Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean health index provides first global assessment combining natural and human dimensions of sustainability

Date:
August 15, 2012
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
Using a new comprehensive index designed to assess the benefits to people of healthy oceans, scientists have evaluated the ecological, social, economic, and political conditions for every coastal country in the world. Their findings show that the global ocean scores 60 out of 100 overall on the Ocean Health Index. Individual country scores range widely, from 36 to 86.

Using a new comprehensive index designed to assess the benefits to people of healthy oceans, scientists have evaluated the ecological, social, economic, and political conditions for every coastal country in the world. Their findings, published Aug. 15 in the journal Nature, show that the global ocean scores 60 out of 100 overall on the Ocean Health Index. Individual country scores range widely, from 36 to 86. The highest-scoring locations included densely populated, highly developed nations such as Germany, as well as uninhabited islands, such as Jarvis Island in the Pacific.

Determining whether a score of 60 is better or worse than one would expect is less about analysis and more about perspective. "Is the score far from perfect with ample room for improvement, or more than half way to perfect with plenty of reason to applaud success? I think it's both," said lead author Ben Halpern, an ecologist at UC Santa Barbara. "What the Index does is help us separate our gut feelings about good and bad from the measurement of what's happening."

The Ocean Health Index is the first broad, quantitative assessment of the critical relationships between the ocean and people, framed in terms of the many benefits we derive from the ocean. Instead of simply assuming any human presence is negative, it asks what our impacts mean for the things we care about.

"Several years ago I led a project that mapped the cumulative impact of human activities on the world's ocean, which was essentially an ocean pristine-ness index," said Halpern, who is a researcher at UCSB's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), as well as UCSB's Marine Science Institute. He also directs UCSB's Center for Marine Assessment and Planning. "That was and is a useful perspective to have, but it's not enough. We tend to forget that people are part of all ecosystems -- from the most remote deserts to the depths of the ocean. The Ocean Health Index is unique because it embraces people as part of the ocean ecosystem. So we're not just the problem, but a major part of the solution, too."

In all, more than 30 collaborators from universities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, led by NCEAS and Conservation International, pulled together data on the current status and likely future condition for factors such as seafood, coastal livelihoods, and biodiversity. All together, 10 "shared goals" define the health of the ocean as its ability to provide such benefits now and in the future.

The Index emphasizes sustainability, penalizing practices that benefit people today at the expense of the ocean's ability to deliver those benefits in the future. "Sustainability tends to be issue-specific, focused on sustainable agriculture, fisheries, or tourism, for example," said Karen McLeod, one of the lead authors who is affiliated with COMPASS, a team of science-based communication professionals. "The Index challenges us to consider what sustainability looks like across all of our many uses of the ocean, simultaneously. It may not make our choices any easier, but it greatly improves our understanding of the available options and their potential consequences."

By re-envisioning ocean health as a portfolio of benefits, the Ocean Health Index highlights the many different ways in which a place can be healthy. Just like a diversified stock portfolio can perform equally well in a variety of market conditions, many different combinations of goals can lead to a high Index score. In short, the Ocean Health Index highlights the variety of options for strategic action to improve ocean health.

"To many it may seem uncomfortable to focus on benefits to people as the definition of a healthy ocean," said Steve Katona, another of the study's lead authors, who is with Conservation International. "Yet, policy and management initiatives around the world are embracing exactly this philosophy. Whether we like it or not, people are key. If thoughtful, sustainable use of the oceans benefits human well-being, the oceans and their web of life will also benefit. The bottom line is 'healthy ocean, healthy people, healthy planet.'"

Around the world, ocean policy lacks a shared definition of what exactly "health" means, and has no agreed-upon set of tools to measure status and progress. "The Index transforms the powerful metaphor of health into something concrete, transparent, and quantitative," said McLeod. "This understanding of the whole, not just the parts, is necessary to conserve and restore ocean ecosystems. We can't manage what we don't measure."

