The Science of "What If": A pilot study in northern Massachusetts Bay using two ecosystem service tradeoff models to assess management options
To demonstrate how ecosystem service tradeoff models might help decision makers predict the effects of proposed management approaches, SeaPlan collaborated with research teams from New England and the West Coast in 2009 to conduct a two and a half year pilot study analyzing multi-use issues in Northern Massachusetts Bay. The area includes active maritime commerce, two provisional wind energy areas and well-studied, protected waters in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The two research teams applied different modeling approaches intended to support resource managers during decision making processes. One team led by researchers from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) used the concept of efficiency frontiers from the field of economics to examine how siting an offshore wind farm would affect the ecological and economic aspects of commercial fishing and whale watching. The other team led by researchers from Boston University and University of Vermont used a complex platform called Multiscale Integrated Model of Ecosystem Services (MIMES) to simulate the interplay between commercial fishing, whale watching, offshore wind energy and conservation. To make the technical results understandable to a broad audience, researchers created a user-friendly interface called the Marine Integrated Decision Analysis System (MIDAS). The Northern Massachusetts Bay pilot study demonstrated that ecosystem service tradeoff models can improve understanding of complex interactions within human-marine ecosystems and help visualize likely outcomes resulting from management actions taken across multiple sectors. The research suggests such tools can point to options that are more comprehensive and cost-effective when compared to typical sector-by-sector ocean management.