The three themes to be emphasized here overlap into many other aspects of this report as well. We are talking about Ecosystems that by definition are interrelated. I think it is important to point them out as themes however since they may get overlooked otherwise.
1. Marine ecosystems and the organisms living within them are highly interconnected and interdependant.
2. The ecosystems people live in and the activities they do in everyday life have a close connection with the welfare of marine ecosystems and their organisms.
3. We manage the resources and activities of different ecosystems in isolated jurisdictions of our governments and if change is to be effected, there are implications here.
1. A problem with defining the model of any marine system is that we have to draw boundaries which immediately restrict the reality of that system. We have a tendency to want to compartmentalize in order to make sense of things but nature doesn’t really work that way. This point should be made clear when modelling any ecosystem in an exhibit, and at every opportunity, the interactions with other ecosystems should be acknowledged.
- The anadromous fish story is probably the classic one to show interactions . Not only marine and fresh water systems, but the interconnections with surrounding forests as well.
- Marine mammals which may haul out on our rocky island ecosystems or swim in our local waters, but may within their lifetime traverse thousands of miles of coastal and open oceans.
- Plankton distribution and migrations across ecosystems, the foam wind swept onto a beach carrying bits of ocean planktonic debris which is gleaned by a migrating shorebird, probably originated in the open ocean or as larvae in distant rocky intertidal zones.
2. A very constructive public education role can be served by any educational curriculum in providing viewers with the evidence that the ecosystems in which they live and the activities they do in everyday life have a close connection with the welfare of marine ecosystems and their organisms. Just a few of the areas which can be included are as follows
- coastal cities and the materials they shed into the water.
- Agriculture runoff and the influence on eutrophication in marine systems.
- Introduction of exotic species which compromises the ecological integrity of natural ecosystems
- marine transportation and its effect
- marine recreation and its effect on organisms and ecosystems.
- Marine harvesting activities
- The activities we do that affect climate change.
The point to make in all of this is that all these activities can have a range of impact from severe to non-significant in terms of how ecosystems are effected. Here again the proposal must be made that this is part of our choice of futures for the ocean.
3. The implications for management of the resources in these overlapping ecosystems becomes clear when one can appreciate that we have allowed different levels of governments to deal with different ecosystems without considering their interactions. It points to the need for a holistic model of ecosystem management, rather than a compartmentalized one. This was one of the intents of the Oceans Act.. to break down that conflict in jurisdictions and have a new way of looking at and ensuring sustainability of the marine environment. The fact that agriculture, forestry, parks, military and fisheries are all managed separately with little appreciation of the ecosystems of their overlapping jurisdictions must be presented in all its absurdity for the public to perhaps start an open dialogue on how sustainability can be insured if we can’t get it right.
As part of biodiversity, the ways that organisms themselves have interdependencies provides a number of opportunities to illustrate interesting interrelationships.
- Population interactions, inter-specific and intra-specific.
- Escape responses.
- Symbiotic associations such as commensalism, mutualism and parasitism. Local examples are available here: http://www.racerocks.com/racerock/eco/bioassociate/bioassociate.htm
So how can this be portrayed?
- Start by finding ( if there are any) some positive examples of ecosystem management which takes into account the interrelated aspects of ecosystems.
- Present best-case scenarios for marine sustainability issues.
- In the take-aways section, provide constructive acts for visitors to follow up on in order to try to affect change that recognizes the need for a new method of marine ecosystem management.