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Advancing marine cumulative effects mapping: An update in Canada’s Pacific waters

Murray et al.

The rapidly progressing field of cumulative effects mapping is highly dependent on data quality and quantity. Availability of spatial data on the location of human activities on or affecting the ocean has substantially improved our understanding of potential cumulative effects. However, datasets for some activities remain poor and increased access to current, high resolution data are needed. Here we present an updated analysis of potential cumulative effects in Canada’s Pacific marine waters. The results show increased potential cumulative effects for the region. Cumulative effects mapping can identify areas of relatively low impact for protection (e.g. Marine Protected Areas) or areas of high impact for restoration. Cumulative effects assessments that are automated, with well-documented procedures, and easily accessible to managers and policy makers would be useful for management, enabling the generation of regular updates. If the resolution of data are sufficient, it can also inform the management of individual activities in the context of cumulative effects from other activities and global stressors such as those resulting from climate change. Thus far, cumulative impact mapping has remained an academic analysis and, to our knowledge, has not been used in cumulative effects assessments in environmental assessment or land-use planning. The analysis presented here can be used as an operational tool in cumulative effects frameworks to connect activities occurring now and those planned for the future to potential cumulative effects on ecosystem components of interest.