Seascape ecology: identifying research priorities for an emerging ocean sustainability science

SJ Pittman*, KL Yates, PJ Bouchet, D Alvarez-Berastegui, S Andréfouët, SS Bell, C Berkström, C Boström, CJ Brown, RM Connolly, R Devillers, D Eggleston, BL Gilby, M Gullström, BS Halpern, M Hidalgo, D Holstein, K Hovel, F Huettmann, EL JacksonWR James, JB Kellner, CY Kot, V Lecours, C Lepczyk, I Nagelkerken, J Nelson, AD Olds, RO Santos, KL Scales, DC Schneider, HT Schilling, C Simenstad, IM Suthers, EA Treml, LM Wedding, P Yates, M Young

*Corresponding author for this work

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Seascape ecology, the marine-centric counterpart to landscape ecology, is rapidly emerging as an interdisciplinary and spatially explicit ecological science with relevance to marine management, biodiversity conservation, and restoration. While important progress in this field has been made in the past decade, there has been no coherent prioritisation of key research questions to help set the future research agenda for seascape ecology. We used a 2-stage modified Delphi method to solicit applied research questions from academic experts in seascape ecology and then asked respondents to identify priority questions across 9 interrelated research themes using 2 rounds of selection. We also invited senior management/conservation practitioners to prioritise the same research questions. Analyses highlighted congruence and discrepancies in perceived priorities for applied research. Themes related to both ecological concepts and management practice, and those identified as priorities include seascape change, seascape connectivity, spatial and temporal scale, ecosystem-based management, and emerging technologies and metrics. Highest-priority questions (upper tercile) received 50% agreement between respondent groups, and lowest priorities (lower tercile) received 58% agreement. Across all 3 priority tiers, 36 of the 55 questions were within a ±10% band of agreement. We present the most important applied research questions as determined by the proportion of votes received. For each theme, we provide a synthesis of the research challenges and the potential role of seascape ecology. These priority questions and themes serve as a roadmap for advancing applied seascape ecology during, and beyond, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021


  • Research prioriites
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Sustainability science
  • Connectivity
  • Restoration
  • Spatial patterns


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