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MEPS 663:1-29 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13661

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

S. J. Pittman1,2,*, K. L. Yates3, P. J. Bouchet4,5, D. Alvarez-Berastegui6, S. Andréfouët7, S. S. Bell8, C. Berkström9,10, C. Boström11, C. J. Brown12, R. M. Connolly13, R. Devillers14, D. Eggleston15, B. L. Gilby16, M. Gullström17, B. S. Halpern18,19, M. Hidalgo20, D. Holstein21, K. Hovel22, F. Huettmann23, E. L. Jackson24, W. R. James25, J. B. Kellner26, C. Y. Kot27, V. Lecours28, C. Lepczyk29, I. Nagelkerken30, J. Nelson21, A. D. Olds16, R. O. Santos31, K. L. Scales16, D. C. Schneider32, H. T. Schilling33,34, C. Simenstad35, I. M. Suthers33,34, E. A. Treml36, L. M. Wedding1, P. Yates34,37, M. Young36

1Oxford Seascape Ecology Lab, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
2Project Seascape CIC, Plymouth, PL2 1RP, UK
3School of Science, Engineering & Environment, University of Salford, Manchester, M5 4WT, UK
4School of Mathematics & Statistics, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife, KY16 9SS, UK
5Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife, KY16 9LZ, UK
6Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System, 07121 Palma de Mallorca, Mallorca, Spain
7Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UMR 9220 ENTROPIE, (Université de la Réunion, IFREMER, Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Nouméa, New-Caledonia
8Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Florida, FL 33620, USA
9Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Coastal Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skolgatan 6, 742 42 Öregrund, Sweden
10Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences (DEEP), Stockholm University, SE 106 91, Stockholm, Sweden
11Environmental and Marine Biology, Åbo Akademi University, Artillerigatan 6, 20520, Åbo, Finland
12Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2, Canada
13Australian Rivers Institute – Coast & Estuaries, School of Environment and Science, Griffith University, Queensland, QLD 4222, Australia
14Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UMR 228 ESPACE-DEV (Univ. Montpellier, IRD, Univ. Antilles, Univ. Guyane, Univ. Réunion), 34393 Montpellier, France
15Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, NC 27695, USA
16School of Science and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland 4558, Australia
17School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies, Södertörn University, 141 89 Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden
18National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, CA 93101, USA
19Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, CA 93106, USA
20Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanográfic de les Balears, Ecosystem Oceanography Group (GRECO), 07015 Palma de Mallorca, Mallorca, Spain
21Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, LA 70803, USA
22Department of Biology, Coastal & Marine Institute, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, CA 92101, USA
23EWHALE Lab, Institute of Arctic Biology, Biology & Wildlife Department, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, AK 99775, USA
24Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre, Central Queensland University, Gladstone, Queensland, QLD 4680, Australia
25Department of Biology, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana, LA 70504, USA
26International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), 1553 Copenhagen V, Denmark
27Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Beaufort, North Carolina, NC 28516, USA
28Geomatics Program and Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences Program, School of Forest Resources & Conservation, University of Florida, Florida, FL 32611, USA
29School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, AL 36849, USA
30Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, School of Biological Sciences and the Environment Institute, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, SA 5005, Australia
31Institute of Environment, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, FL33199, USA
32Department of Ocean Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, A1B 3X7, Canada
33School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales
34Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, New South Wales, NSW 2088, Australia
35School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, WA 98195-5020, USA
36School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University, Victoria, VIC 3216, Australia
37Present address: Marine and Freshwater Species Conservation, Biodiversity Conservation Division, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: 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, biodiversity 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).


KEY WORDS: Research priorities · Ecosystem-based management · Sustainability science · Connectivity · Restoration · Spatial patterns


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Cite this article as: Pittman SJ, Yates KL, Bouchet PJ, Alvarez-Berastegui D and others (2021) Seascape ecology: identifying research priorities for an emerging ocean sustainability science. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 663:1-29. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13661

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