Progress and promise in spatial human dimensions research for ecosystem-based ocean planning

J. Zachary Koehn, Daniel R. Reineman, John N. Kittinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Human activities in ocean environments have resulted in significant impacts to ocean health and diminishing returns to society from these ecosystems. In response, there have been increasing calls for implementing ecosystem-based approaches to ocean planning and management. Such approaches require consideration of the complexity of human relationships with ecosystems including their social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions in order to develop and implement management viable strategies. This article reviews progress in spatial research on human activities and social dimensions of ocean environments and explores the promise this research has for enhancing ecosystem-based ocean planning. A global review reveals growth in the number and sophistication of research on social dimensions of oceans, with an increasing focus on new tools and technologies that involve stakeholders in the production, maintenance, and use of data in planning processes. Notably, most research is undertaken in the developed rather than the developing world, pointing to possible discrepancies in the capacity and resources required to engage this research. There is promising, albeit limited, evidence for the successful use of social data and applied research approaches in ecosystem-based ocean planning initiatives. This review shows that spatial research on the human dimensions of the ocean environments has much potential to engender a more comprehensive understanding of these complex seascapes, and to aid in planning processes aimed at achieving sustainable social and ecological outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Policy
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal marine spatial planning
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Human dimensions
  • Marine planning
  • Social science
  • Social-ecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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