Amplifying the potential of marine spatial planning for conservation and sustainability

Reimer, Julie M. (2022) Amplifying the potential of marine spatial planning for conservation and sustainability. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The ocean is ubiquitously impacted by humans as our activities expand at an increasing rate. Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a process for analyzing and allocating space to specific human activities, while accounting for ecosystems, to inform ocean management and the use of ocean management tools. MSP has proliferated as an approach that seeks balance between social, economic, and ecological objectives to use the ocean sustainably. Despite its rapid uptake, the process continues to face critical challenges in operationalizing theoretical best practices and struggles to deliver sustainability, as socioeconomic development often takes precedence over conservation. Though MSP promises an ecosystem-based, integrated, place-based, adaptive, strategic, and participatory process, these principles have not fully come to fruition. The goal of this thesis is to explore these challenges and develop guidance to amplify the potential of MSP for biodiversity conservation and ocean sustainability, filling a void in the academic discourse that is often descriptive and disjointed from the complex reality of MSP practice. Using mixed methods, including systematic review, expert opinion survey, case study analysis, and qualitative scoring, this thesis aims to identify how management tools might deliver sustainability targets, how conservation might be embedded in MSP, and how MSP principles might be translated into practice. Results highlight the importance of multi-sector management tools for achieving ocean sustainability targets, and gaps in evidence for social and economic outcomes from common spatial management tools. This research identifies potential strategies for recognizing biodiversity as fundamental to sustainable resource use, proposing the need for conservation ready MSP. Finally, this research produces the MSP Index, a tool for gauging MSP progress based on principles. The application of this tool to case studies revealed possibly persistent challenges in implementing adaptive and participatory MSP. MSP holds the potential to support ambitious goals for a healthy ocean; however, as processes adopt best practices, they become increasingly complex, requiring significant and ongoing investments that may be underestimated by the academic discourse. For MSP to meet its full potential, science must engage deeply with practitioners to understand the realities of MSP and co-produce sustainable solutions for a sustainable ocean.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 15649
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references
Keywords: marine spatial planning, marine conservation, ocean sustainability, ocean planning, ocean management
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: October 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Marine spatial planning; Marine resources conservation; Ocean--Management; Sustainability

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