Novel risk assessment tools for ecosystem-based management

A crab on the sea bed

This project will review new methods to inform risk management for novel marine activities, cumulative threats from multiple stressors, and tipping points. In particular, we want to enable stakeholders to participate in developing plausible threat scenarios and risk models, to support decision-making.

Project leader: Graeme Inglis, NIWA

Better risk assessment

To manage marine ecosystems sustainably we must be able to make predictions about their future state in response to changing patterns of human use.

Risk assessment informs these predictions by identifying possible threats from an activity, their environmental and social consequences, and how likely each outcome is to occur. Although it is often viewed as a technical process, most ‘realworld’ risk assessments involve considerable uncertainty because much is still unknown about marine ecosystems and the way they function. This means that we often have to use a ‘best guess’ when defining threats within complex marine ecosystems, evaluating their consequences, and estimating the probability that they will happen.

This is even more challenging when the effects of the proposed activity may interact with other existing stresses; and when trying to anticipate the likelihood of events that have significant consequences, but which are highly uncertain (eg ecosystem tipping points).

In recent years, there has been considerable progress in developing methods to assess and manage risks in situations like these where there are ‘deep’ scientific uncertainties. Many of these approaches are not yet widely used in risk analysis.

We are reviewing new methods to inform risk management for novel marine activities, cumulative threats from multiple stressors, and tipping points. In particular, we are considering tools that enable stakeholders to participate in developing plausible threat scenarios, and evaluating the risk models built around them, which support decision-making.

Latest news and updates

Consultation opens re 2019–2024 strategy

Improving marine management is critical to New Zealand's future health and wealth, but research in isolation is not enough. Excellent engagement with, and participation from, all users and sectors of society is essential.

We therefore invite comment on our draft strategy for Phase II (2019–2024). This strategy has been co-developed with Māori and stakeholders.

Sun, sea, sand – and marine science

During Seaweek, more than 4,600 school pupils joined 6 Sustainable Seas researchers for 3 days of marine science fieldwork in Tasman Bay, as part of the LEARNZ virtual field trip Sustainable seas – essential for New Zealand’s health and wealth.

Tipping Points on Radio NZ

Tune in to tonight’s episode of Our Changing World (after the 9pm news) for an excellent in-depth piece that gets into the detail of what the Tipping Points project is investigating, and why.