Integrated planning that safeguards ecosystems and balances multiple objectives in coastal Belize
A growing number of nations aim to design coastal plans to reduce conflicts in space and safeguard ecosystems that provide important benefits to people and economies. Critics of coastal and ocean planning point to a complicated process with many actors, objectives, and uncertain outcomes.
This paper explores one such decision-making process in Belize, which combines ecosystem service modeling, stakeholder participation, and spatial planning to design the country’s first integrated coastal zone management plan, officially approved by the government in August 2016. We assessed risk to three coastal-marine habitats posed by eight human uses and quantified current and future delivery of three ecosystem services: protection from storms, catch and revenue from lobster fishing, and tourism expenditures to identify a preferred zoning scheme.
We found that a highly adaptive team of planners, scientists, and analysts can overcome common planning obstacles, including a dearth of data describing the health of the coastal zone and the many uses it supports, complicated legal and political landscapes, and limited in-country technical capacity. Our work in Belize serves as an example for how to use science about the ways in which nature benefits people to effectively and transparently inform coastal and ocean planning decisions around the world.