, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1189–1204 | Cite as

Challenges and strategies for better use of scientific information in the management of coastal estuaries

  • Thomas M. Leschine
  • Bridget E. Ferriss
  • Kathleen P. Bell
  • Krista K. Bartz
  • Sarah MacWilliams
  • Michelle Pico
  • Andrew K. Bennett


Numerous studies have concluded that better use of scientific information could improve the quality of coastal and estuarine environmental management. Approaches for effecting such a change include ecosystem-based, integrated, and adaptive management, but such basic re-orientation of estuarine and coastal management has proved difficult to achieve. Even environmental indicators, seemingly straightforward ways of injecting scientific information into decision making, have achieved broad on-the-ground use in relatively few instances—principally the largest estuary management programs. A conceptual framework useful for examining environmental management systems affecting the five PNCERS (Pacific Northwest coastal Ecosystems Regional Study) estuaries conceives of environmental managers, researchers, and interested and affected parties in the public as interacting through the multi-layered institutional arrangements that currently promote the utilization, management, or protection of coastal and estuarine resources. Considerable variation exists in the approach and effectiveness of the region's environmental management organizations. Interaction between science and management in the region appears to be limited to an extent by high transaction costs; a cultural divide between environmental scientists and environmental managers is perceived by members of both groups who work with the PNCERS estuaries as inhibiting communications between them. Mechanisms that both groups identify as useful for improving the flow of information between science and management are little used, perhaps as a result. The two groups have very different patterns of information dissemination and acquisition, and though both chose agency archives and databases as their top methods for disseminating information, neither group relies much on these vehicles for information they seek. Both residents' and practitioners' perceptions of threats to the PNCERS estuaries show patterns of estuary-to-estuary variation. One theme that emerges is that problems associated with poor land management in adjacent uplands are common to most of these estuaries, potentially providing a sense of commonality through which a more regional approach to estuary management could emerge. A common set of estuarine environmental indicators implemented for all estuaries could help instigate such a regional approach, but resource constraints, especially at the local level, will have to be overcome for that to occur. There is currently substantial lack of common vision among coastal practitioners as to the purpose and desirability of indicators, and relatively little experience or knowledge of their use, particularly at the local level. Use of estuarine science in the management of these estuaries appears to be greatest during periods in which the largest programmatic shifts in environmental management approaches occur, an observation consistent with other studies that have concluded that the use of environmental science in environmental management tends to be episodic.


Ecosystem Management Environmental Indicator Coastal Estuary Gray Harbor National Estuary Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas M. Leschine
    • 1
  • Bridget E. Ferriss
    • 1
  • Kathleen P. Bell
    • 1
  • Krista K. Bartz
    • 1
  • Sarah MacWilliams
    • 1
  • Michelle Pico
    • 1
  • Andrew K. Bennett
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Marine AffairsUniversity of WashingtonSeattle

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