Holistic environmental monitoring in ports as an opportunity to advance sustainable development, marine science, and social inclusiveness


Ports play a central role in our society, but they entail potential environmental risks and stressors that may cause detrimental impacts to both neighboring natural ecosystems and human health. Port managers face multiple challenges to mitigate risks and avoid ecosystem impacts and should recognize that ports are embedded in the wider regional coastal ecosystem. Cumulative impacts of anthropogenic stressors have the potential to further burden the existing suite of natural stressors, particularly where ports are located in embayments and estuaries. Environmental monitoring in ports should thus develop a comprehensive, holistic, multilayered approach integrated in the wider ecosystem that will help managers better achieve sustainable development, a major goal of the United Nations’ 2030 agenda and Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030). This practice bridge showcases the experience of the second Canadian Healthy Ocean Network (CHONe2) in Baie des Sept Îles (BSI, Quebec; the fourth largest industrial port in Canada) laying the foundations of holistic environmental monitoring in ports. We describe the partnership model (i.e., engaging scientists, local authorities, an independent organization, and local industries), synthesize the multidisciplinary studies that turned environmental monitoring into a systemic investigation of the biological and physical components of BSI, integrate the developed scientific knowledge into a social–ecological–environmental system, present an innovative near real-time monitoring approach, and discuss implications for management and policy. The CHONe2 experience in BSI aligns with the decade’s road map for sustainable development and provides elements that could be adapted to other commercial ports. By suggesting a set of best practices (e.g., multidisciplinarity, transparency, inclusivity, participatory modeling), we hope to spark new interest in environmental monitoring as a path to conciliate development and sustainability of ports and other high-use marine areas.

Elementa: Science fo the Anthropocene
Elliot Dreujou
Elliot Dreujou
Marine ecology researcher