A new study with PML authors supported through the Marine Ecosystems Research Programme was published in Marine Policy this week, highlighting the value of increasing the contribution of shelf-seas community and ecosystem models to policy development and management.
Ecosystem models have great potential to support decision-making, however there is limited uptake and use of model products by decision makers in Europe and the UK in comparison with other countries.
In this study, the challenges of using these models in support of marine environmental management are assessed using the UK as an example because the UK has a broad capability in marine ecosystem modelling, with at least 14 different models which support management.
To improve understanding of policy and management issues that can be addressed using models, a workshop was convened which brought together advisors, assessors, biologists, social scientists, economists, modellers, statisticians, policy makers, and funders. This workshop identified where modelling can uniquely fill gaps in policy and future policy requirements and capability, as well as strategies for maximising the pull-through of new modelling techniques to ensure that the latest science is being used to underpin decision-making. The workshop also highlighted the need for a stronger link to social and economic systems in modelling, to increase the potential range of policy-related questions that can be addressed.
Scientists also recommended that communities of policy makers and scientists come together to co-develop ecosystem models which are more widely used with better awareness of capability, quality assurance, and uncertainty, as improved communication between communities is essential for a shared understanding of the strengths and limitations of ecosystem models.
The conclusions drawn from this assessment were based on UK ecosystem modelling; however some of the challenges and solutions will apply internationally. While some countries may at present be more comfortable with deploying ecosystem models to guide management and policy than others (for example Australia and the USA), there is still a large gulf between modellers and decision-makers, and the full utility of ecosystem models has not yet been realised.
The PML led Marine Ecosystems Research Programme, MERP, is a UK focused project which aims to increase the relevance and usage of marine ecosystem models to inform future policy and management decisions.