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Integrating Processes Controlling the South Florida Coastal Marine Ecosystem

NCCOS is developing a workable, ecosystem-based management approach to address the complex and inter-linked marine-estuarine-terrestrial environment in south Florida. Building on traditional Integrated Conceptual Ecosystem Models, the NCCOS-sponsored research project Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida (MARES) is developing new models that incorporate positive ecosystem services instead of only negative ecosystem impacts (i.e., stressors).

One of these models has been applied to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas marine ecosystem as a case study illustrating how the model can inform management decisions by focusing on those aspects of the ecosystem valued most by people. The conceptual model provides a more integrated representation of the ecosystem that more fully incorporates ecosystem interactions with human society. The new model was developed by NOAA’s Chris Kelble and eight other MARES researchers. Their results are published in the online journal PLOS One.

MARES represents a unique collaboration between NOAA (e.g., NCCOS, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, OAR/AOML, NOAA Fisheries), other federal agencies (e.g., Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment, USGS, Everglades National Park, EPA), academic scientists, state agencies (e.g., FFWCC, SFWMD, FDEP), and non-governmental environmental organizations (e.g., Audubon of Florida, The Nature Conservancy), working closely with agency managers, private industry stakeholders, and interested members of the public. MARES aims to reach a consensus about the defining characteristics and fundamental processes of a South Florida coastal marine ecosystem that is both sustainable and capable of providing the diverse ecological services upon which our society depends.

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