Practical implementation of cumulative‐effects management of marine ecosystems in western North America
Globally, ecosystem structure and function have been degraded by the cumulative effects (CE) of multiple stressors. To maintain ecosystem resilience, there is an urgent need to better account for CE in management decision-making at various scales. Current laws and regulations are supported by a multitude of frameworks and strategies that vary in application and terminology use across management agencies and geopolitical boundaries. We synthesized management frameworks that accounted for CE in
... rine ecosystems at the regional and national levels across western North America (Canada, United States, Mexico) to identify similarities and shared challenges to successful implementation. We examined examples of solutions to the identified challenges (e.g., interagency and cross-border partnerships to overcome challenges of managing for ecologically relevant spatial scales). Management frameworks in general consisted of 3 phases: scoping and structuring the system; characterizing relationships; and evaluating management options. Challenges in the robust implementation of these phases included lack of interagency coordination, minimal incorporation of diverse perspectives, and data deficiencies. Cases that provided solutions to these challenges encouraged coordination at ecological rather than jurisdictional scales, enhanced involvement of stakeholders and Indigenous groups, and used nontraditional data sources for decision-making. Broader implementation of these approaches, combined with increased interagency and international coordination and collaboration, should facilitate the rapid advancement of more effective CE assessment and ecosystem management in North America and elsewhere.