Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs)

Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) are regions of ocean and coastal space that encompass river basins and estuaries and extend out to the seaward boundary of continental shelves and the seaward margins of coastal current systems. As their name states, LMEs are relatively large regions that have been delineated according to continuities in their physical and biological characteristics, including inter alia : bathymetry, hydrography, productivity and trophically dependent populations. The LME as an organizational unit facilitates management and governance strategies that recognize the ecosystem's numerous biological and physical elements and the complex dynamics that exist amongst and between them.
Presently, the health of many of the 64 LMEs is at risk primarily as a result of pollution, over-fishing, habitat modification and habitat destruction. The consequences of these threats on ecosystem function and health, as well as the corresponding consequences to the global human population, is not known in empirical terms (ecosystem dynamics are non-linear, often with causes and effects separated by a variable time lag). However, the importance of marine and coastal area resources is undeniably substantial, thus mitigating the negative impacts of these threats and adopting management practices that sustain ecosystem function and health has become an international priority.
The international community is very concerned with the deteriorating conditions of coastal ecosystems. As a result of follow-up actions to United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) declarations in 1992 on the declining state of global coastal ocean areas, an important corner has been turned toward a focused global effort to improve and sustain coastal ecosystems. With the initiation in 2001 of the Benguela Current, Yellow Sea, Baltic Sea, and Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) projects , 30 countries across the globe in Asia, Africa, and eastern Europe have made ministerial level commitments to ecosystem-based assessment and management practices in support of the global objectives of Chapter 17 of Agenda 21. Among the specific project objectives are: (1) the recovery of depleted fish biomass and fisheries to promote greater food security, sustainable productivity and socioeconomic benefits; (2) reduction in pollution and eutrophication levels of coastal waters; and (3) restoration of degraded habitats including corals, mangroves, and wetlands. The biomass recovery and restoration activities encompass whole marine ecosystems. An additional 20 countries are preparing proposals to improve global coastal health and restore depleted biomass yields in west Africa (Canary Current LME), east Africa (Somali Current and Agulhas Current LMEs), Asia (Bay of Bengal LME), and Latin America (Caribbean LME and Gulf of Mexico LME, Humboldt Current LME, and the Pacific Central American Coastal LME). This coastal ocean restoration and sustainability approach is based on a 5-module assessment and management methodology. The modules are science-based and country driven; they include considerations of ecosystem: (1) productivity, (2) fish and fisheries, (3) pollution and ecosystem health, (4) socioeconomics, and (5) governance. (Figure 2). This approach is engaging ministries across traditional sectors (e.g. Environment, Fisheries, Energy, Tourism, and Finance).

Large Marine Ecosystems Information Resources

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