A key factor in reaching a determination on the status of ecosystem condition is the quantitative output from 5 modules of spatial and temporal indicators of ecosystem (i) productivity, (ii) fish and fisheries, (iii) pollution and ecosystem health, (iv) socioeconomics and (v) governance. Advances in technology now allow for cost-effective measuring of the changing states of LMEs using these suites of indicators. The five-module indicator approach to the integrated assessment and management of LMEs has proven useful in ecosystem based projects in the United States and elsewhere.


Primary productivity can be related to the carrying capacity of an ecosystem for supporting fish resources (Pauly and Christensen 1995). It has been reported that the maximum global level of primary productivity for supporting the average annual world catch of fisheries has been reached, and that further large-scale unmanaged increases in fisheries yields from marine ecosystems are likely to be at trophic levels below fish in the marine food web (Beddington 1995).


Changes in biodiversity and species dominance within fish communities of LMEs have resulted from excessive exploitation, naturally occurring environmental shifts due to climate change, and coastal pollution. Changes in biodiversity and species dominance in a fish community can move up the food web to apex predators and cascade down the food web to plankton components of the ecosystem. The fish and fisheries module includes both fisheries independent bottom-trawl surveys and pelagic-species acoustic surveys to obtain time-series information on changes in fish biodiversity and abundance levels.


In several LMEs, pollution and eutrophication have been important driving forces of change in biomass yields. Assessing the changing status of pollution and health of an entire LME is scientifically challenging. Ecosystem health is a concept of wide interest for which a single precise scientific definition is difficult. The health paradigm is based on multiple-state comparisons of ecosystem resilience and stability, and is an evolving concept. To be healthy and sustainable, an ecosystem must maintain its metabolic activity level and its internal structure and organization, and must resist external stress over time and space scales relevant to the ecosystem (Costanza 1992).


The LMEs of the world's coastal waters annually contribute $12.6 trillion (US dollars) to the global economy (Costanza et al. 1997). The socioeconomic module emphasizes the practical application of scientific findings to managing LMEs, and the explicit integration of social and economic indicators and analyses with all other scientific assessments, to assure that prospective management measures are cost-effective. Economists and policy analysts work closely with ecologists and other scientists to identify and evaluate management options that are scientifically based and economically practical with regard to sustaining optimal socioeconomic benefits ofthe LME's goods and services.


The governance module is implementing innovative governance practices in several GEF funded LME projects now underway in Africa and Asia. In LME assessment and management projects supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for the Guinea Current, and Benguela Current LMEs, agreements have been reached among the environmental, fisheries, energy and tourism ministers of the countries bordering these LMEs to enter into joint transboundary, international resource assessment and management Commissions. Elsewhere, the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctic LMEs are also being managed from an ecosystem perspective, the latter under the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Governance profiles of LMEs are being explored to determine their utility in promoting long-term sustainability of ecosystem resources (Juda and Hennessey 2001). In each of the LMEs, governance jurisdiction can be scaled to ensure conformance with existing legislated mandates and authorities (Olsen et al. 2006).