core indicators

The TWPA recommends the monitoring of the following core indicators:

GDP fisheries,

% GDP international tourism,

Urban and rural populations living within 10 m coastal elevation,

Human Development Index (HDI), and

Deaths per 100,000 caused by climate related natural disasters.

IUCN (2007) presents a useful set of tools for the Economic Valuation of LMEs, as well as case studies.

2.5 Governance module

Traditionally, governance arrangements have been along sectoral lines, without consideration for integrated ecosystem-wide perspectives (Sutinen 2005). Ecosystem based governance needs to consider multiple sectors (for example fisheries, tourism, mining, oil & gas, conservation, transport, recreation) and scales (local, national, regional, global). If the fragmented approach to global oceans governance was working, we would not see the continued degradation that is very evident today (Duda 2016).

Investments in LME management must consider and include innovative tools and complementary approaches to coastal and ocean management, such as the ICM, MSP, MPA and fisheries reserve networks. These should be included in a suite of tools for the strengthening of LME management and governance.

2.5.1 Parameters measured

The governance module assesses the current state of management and governance of LMEs (local, national, regional and global agreements) as well as addressing the reforms recommended in the Strategic Action Programmes, in response to the issues identified in the first four modules.

2.5.2 Core indicators

The TWAP methodology recommends two stages of assessment. Stage 1 consists of a preliminary assessment of the extent to which a transboundary governance framework is in place to address the key issues relevant to the LME. This allows analysis of the arrangements and issues and the extent to which existing arrangements are appropriate, given the status quo. The stage 2 assessment assesses the performance and functionality of governance arrangements in terms of a broad range of criteria that include effectiveness, inclusivity, efficiency and equitability (IOC-UNESCO 2011).

The Governance Toolkit provides an overview of LME-relevant tools for good governance, including:

LME governance frameworks / Evaluating principles of good governance,

Values and ethics,

Stakeholder engagement,

Policy and legal frameworks for LMEs,

Regional ocean governance (scales of governance, with case studies), and

Best practice for effective governance.

The LME scorecard also provides tools for measuring and evaluating the effective governance of LMEs.