Humans depend on ocean ecosystems for important goods and services but our activities have altered the oceans. As well as improving our understanding of how these changes are impacting the environment and society now, it is important to evaluate how these changes may be exhibited in the future, depending on how we manage and govern our seas, and what the likely implications will be for the marine environment as well as the goods and services it provides.
Models bring together ecological data to create a virtual ecosystem where environmental changes can be simulated in order to test the effects on the ecology as well as society and the economy. This allows us to predict what will happen in the future under different environmental scenarios and ‘road test’ management strategies before implementing them in reality. The scenarios used in VECTORS models were based on internationally accepted states from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These scenarios offer four future conditions based on how humans live and exploit resources, such as whether we focus on environmental or economic gains and act globally or locally.
VECTORS has developed four fully functioning models (based on Atlantis) to examine the trade-offs between human use of the oceans and protection of ecosystems and the services they provide. Now that these underlying models have been constructed there is great potential to conduct further explorations and continue development of the models, so that they can be used to their full potential to assist development of ecosystem-based management.