Integrated Ecosystem Assessments

One of the guiding visions of NOAA’s mission is to steward healthy and resilient coastal and marine ecosystems that provide valued resources to our Nation. These complex ecosystems are under increasing stress from competing economic, recreational, and cultural uses. These interactive pressures make managing the diverse activities that take place within ecosystems challenging. NOAA is adopting a comprehensive ecosystem-based approach to management (EBM) where the whole ecosystem, including its human dimensions, is considered at the same time.

What is an IEA?

NOAA’s approach to Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs) offers a way to better manage resources to achieve economic and societal objectives. IEAs provide a sound scientific basis for EBM. They are “a synthesis and quantitative analysis of information on relevant physical, chemical, ecological, and human processes in relation to specified management objectives” (Levin, et al. 2008, 2009). The resulting analyses, done at scales relevant to management questions, provide resource managers with information to make more informed and effective management decisions.

The primary objective of IEAs is to make comprehensive information available to inform management decisions. Examples of important information include:

  • assessments of status and trends of the ecosystem condition, including ecosystem services;
  • assessments of activities or elements in an ecosystem that can stress the ecosystem;
  • prediction of the future condition of the ecosystem under stress if no management action is taken;
  • prediction of the future condition of the stressed ecosystem under different management scenarios, and evaluation of the success of management actions in achieving the desired target conditions


To find out more about NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Program Please see the new IEA website located at:

Progress Through Partnership

The IEA program draws on the strengths, capabilities, and expertise of multiple program offices including the

  • NOAA Fisheries, 
  • Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, 
  • National Ocean Service, and 
  • National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service. 
As the program grows and expands, relationships that leverage expertise from other federal, state and local agencies; native communities; academia; and non-governmental organizations will be critical to success.

Regional Work

NOAA is building a national IEA program that will include eight regions based on US Large Marine Ecosystems. At present there is formal IEA work being conducted to develop and implement IEAs in five regions: the California Current, the Gulf of Mexico, the Northeast Shelf, the Alaska Complex and the Pacific Islands. The Southeast Shelf, Caribbean, and Great Lakes regions will follow as the program grows.