Volume 4 – October 2009

This Newsletter is being published on a quarterly basis pursuant to CBD decision IX/7. To subscribe, please visit http://www.cbd.int/. The aim of this e-Newsletter is to facilitate sharing of information on the application of the ecosystem approach and promote the use and voluntary update of the Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook.

The Large Marine Ecosystem Approach

This issue presents experiences and achievements of the Large Marine Ecosystem Approach, which has been successfully applied to recover marine goods and services in a growing number of developing countries. The Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) approach is being endorsed and supported by 110 governments world-wide, five UN agencies, as well as financial institutions including the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank, and a broad constituency in the scientific community. In 2005, Large Marine Ecosystems were recognized in a scientific consensus statement by over 200 marine scientists, academics and policy experts as important global areas for practicing ecosystem-based research, assessment and management of ocean goods and services. The movement is presently under way, with the support of financial grants, and donor and UN partnerships, in nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe. More on the global LME movement (More on the Global LME Movement Duda IUCN 2009 )

The LMEs are natural regions of coastal ocean space encompassing waters from river basins and estuaries to the seaward boundaries of continental shelves and seaward margins of coastal currents and water masses. They are relatively large regions characterized by distinct bathymetry, hydrography, productivity, and trophically dependent populations (For more information see Duda and Sherman 2002). It is within the boundaries of 64 LMEs (see the map below), that 80% of annual marine fisheries yields are produced, overfishing is most severe, marine pollution is concentrated, and eutrophication and anoxia are increasing.

Large Marine Ecosystems

A five-module indicator approach to assessment and management of LMEs has proven useful in ecosystem-based projects in the USA and elsewhere. The five modules are focused on measuring changes in LME (i) productivity, (ii) fish and fisheries , (iii) pollution and ecosystem health, (iv) socioeconomics, and (v) governance. Each of the 5 modules applies suites of indicators to assess spatial and temporal changes in the LMEs and determine whether conditions are improving or deteriorating. For example, the productivity module lists as indicators photosynthetic activity, zooplankton biodiversity, oceanographic variability, zooplankton biomass, and ichthyoplankton biodiversity.

This issue was prepared in partnership with NOAA’s Large Marine Ecosystem Program.  

More on Five LME Modules and Indicators of Ecosystem Health

The suites of LME indicators are also used to better understand climate variability, and to improve the long-term sustainability of marine goods and services in all 64 LMEs and their linked watersheds. Summaries of the condition of the world’s 64 LMEs in relation to the five LME modules are provided in "The UNEP Large Marine Ecosystem Report – A Perspective on Changing Conditions in LMEs of the World’s Regional Seas".

The Large Marine Ecosystem Approach in Practice

Since 1995, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has provided substantial funding to support country-driven projects for introducing ecosystem-based assessment and management practices for the recovery and sustainability of LME goods and services located around the margins of the oceans. At present, 110 developing countries are engaged in the preparation and implementation of 16 GEF-LME projects totaling $1.8 billion in start-up funding. The countries participating in these projects are engaged in a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis and Strategic Action Programme (TDA – SAP) process, and their progress is being tracked in newsletters and reports that are listed in the LME portal at www.lme.noaa.gov/.

The 16 LME projects in which ecosystem based assessment and management practices are being introduced are: the Agulhas Current and Somali Current, the Baltic Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Benguela Current, the Black Sea, the Canary Current, the Caribbean Sea, the Guinea Current, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Thailand, the Indonesian Sea, the Humboldt Current, the Mediterranean Sea, the South China Sea, the Sulu-Celebes, and the Yellow Sea LMEs. The Yellow Sea LME project (YSLME) is the largest single global effort, undertaken by China and Republic of Korea, to restore depleted fisheries and degraded water quality. Both countries are working together in the YSLME project to reduce fishing effort by 30%, replace an estimated loss of 1 million metric tons of annual capture fisheries biomass yield with between 1 and 2 million metric tons annually of advanced polyculture and sea-ranch produced fisheries products, based on model estimates in gCm² of fisheries carrying capacity. A by product of ramping up polyculture production is improved coastal water quality. More on the YSLME project (YSLME Project, Qisheng Tang on the YSLME, Walton and Jiang on the YSLME)

Outreach and Education for LME Based Management

(1) Outreach through DVDs
Two DVDs have been produced to demonstrate current stress on the oceans of the world, and the utility of the LME approach to initiate ecosystem recovery: “Turning the Tide – Sustaining the Earth’s Large Marine Ecosystems”, and “Africa on the Cutting Edge – Leading Global Marine Ecosystem Recovery”. More on the DVDs and how to obtain them.

(2) “The UNEP LME Report -- A Perspective on Changing Conditions of the World’s Regional Seas” (2008)
The United Nations Report finds that 61 of the 64 Large Marine Ecosystems show a significant increase in sea surface temperatures in the last 25 years, contributing to decreasing fisheries catches in some areas and increasing catches in others. More on the report, how to obtain a copy, and downloading the 64 LME briefs.

(3) “Sustaining the World’s Large Marine Ecosystems” (2009)
This publication is a collaborative effort of the IUCN, 5 United Nations Agencies, NOAA’s Large Marine Ecosystem Program, and the GEF. The book provides examples of advances made in the Yellow Sea, the Benguela Current, and the Baltic Sea LMEs, based on the LME approach. More on the latest LME publication.

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Other useful website links

IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management
Quarterly information service on marine ecosystem-based management


Kenneth Sherman, Marie-Christine Aquarone, and Sally Adams (NOAA), Alfred Duda (GEF), Igor Belkin (University of Rhode Island), Sybil Seitzinger (IGBP), Porter Hoagland and Di Jin (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Michael O’Toole (Ireland Marine Institute), Jan Thulin (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), Qisheng Tang (Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute), Yihang Jiang and Mark Walton (YSLME Project), James Oliver, Dan Laffoley and Carl Gustaf Lundin (IUCN), and Gotthilf Hempel (Kiel, Germany).

For more information on LMEs and the LME movement, contact the NOAA LME Office at:
Tel: +1 401 782-3211
FAX: +1 401 782-3201
LME website at: www.lme.noaa.gov/
Email: Kenneth.Sherman@noaa.gov, MC.Aquarone@noaa.gov

We encourage you to submit more examples of the application of the ecosystem approach by writing to secretariat@cbd.int