Development of a model and decision support tool that will have the ability to demonstrate tradeoffs among key services in a dynamic ecosystem requires a multifaceted approach. An asset of the MIMES approach is building on a wealth of scientific data and reliance on stakeholder contributions.
Here we provide an overview of the process with explanations of the various components and opportunities to contribute. Generally, the process will build on iteration of the model as data and knowledge availability advance.
- Tradeoff Narratives – The MIMES project has developed draft descriptions of the current state of understanding on tradeoffs between a key activity with other human activities that are likely to spatially and temporally overlap, and the ecological relationships that are most important to capture in MIMES. These draft narratives focus on the sectors and services that were deemed the most important to capture in the model because they are particularly relevant within the current debate about uses in the study area. These narratives are serving as the base in the design of box and flow diagrams which will be used to inform critical relationships within the MIMES model. The narratives provide the documentation to support the valuable links between various human activities and ecological relations. These links are critical to allow for deductive modeling and therefore should be based on the best available information. The various narratives provide descriptions between the services listed in the Two Approaches tab, and where interactions do or may exist. We invite the community to review and comment on three draft narratives provided below. Comments should be sent to Stephanie Moura. Download narratives.
- Bottom Disturbance – This narrative primarily considers impacts of mobile fishing gear on benthic communities. While disturbance to sea floor habitats can occur through a number of activities, the MIMES model is only considering a set of human activities. Potential impacts to the seafloor habitat with development of wind energy are addressed in another narrative. The model may consider mining activities (offshore sand extraction for beach nourishment, which results in onshore benefits to tourism and recreation and offshore impacts to sandlance, and other species) in later developmental stages (or future iterations) and we would therefore welcome any comments on the subject.
- Wind Energy – This narrative considers the potential development of wind farms in the provisional areas. Wind farm development presents inherent benefits and disadvantages to both human activities and the ecosystem. While wind development is unlikely in the provision areas, the MIMES model explores compatibilities and tradeoffs that would be necessary for wind turbine farms to become a reality.
- Forage Fish – This narrative considers how changes in the abundance of forage fish species (e.g. sandlance) ripples through the ecosystem to impacts ecological components and sectors. Those considered include seabirds, conservation, aesthetics, whale watching, commercial fishing and recreational fishing.
- Decision Support Tool – MIDAS is being developed as the visualization decision support tool that will communicate the output of the MIMES model. As described in the Details, MIDAS will allow users to explore the project area and the impact of decisions by relating uses to services. This will include a unique feature that will identify an association between data layers and social motivations. The strength of MIDAS’s output depends on the utility of the design and accuracy of motivations.
- MOP and the MIMES team hosted meetings summer 2011 to elicit feedback on this visualization tool and the data that populate each motivation.
- MIMES 1.0 – This work is progressing through the development of multiple submodels which capture the dynamics associated with different facets of the study area (e.g. species interactions, human activities, economics). Once the dynamics of each submodel has been verified by our modeling team, they are linked together. The fully linked model will represent the first iteration of the comprehensive ecosystem tradeoff model. This version will illustrate static spatial tradeoffs that can be visualized through MIDAS.
- MIMES 2.0 – Following feedback from stakeholders on MIMES 1.0, the model will be further developed to illustrate dynamic spatial tradeoffs with interactions that will be visualized MIDAS.
MIMES models both natural and human dynamics through equations that reflect the best understanding of the system and by using observed data as input variables whenever possible. The model outputs are used to understand tradeoffs associated with different conditions or assumptions. The results of models may be used to evaluate the effect of different management decisions.
The natural subsystem dynamics track change in biomass and distribution of 40 species/functional groups across the study area. Influences that increase species biomass are growth, recruitment and immigration into the study area; species biomass decreases in response to natural mortality, predation, emigration and fishing. Benthic quality describes the quality/integrity of the benthic community to support higher trophic levels. The benthic quality will decline in response to impacts that disturb the bottom and will increase when the area is protected from such disturbance.
The human subsystem describes dynamics for each of 13 different human activities considered in the study area, each of which is associated with a discrete economic sector. These dynamics are influenced by initial conditions (based on observed data on human use within our study area over the recent past, in a few cases, and data on planned uses which have not yet occurred). Compatibilities between human uses are accounted for in the model to describe the extent to which a given use is diminished when it overlaps with a second, incompatible use in the model. Priority settings determine which human use takes precedence when incompatibilities occur. Detailed descriptions of all the model components will be available early 2012.
The MIMES model couples the human and natural subsystems by considering the interactions between activities, and dependence of activities on the ecosystem. Each activity in MIMES (e.g. fishing, whale watching, energy development) is associated with a suite of impacts that are modeled. This can be demonstrated through the activity of commercial fishing. Fishing activities impact species biomass through both directed fishing efforts and bycatch (species biomass that is caught but not ‘landed’ or included in the economic benefit derived from the activity), certain types of fishing gear impact habitats by trawling across the seafloor, for example, which results in decreased benthic quality. Other impact dynamics include changes to substrate with addition of structure (habitat) related to offshore wind development. Human activities (also referred to as economic sectors) rely on various biological and physical ecosystem flows (known as ecosystem services) in order to exist. For example, fishing activities rely on specific groups of target species that are economically important and feasible development of wind energy relies on a specific set of physical features, such as wind speed, proper depth range and substrate conditions.
MIMES is presently modeling a number of tradeoff scenarios.
The Forage Fish scenario considers the development of a forage fish fishery for sand lance (in addition to the existing herring fishery) and the associated tradeoffs on whale watching, commercial and recreational fisheries and conservation. Factors that alter the fishery – and the degree of impact – include fishing rate, season and absence of the herring fishery.
The Wind Energy scenario considers the development of commercial and community scale wind energy sites and the associated tradeoffs on whale watching, commercial and recreational fisheries and conservation. Factors that affect impacts with the other uses include construction season, extent of wind farm (community level or commercial scale, including location), and use compatibility within the spatial footprint of the wind farm.