What is seascape ecology?

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In a rapidly changing world, where environmental patterns are being modified by human activity and the blue economy is expanding and diversifying, society requires a deeper understanding of the linkages between ocean patterns and ecological processes. Seascape ecology, a new holistic and interdisciplinary subject now emerging within marine science, focuses on understanding the causes and ecological consequences of the complex and dynamic spatial patterning that exists in marine environments.

 

A seascape ecology approach draws heavily from conceptual and analytical frameworks developed in terrestrial landscape ecology and requires that we go beyond just observing spatial patterning, to actively engage in its systematic quantification at multiple scales.

 

A primary catalyst for the evolution of seascape ecology has been the technological advancement and proliferation of space-, air, and water-based ocean observing systems, together with increased sophistication in geospatial tools and simulation models.  These technologies have allowed us to collect, integrate and analyse vast quantities of marine data that have revealed unimaginable structural complexity and interconnectedness. A key utility of the seascape approach is the potential to provide ecologically meaningful information at spatial scales that are operationally relevant for decision making in marine management. 

 

Nevertheless, significant knowledge gaps still exist in our understanding of how structural patterns at multiple spatial and temporal scales influence marine species distributions and biodiversity patterns. In a world where spatial data is a core component of decision-making throughout society, seascape ecologists have great potential to support effective stewardship, to address new questions on pattern-process relationships and to change the way we perceive, understand and manage the marine environment.  

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