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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Seascape ecology: identifying research priorities for an emerging ocean sustainability science

Pittman, S. J.; Yates, K. L.; Bouchet, P. J.; Alvarez-Berastegui, D.; Andréfouët, S.; Bell, S. S.; Berkström, Charlotte; Boström, C.; Brown, C. J.; Connolly, R. M.; Devillers, R.; Eggleston, D.; Gilby, B. L.; Gullström, M.; Halpern, B. S.; Hidalgo, M.; Holstein, D.; Hovel, K.; Huettmann, F.; Jackson, E. L.;
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Seascape ecology, the marine-centric counterpart to landscape ecology, is rapidly emerging as an interdisciplinary and spatially explicit ecological science with relevance to marine management, bio-diversity conservation, and restoration. While important progress in this field has been made in the past decade, there has been no coherent prioritisation of key research questions to help set the future research agenda for seascape ecology. We used a 2-stage modified Delphi method to solicit applied research questions from academic experts in seascape ecology and then asked respondents to identify priority questions across 9 interrelated research themes using 2 rounds of selection. We also invited senior management/conservation practitioners to prioritise the same research questions. Analyses highlighted congruence and discrepancies in perceived priorities for applied research. Themes related to both ecological concepts and management practice, and those identified as priorities include seascape change, seascape connectivity, spatial and temporal scale, ecosystem-based management, and emerging technologies and metrics. Highest-priority questions (upper tercile) received 50% agreement between respondent groups, and lowest priorities (lower tercile) received 58% agreement. Across all 3 priority tiers, 36 of the 55 questions were within a +/- 10% band of agreement. We present the most important applied research questions as determined by the proportion of votes received. For each theme, we provide a synthesis of the research challenges and the potential role of seascape ecology. These priority questions and themes serve as a roadmap for advancing applied seascape ecology during, and beyond, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).


research priorities; ecosystem-based management; sustainability science; connectivity; restoration; spatial patterns

Published in

Marine Ecology Progress Series
2021, volume: 663, pages: 1-29

Authors' information

Pittman, S. J.
University of Oxford
Yates, K. L.
University of Salford
Bouchet, P. J.
University of St Andrews
Alvarez-Berastegui, D.
Balearic Islands Coastal Ocean Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB)
Andréfouët, S.
Bell, S. S.
University of South Florida
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Stockholm University
Boström, C.
Åbo Akademi University
Brown, C. J.
Dalhousie University (DAL)
Connolly, R. M.
Griffith University
Devillers, R.
University of Montpellier
Eggleston, D.
North Carolina State University (NC State)
Gilby, B. L.
University of the Sunshine Coast (USC)
Gullström, M.
Södertörn University
Halpern, B. S.
University of California Santa Barbara
Hidalgo, M.
Spanish Institute of Oceanography
Holstein, D.
Louisiana State University
Hovel, K.
San Diego State University
Huettmann, F.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Sustainable Development Goals

SDG14 Life below water

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