Threshold-Based Management and Existing U.S. Laws: Learning How Not to Fall Off a Cliff

Wednesday, August 20, 2014: 11:50 AM
301B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Ashley Erickson , Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Ryan Kelly , Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University
Lindley Mease , Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University
Three decades of study have revealed dozens of examples in which natural systems have crossed biophysical thresholds (‘tipping points’) as a result of human-induced stressors, dramatically altering ecosystem function and services. Environmental management that avoids tipping points, or returns ecosystems to pre-tipping point states, could prevent severe social, economic, and environmental impacts. Following a recent empirical study of the environmental policy elements that may lead to positive threshold-based management outcomes, here we focus on the application of threshold-based management under U.S. environmental legal frameworks. We assess several major federal environmental statutes, including the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, through a threshold lens, identifying opportunities for improved implementation using emerging science. We find that conceptually, tipping points can and do guide some regulatory decisions, but explicitly focusing a larger set of environmental rules on likely tipping points could yield both efficiency and political benefits.