An exposure-effect approach for evaluating ecosystem-wide risks from human activitiesby A. M. Knights, G. J. Piet, R. H. Jongbloed, J. E. Tamis, L. White, E. Akoglu, L. Boicenco, T. Churilova, O. Kryvenko, V. Fleming-Lehtinen, J.-M. Leppanen, B. S. Galil, F. Goodsir, M. Goren, P. Margonski, S. Moncheva, T. Oguz, K. N. Papadopoulou, O. Setala, C. J. Smith, K. Stefanova, F. Timofte, L. A. Robinson

ICES Journal of Marine Science


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Original Article

An exposure-effect approach for evaluating ecosystem-wide risks from human activities

Antony M. Knights1†*, Gerjan J. Piet2†, Ruud H. Jongbloed2†, Jacqueline E. Tamis2†, Lydia White3,

Ekin Akoglu4, Laura Boicenco5, Tanya Churilova6, Olga Kryvenko6, Vivi Fleming-Lehtinen7,

Juha-Markku Leppanen7, Bella S. Galil8, Freya Goodsir9, Menachem Goren10, Piotr Margonski11,

Snejana Moncheva12, Temel Oguz13, K. Nadia Papadopoulou14, Outi Seta¨la¨7, Chris J. Smith14,

Kremena Stefanova6, Florin Timofte5, and Leonie A. Robinson3† 1Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Marine Science and Engineering, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK 2Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies (IMARES), Haringkade 1, IJmuiden 1976 CP, The Netherlands 3School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Nicholson Building, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK 4Instituto Nazionale di Ocenaographie e di Geofisica Sperimentale (OGS), Borgo Grotta Gigante 42/C, Sgonico, Italy 5National Institute for Marine Research and Development “Grigore Antipa”, Constanta 900581, Romania 6A.O. Kovalevskiy Institute of Biology and Southern Seas, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine 2, NakhimovAv., Sevastopol, Crimea 99011, Ukraine 7Marine Research Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), PO Box 140, Helsinki FI-00251, Finland 8National Institute of Oceanography, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (NIO-IOLR), Tel Shikmona, Haifa 21080, Israel 9Cefas, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT, UK 10Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69778, Israel 11Department of Fisheries Oceanography and Marine Ecology, National Marine Fisheries Research Institute, ul. Kollataja 1, Gdynia 81-332, Poland 12Institute of Oceanology, BAS 9000 Varna, PO Box 152, Bulgaria 13Institute of Marine Sciences, Middle East Technical University, PO Box 28, Erdemli 33731, Turkey 14Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, PO Box 2214, Heraklion 71003, Crete *Corresponding author: tel: +44 1752 587889; fax: +441752 586101; e-mail:

Knights, A. M., Piet, G. J., Jongbloed, R. H., Tamis, J. E., White, L., Akoglu, E., Boicenco, L., Churilova, T., Kryvenko, O., FlemingLehtinen, V., LeppanenJuha-Markku, Galil, B. S., Goodsir, F., Goren, M., Margonski, P., Moncheva, S., Oguz, T., Papadopoulou, K.

N., Seta¨la¨, O., Smith, C. J., Stefanova, K., Timofte, F., and Robinson, L. A. An exposure-effect approach for evaluating ecosystemwide risks from human activities. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsu245.

Received 19 August 2014; revised 8 December 2014; accepted 9 December 2014.

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is promoted as the solution for sustainable use. An ecosystem-wide assessment methodology is therefore required. In this paper, we present an approach to assess the risk to ecosystem components from human activities common to marine and coastal ecosystems.Webuildon: (i) a linkage framework thatdescribeshowhumanactivities can impact theecosystemthroughpressures, and (ii) aqualitative expert judgement assessment of impact chains describing the exposure and sensitivity of ecological components to those activities. Using case study examples applied at European regional sea scale, we evaluate the risk of an adverse ecological impact from current human activities to a suite of ecological components and, once impacted, the time required for recovery to pre-impact conditions should those activities subside. Grouping impact chains by sectors, pressure type, or ecological components enabled impact risks and recovery times to be identified, supporting resource managers in their efforts to prioritize threats for management, identify most at-risk components, and generate time frames for ecosystem recovery.

Keywords: ecosystem-based management, exposure-effect, human activities, impact, marine, risk framework. †These authors wish to be considered as joint first authors. # International Council for the Exploration of the Sea 2015. All rights reserved.

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ICES Journal of Marine Science; doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsu245

ICES Journal of Marine Science Advance Access published February 11, 2015


Current rates of resource exploitation are unsustainable and the ecosystem approach has been widely promoted as the framework to achieve sustainable use (Airoldi and Beck, 2007; EC, 2008;

Halpern et al., 2008). By definition, an ecosystem is a diverse range of physical and biological components which function as a unit (sensu Tansley, 1935), and therefore, an ecosystem approach should ideally consider the complete range of interactions that human activities have with the ecosystem and its components.

However, the number of sectors that exploit the ecosystem and its components is often great, resulting in many different pressures and a complex network of interactions (Knights et al., 2013).

Identification and prioritization of interactions for management can therefore be difficult (Bottrill et al., 2008), presenting a major challenge to transforming the ecosystem approach from a concept into an operational framework (Leslie and McLeod, 2007).

The onus has been placed on the scientific community to identify the pathways through which activities cause harm (Leslie and

McLeod, 2007; Fletcher et al., 2010). The relationships between human activities and ecological components have commonly been described using linkage-based frameworks. These adopt the causalchain concept to infer pressure–state relationships (Rounsevell et al., 2010) and have been applied widely in both marine and terrestrial environments (e.g. Elliott, 2002; La Jeunesse et al., 2003;

Odermatt, 2004; Scheren et al., 2004; Holman et al., 2005). The simplicity of these frameworks is advantageous as key relationships can be captured and displayed in a relatively simple way (Rounsevell et al., 2010). However, viewing linkages in isolation rather than accounting for the interplay across sectors, activities, pressures, or components may be overly simplistic (Tallis et al., 2010) and can lead to ineffective management (Khalilian et al., 2010). A flexible, problem-solving approach is therefore required that can link the relationship between the human activities and the environment while supporting the decision-making needs of environmental managers.