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J Environ Manage. 2015 Sep 1;160:342-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.03.055. Epub 2015 Apr 10.

Using expert informed GIS to locate important marine social-ecological hotspots.

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University of Northern British Columbia, 353 5th Street, Prince Rupert, British Columbia, V8J 3L6, Canada. Electronic address:
Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society, School of Health Sciences, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, British Columbia, V2N 4Z9, Canada. Electronic address:
Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, University of Saskatchewan, 52 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B4, Canada. Electronic address:
Canada Research Chair in Toxicology and Environmental Health, Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, University of Ottawa, 30 Marie Curie, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada. Electronic address:


The marine environment provides significant benefits to many local communities. Pressure to develop coastal waterways worldwide creates an urgent need for tools to locate marine spaces that have important social or ecological values, and to quantify their relative importance. The primary objective of this study was to develop, apply and critically assess a tool to identify important social-ecological hotspots in the marine environment. The study was conducted in a typical coastal community in northern British Columbia, Canada. This expert-informed GIS, or xGIS, tool used a survey instrument to draw on the knowledge of local experts from a range of backgrounds with respect to a series of 12 social-ecological value attributes, such as biodiversity, cultural and economic values. We identified approximately 1500 polygons on marine maps and assigned relative values to them using a token distribution exercise. A series of spatial statistical analyses were performed to locate and quantify the relative social-ecological importance of marine spaces and the results were ultimately summarized in a single hotspot map of the entire study area. This study demonstrates the utility of xGIS as a useful tool for stakeholders and environmental managers engaged in the planning and management of marine resources at the local and regional levels.


Hotspots; Marine; PPGIS; Social-ecological; xGIS

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