Marine Biodiversity Dialogues: Expert Task Forces


Marine Biodiversity Dialogues: Expert Task Forces

The complex web of marine life is at the heart of healthy ecosystems that protect shorelines, support commercial and recreational fishing, drive carbon sequestration, and more. To help managers better protect marine biodiversity, the scientific community must provide data, information, and tools that are collaboratively produced by diverse knowledge holders and can be used across multiple management initiatives. The Lenfest Ocean Program is supporting Marine Biodiversity Dialogues (MBD), a series of expert task forces ongoing since Spring 2020, to:

  • develop and implement an assessment framework to estimate the abundances and distribution of marine biodiversity and habitats in U.S. waters from the near coast to the border of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); 
  • engage diverse knowledge holders, including managers, other scientists, resource users, NGOs, rights holders, and Indigenous leaders in building conceptual models that reflect their understanding of marine biodiversity, its benefits to the environment and their communities; and 
  • establish a shared language, through quantitative and qualitative approaches, of how marine biodiversity and habitats interact in space and time to affect broader ecosystem structure and function.

The Management Need

There is no explicit mandate to protect the diversity of species and habitats, making it challenging to develop holistic actions that consider the dynamic nature and interconnectedness of marine systems. The United States is, however, pursuing a series of policies that offer new opportunities to better protect marine biodiversity, including the National Ocean Biodiversity Strategy, the White House Ocean Climate Action Plan, and a commitment to protect 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. Additionally, there are several laws with provisions to conserve or recover marine resources (e.g., Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act).

Collaborative, Use-Driven Knowledge Produced Across Spatial & Governance Scales

MBD released its national marine biodiversity assessment framework in January 2024 (Gignoux-Wolfsohn et al., 2023). The framework provides the basis by which managers and communities can make strategic decisions about how best to sustain marine biodiversity and track the progress of management actions towards goals. MBD is now downscaling from the national level to regional and local scales – working with officials, resource users, Indigenous leaders, and other community members in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and Salish Sea to ground truth and improve the utility of the framework. With these communities, MBD is co-producing conceptual models that reflect their diverse expertise, needs, and values and identifying the key components of marine biodiversity that buttress ecosystem health and resilience.

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