2014 American Fisheries Society Meeting

Ocean Tipping Points team member Mary Hunsicker co-organized a symposium at the 2014 American Fisheries Society (AFS) Annual Meeting in Quebec, Canada in August 2014. Here Mary reflects on the experience: 

"Organizing a conference symposium is always an enjoyable experience for me. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring together people from different institutions to share research findings on a topic of common interest and to stimulate discussions for future research and collaborations. This year I had the pleasure of co-organizing a symposium at the American Fisheries Society meeting in Quebec, Canada titled “Integrating Ecosystem Threshold Responses into Living Marine and Aquatic Resource Management”. Ten speakers presented research on ecosystem thresholds and tipping points from the perspective of multiple disciplines, including ecology, fisheries and ecosystem management, economics, law and policy. The symposium was well attended and it was inspiring to see the great progress being made to identify and understand the prevalence of ecological thresholds, to account for them in fisheries and ecosystem models, and to implement them in management frameworks. I was especially excited by the audience’s interest in the Ocean Tipping Points projects presented by team members Kendra Karr, Ashley Erickson and myself. Kendra’s presentation provided a great example of how thresholds can be used to assess ecosystem state and develop reference points to guide precautionary management in coral reef fisheries; Ashley presented a broad and refreshing view of the application of threshold-based management under U.S. environmental legal frameworks; and I presented my work on the prevalence and strength of nonlinear driver-response relationships in pelagic marine systems. In addition to showcasing recent advancements in the science and management of ecological thresholds, the symposium also brought to light many avenues for future work, including identifying threshold responses to multiple stressor combinations; testing the utility of early warning indicators in detecting tipping points; improving our understanding of the interactions and feedbacks among ecological, social and economic systems that can prompt regime shifts; and further evaluation of the performance of management control rules using empirically defined thresholds in ecological indicators."

Symposium Abstract:

There is considerable evidence to suggest that aquatic and marine ecosystems can exhibit critical changes with threshold responses to human and environmental pressures. How these tipping points can be incorporated into management tools for aquatic ecosystems is less well understood. Management that is sufficiently robust to these critical changes depends on (a) an understanding of nonlinear responses of systems to environmental and human pressures, (b) methodology to identify critical points associated with ecosystem indicators and system pressures, (c) knowledge of the consequences of tipping points for ecosystem services, (d) mechanisms for accounting for changing reference points associated with alternative system states, and (e) tradeoffs in performance of management strategies that use information on regime change relative to those that do not. This AFS symposium reviews current research in quantitative methods, synthesis, and application to evaluate how regime change or tipping points can be integrated into decision support tools for fisheries and ecosystem management.  The presentations span geographic scale from system-specific examples to empirical and theoretical analyses across multiple systems, and provided direction for management advice.

Symposium Participants: Ashley Erickson (Stanford University), Tim Essington (University of Washington), Gavin Fay* (NOAA Fisheries), David Finoff (University of Wyoming), Mary Hunsicker* (NCEAS), Kendra Karr (UC Santa Cruz & Environmental Defense Fund), Scott Large* (NOAA Fisheries), David Lodge (University of Notre Dame), Kristin Marshall (NOAA Fisheries) and Cody Szuwalski (UC Santa Barbara)

*Co-organizers of the symposium

Presentation Titles and Links to Abstracts:

Characterizing Non-Linear Relationships in Marine Ecosystems: A Meta-Analysis
Mary Hunsicker (NCEAS)

Quantifying Critical Points in Ecological Indicator Responses to Fishing and the Environment
Scott Large (NOAA Fisheries)

Ecosystem Thresholds and Reference Points for Adaptive Management of Coral Reef Fisheries
Kendra Karr, (UC Santa Cruz & Environmental Defense Fund)

Estimating the Effects of Fishing on Ecosystem Stability Using Time-Series Methods
Kristin N. Marshall, (NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center)

Recruitment Dynamics and Predictability of Worldwide Marine Fish Populations
Cody Szuwalski (UC Santa Barbara)

Management Performance of Ecological Indicators Using Threshold-Based Fishery Control Rules
Gavin Fay (NOAA Fisheries)

Bioeconomic Regime Shifts and Management of Lake Fisheries Invaded By Rusty Crayfish
David M. Lodge (University of Notre Dame)

Threshold-Based Management and Existing U.S. Laws: Learning How Not to Fall Off a Cliff
Ashley Erickson (Stanford University)

Opposing Irreversibilities in Environmental Policy: Avoiding the Point of No Return or Delaying the Inevitable
David Finnoff (University of Wyoming)

Fishing Amplifies Collapse of Forage Fish: Management Thresholds for Ecosystem-Based Management
Timothy E. Essington (University of Washington)