A Methodology to Prioritize Habitat Areas of Particular Importance in California's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Based on Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis

Publication Date




Committee Chair

Tarek Rashed, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Karen K. Kemp, Ph.D.
Joe Breman, M.S.


Our oceans may seem endless and invincible, but pollution and habitat destruction threaten the health of our coastal ocean waters. Federal and state agencies continually make management decisions that have important ecological and economic impacts on our oceans. These decisions involve ocean dumping of dredged material, sand and gravel mining, oil and gas development, shipping, fishing, and other ocean-related activities. With the requirements of federal, state, and local laws, including the Magnuson Stevens Act to protect essential fish habitat, increased attention is being focused on methods and benefits of protecting critical ocean habitats from potentially harmful activities.

The principle goal of this study was to determine the benefits of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a multi-criteria decision analysis to identify habitat areas of particular importance in California’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Prior to a workshop that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will convene in 2004, selected scientists will be asked to share their scientific knowledge and information through a survey instrument. Scientists are asked to rank social, physical and biological datasets according to certain criteria, provide detailed conditions about species habitats, and rank the most important indicators for the prioritization of ocean zones. The results of the survey are then processed using a multi-criteria decision the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) and fuzzy logic analysis. Information generated through this survey and subsequent analysis is analyzed in a GIS in order to geographically prioritize habitat areas of particular concern within the study region. The study is not aimed at providing a definitive answer as to where important ocean areas are specifically located. It is intended to serve as a pilot project to show how an integrative approach of GIS and multi-criteria decision analysis can assist scientists who reconcile ocean conservation priorities and strategies for remediation. This proof of concept serves as a pilot for an operational system that can be used by decision-makers in ocean habitat protection and prioritization. This report explains how this proof of concept has been developed, demonstrates an example, and discusses what changes can be made to improve its future use.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Full text is available at the University of Redlands


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