Seascapes as a new vernacular for pelagic ocean monitoring, management and conservation

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Abstract

For terrestrial and marine benthic ecologists, landscape ecology provides a framework to address issues of complexity, patchiness, and scale—providing theory and context for ecosystem based management in a changing climate. Marine pelagic ecosystems are likewise changing in response to warming, changing chemistry, and resource exploitation. However, unlike spatial landscapes that migrate slowly with time, pelagic seascapes are embedded in a turbulent, advective ocean. Adaptations from landscape ecology to marine pelagic ecosystem management must consider the nature and scale of biophysical interactions associated with organisms ranging from microbes to whales, a hierarchical organization shaped by physical processes, and our limited capacity to observe and monitor these phenomena across global oceans. High frequency, multiscale, and synoptic characterization of the 4-D variability of seascapes are now available through improved classification methods, a maturing array of satellite remote sensing products, advances in autonomous sampling of multiple levels of biological complexity, and emergence of observational networks. Merging of oceanographic and ecological paradigms will be necessary to observe, manage, and conserve species embedded in a dynamic seascape mosaic, where the boundaries, extent, and location of features change with time.

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