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Integrated ecosystem assessments

Converting our improved understanding of the marine ecosystem into effective advice.
​​​​​​​​​​What is happening?

While marine ecosystems are complex, our understanding of their functioning is constantly evolving. This increasing knowledge allows us to provide environmental advice that integrates more and more elements of the ecosystem. ​​ ​​​​

Over the last decade, marine and maritime policies have embraced the ecosystem approach to manage human impacts on marine ecosystems. These policies recognize the need to implement approaches that address ecological, economic, and social needs. Using the ecosystem approach, ICES strengthens the link between science, policy developments, and advisory needs. In this way, we can​​​​​​​ inform society about the ecological, economic, and social trade-offs between different policy options.

This is ICES putting the ecosystem approach into practice. 

What does ICES do?

ICES ​is developing integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) - quantitative evaluations and synthesis of information on physical, chemical, ecological, and human processes that provide the scientific understanding to deliver advice on societal trade-offs between different policy options. 

IEAs are a natural progression in the ecosystem approach to marine management.To develop integrated management plans, we need to understand the relationship between human activities and marine ecosystems, to estimate pressures and impacts, and develop science-based advice for the sustainable use and protection of marine ecosystems.

ICES IEA groups are working to update ecosystem overviews in several regions. These overviews feature ecosystem descriptions combined with long-term species trends and long-term trends in drivers of ecosystem change such as climate, oceanography,​ and fishing pressure.

​Understanding is of course not uniform across ​ecosystems and therefore ​​​critical processes are better understood in some areas. For this reason, the development of regional overviews ensures that local management objectives can be addressed.

Ecosystem overviews and regional IEAs highlight ICES capacity to provide integrated advice, which is expected to meet the future needs of advice on the environmental status of the marine ecosystem.


ICES collaborates on IEAs with the following organizations:


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Integrated ecosystem assessments

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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