Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs) – evaluations and syntheses of the ecological, and human processes that form the cornerstone for ICES advice and Ecosystem Based Management – represent a core strategic area for ICES as well as its partners, the regional seas commissions of HELCOM (the Helsinki Commission) and OSPAR. Such assessments are naturally complex, entail input from many quarters, and should address applied questions.
The Workshop on Regional Seas Commissions and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Scoping (WKRISCO), held late last year, saw chairs of ICES expert groups dealing with IEAs create a panorama of their work across the scopes of HELCOM and OSPAR. Representatives from these two organizations were present to help ICES ascertain their scientific and research requirements over the next five years.
Comprising ecologists, fisheries scientists, and social scientists as well as members of the European Environment Agency (EEA), the 26 participants pulled together the activities of the IEA groups, detailing shared areas of work and those in which there are differences. The experts also considered challenges related to social and economic drivers and impacts, which tend to vary between the groups.
The workshop weighed up the wider web of ecosystem actors and governance, with exploration into scoping: a key governance step binding science to society. This begs several crucial questions like ‘what is an IEA for the respective parties (including for social scientists)?’ and ‘what problem are IEAs aimed at solving?’ Answering these questions helps address another topical challenge – ensuring IEAs are tied to real-life challenges.
Scoping was also relevant to the workshop’s second objective: understanding the scientific and data gaps that the commissions need to fill. From a spread of policy interest areas, notable ones for OSPAR include biodiversity and ecosystems, eutrophication, and the oil and gas industry. Social and economic sciences should be more strongly integrated, as should the development of their respective indicators. For HELCOM, meanwhile, development of indicators, monitoring programmes, and the advancement of its HOLAS II project (assessing ecosystem health in the Baltic Sea) constitute knowledge needs already identified.
With equal engagement and idea sharing between everyone involved in the WKRISCO process, a timeline of commitments looking ahead was also put in place.
The WKRISCO report was released on Friday.