Working Group on Cumulative Effects Assessment Approaches in Management (WGCEAM)
The goal of the Working Group on Cumulative Effects Assessment Approaches in Management (WGCEAM) is the development of a common and consolidated CEA framework to implement such assessments in different planning and regulatory context considering the different settings regarding data, knowledge, and decision-processes. Case studies are used to further develop the framework. This work is expected to provide guidance on data and knowledge needs to apply such a common CEA framework in different planning and regulatory settings.
Throughout the first meeting of the working group, a cumulative effects assessment framework for management was developed and two case studies (i.e. North Sea and the Gulf of St Lawrence) were identified as the proof of concept to be reviewed at the next WGCEAM meeting.
The CEA framework allows identifying and prioritizing the pressures that would need to be addressed by management measures based on the vulnerability of the ecosystem components to those pressures. The rationale and setting of the framework differs clearly from a typical ecosystem status assessment where the responses of indicators are assessed to quantify the effects of human pressures. Hence, while the framework can provide information on which ecosystem components are potentially mostly at risk, i.e. through the overall quantification of the cumulative effects across all pressures, the focus is on the effect potential for each pressure-ecosystem component relationship as this is key to guide management. Effects per se are not readily actionable in a management and, in particular in regulatory, context because observed or predicted effects are the result of multiple factors that are influenced by the variability of the spatial and temporal distribution of the pressures, the ecosystem response including various natural processes. Furthermore, it is also not intended to guide in detail regulatory management on a sector by sector basis as it is intended to provide more strategic advice aimed at identifying from the collective pressures and related human activities which sectors primarily require management regulations.
The framework assesses the vulnerabilities of ecosystem components to cumulative or collected pressures for a given ecosystem and management context. Following standard risk-based assessment practices, vulnerability is determined from the exposure (both spatial and temporal) of a specific ecosystem component to the different pressures and the effect potential based on the pressure load and the resistance and recovery potential of that ecosystem component.
In 2020, the WG focused on the development of the case studies. This helped to identify general issues around the application of the framework. Such issues comprised the identification of spatial and temporal boundaries, a common understanding of the evaluation elements such as resistance and recovery, or the application of standardised criteria to assess vulnerabilities. Finally, the group discussed the future use of the framework in the ICES advisory process. The development of a guidance of the framework and the embedding in the advisory process will be addressed at the next meeting.
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