Today, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) publishes ecosystem overviews for the Barents Sea, the Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters, the Celtic Seas, and the North Sea.
The new publications systematize the available knowledge on human interactions with the marine ecosystem and highlight ICES capacity to meet the needs of integrating knowledge on the environmental status of the marine ecosystem.
The overviews provide a description of the ecosystems, identify the main human imposed pressures, and explain how these impact on key ecosystem components. As ecosystem understanding is not uniform across regions, the development of regional overviews ensures that local management objectives can be addressed. "We hope that the overviews will not only give insight into the specific ecological characteristics and human pressures within each ecosystem but also highlight the synergies and differences across the ICES ecoregions", states Leonie O'Dowd, member of the Advice drafting group to finalize draft Ecosystem Overviews (ADGECO).
The overviews are living documents. Eider Andonegi, co-chair of ICES Working Group on Ecosystem Assessment of Western European Shelf Seas states that the overviews provide necessary information for working on integrated ecosystem assessments. "The overviews contain the most up-to-date knowledge available in the scientific community to qualitatively define the structure and functioning of these systems."
As the environment and ecosystems vary over time, the overviews will provide stakeholders and those who have an interest in the state of the seas, with the latest information on natural variability, trends, and step changes in the dynamics of their respective ecosystems. O'Dowd continues, "The process of drafting the overviews initiated the development of consistent data products across the ecoregions".
Darius Campbell, Executive Secretary of OSPAR sees the overviews as, "a real step towards real ecosystem based management". He points out that, "It is excellent to see ICES embedding its fisheries management decisions in an understanding of the general state of the environment through these ecosystem overviews."
ICES aims to provide an overview for each of its ecoregions and is currently developing overviews for the Baltic, Norwegian and Iceland seas.
To read the ecosystem overviews, visit the ICES website.