This first global assessment of the health of the ocean provides an important baseline against which future change can be measured. Without such a baseline, there is no way to know if things are actually getting better in response to management and conservation actions.

"The Index can provide strategic guidance for ocean policy," said Andrew Rosenberg, another of the lead authors and a former member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. "Because the Index includes current status, trends, and factors affecting sustainability for 10 broadly shared goals, it enables managers to focus on key actions that can really make a difference in improving the health of the ocean and benefits we derive from a healthier ocean."

Jake Rice, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada, who was not involved in the study, said: "No index, by itself, can be a sufficient guide to case-by-case decision-making. However, the Index can inform the public policy dialogue that is essential to sound governance. Moreover, the Index will improve and adapt with use and experience. All who care about the health of the oceans and the well-being of human societies that depend on them, should be looking forward to both the near-term benefits we can take from this work, and to the evolution of the Index as we gain experience with it."

The authors readily acknowledge methodological challenges in calculating the Index, but emphasize that it represents a critical step forward. "We recognize the Index is a bit audacious," said Halpern. "With policy-makers and managers needing tools to actually measure ocean health -- and with no time to waste -- we felt it was audacious by necessity."

Other co-authors from NCEAS are Catherine Longo, Darren Hardy, Jennifer O'Leary, Marla Ranelletti, Courtney Scarborough, and Ben Best. Co-authors from Conservation International are Elizabeth Selig, Leah Karrer, and Greg Stone. Jameal Samhouri and Mike Fogarty are from NOAA. Sarah Lester, Steve Gaines, Kelsey Jacobsen, and Cris Elfes are from UCSB. Kristin Kleisner, Daniel Pauly, Rashid Sumaila, and Dirk Zeller are from the University of British Columbia. Other co-authors are Dan Brumbaugh from the American Museum of Natural History; F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin from the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Larry Crowder from Stanford University; Kendra Daly from the University of South Florida; Scott Doney from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Heather Leslie from Brown University; Elizabeth Neely from COMPASS; Steve Polasky from the University of Minnesota; Bud Ris from the New England Aquarium; and Kevin St. Martin from Rutgers University.

The founding partners of the Ocean Health Index are Conservation International, National Geographic, and New England Aquarium. The founding presenting sponsor of the Ocean Health Index was Pacific Life Foundation and a founding grant was provided by Beau and Heather Wrigley.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Benjamin S. Halpern, Catherine Longo, Darren Hardy, Karen L. McLeod, Jameal F. Samhouri, Steven K. Katona, Kristin Kleisner, Sarah E. Lester, Jennifer O’Leary, Marla Ranelletti, Andrew A. Rosenberg, Courtney Scarborough, Elizabeth R. Selig, Benjamin D. Best, Daniel R. Brumbaugh, F. Stuart Chapin, Larry B. Crowder, Kendra L. Daly, Scott C. Doney, Cristiane Elfes, Michael J. Fogarty, Steven D. Gaines, Kelsey I. Jacobsen, Leah Bunce Karrer, Heather M. Leslie, Elizabeth Neeley, Daniel Pauly, Stephen Polasky, Bud Ris, Kevin St Martin, Gregory S. Stone, U. Rashid Sumaila, Dirk Zeller. An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature11397

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Ocean health index provides first global assessment combining natural and human dimensions of sustainability." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815131703.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2012, August 15). Ocean health index provides first global assessment combining natural and human dimensions of sustainability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815131703.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Ocean health index provides first global assessment combining natural and human dimensions of sustainability." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815131703.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Google says it is following Europe's new "Right To Be Forgotten Law," which eliminates user information upon request, but only to a certain degree. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
London Tests 'Sobriety Tags' On Alcohol-Related Offenders

London Tests 'Sobriety Tags' On Alcohol-Related Offenders

Newsy (July 31, 2014) London launched a program to test ankle bracelets that detect if a person has been drinking while on probation for an alcohol-related crime. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins