Emergence of Seascape Ecology: A holistic pattern-oriented science for the oceans

CEESP News - by Simon Pittman, editor of Seascape Ecology

This year the first book dedicated entirely to the emerging science of seascape ecology was published. Seascape ecology, edited by Simon J Pittman, is a new holistic and interdisciplinary subject within marine science which focuses on understanding the causes and ecological consequences of spatial patterning in the seas.

 

Emergence of Seascape Ecology: A holistic pattern-oriented science for the oceans

This year the 1st book dedicated entirely to the emerging science of seascape ecology was published. So, what is seascape ecology? Where did it come from? and Why is it so relevant now?  Simon Pittman, editor of Seascape Ecology explains…

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. A growing number of marine scientists, geographers, and marine managers are increasingly asking questions about the marine environment that are best addressed with a landscape ecology perspective. 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. 

This new book provides a comprehensive look at the state-of-the-science in the application of landscape ecology to the seas and provides guidance for future research priorities. Of particular interest to CEESP members would be Chapter 11 Linking landscape and seascape condition; Chapter 12 Advancing a holistic systems approach in applied seascape ecology; Chapter 13 Human ecology at sea; and Chapter 15 Seascape economics: valuing ecosystem services across the seascape.

Simon J. Pittman is a marine ecologist with a Ph.D. in Geographical Sciences from the University of Queensland, Australia. As a scientist with one foot in academia and the other in government, he has taught and mentored graduate students, managed research projects informing management, as well as writing for marine science journals, academic books, and scientific reports. He is Director of Seascape Analytics Ltd., Associate Researcher at Plymouth University's Marine Institute, and Affiliate Faculty of Oregon State University and the University of the Virgin Islands.  Contact Simon at and visit his website  for more information.

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