Options and problems in environmental management and evaluation
- J. R. Lewis1
© Biologische Anstalt Helgoland 1980
Although logical compromise agreement between all the conflicting users of the sea seems the most obvious way to protect marine life, we have in practice mainly ad-hoc restrictions aimed at protecting habitats or species, or at trying to prevent chemical/physical deterioration of the environment. The establishment of reserves on biological rather than touristic grounds necessitates consideration of the criteria, appropriate to marine life, that should be used. Successful reserve management or species protection measures depend upon distinguishing between natural and man-made changes, an ability that can be enhanced in part by appropriate disturbance experiments. Anti-pollution measures have centred upon effluent input rather than biological effect in the field, with “acceptable discharge levels” being based upon lethal and sub-lethal experimental effects. But the ultimate criteria of environmental well-being are ecological responses at the population and community levels where, unfortunately, many natural and man-made influences produce similar changes. Knowledge of community dynamics and a resulting ability to discount natural events require long-term studies and are slow to accumulate. Thus while short-term sublethal studies proliferate many ecological data remain uninterpretable except in localities of gross and obvious pollution (including tanker accidents). The scarcity of sub-lethal and ecological effects in the field is even supplemented by ecological changes that are contrary to expectations based on pollution loadings. Is this because ecological expertise is still inadequate, or because experimental and environmental loading data grossly overstate the risks and are largely irrelevant at the community level? Can we assume that fears of chronic pollution are unfounded or must we intensify our efforts? If the latter, in which direction?