Posts Tagged 'Policy'

The Great Barrier Reef: vulnerabilities and solutions in the face of ocean acidification

As living carbonate-based structures, coral reefs are highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the largest continuous coral reef system in the world. Its economic, social, and icon assets are valued at AU$56 billion (Deloitte Access Economics, 2017), owing to its vast biodiversity and services related to commercial and recreational fisheries, shoreline protection, and reef-related tourism and recreation. Ocean acidification poses a significant risk to these ecological and socioeconomic services, threatening not only the structural foundation of the GBR but the livelihoods of reef-dependent sectors of society. To assess the vulnerabilities of the GBR to ocean acidification, we review the characteristics of the GBR and the current valuation and factors affecting potential losses across three major areas of socioeconomic concern: fisheries, shoreline protection, and reef-related tourism and recreation. We then discuss potential solutions, both conventional and unconventional, for mitigating ocean acidification impacts on the GBR and propose a suite of actions that would help assess and increase the region’s preparedness for the effects of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The Great Barrier Reef: vulnerabilities and solutions in the face of ocean acidification’

Building the knowledge-to-action pipeline in North America: connecting ocean acidification research and actionable decision support

Ocean acidification (OA) describes the progressive decrease in the pH of seawater and other cascading chemical changes resulting from oceanic uptake of atmospheric carbon. These changes can have important implications for marine ecosystems, creating risk for commercial industries, subsistence communities, cultural practices, and recreation. Characterizing the extent of acidification and predicting the ramifications for marine and freshwater resources and ecosystem services are critical to national and international climate mitigation discussions and to local communities that rely on these resources. Based on critical grassroots connections between scientists, stakeholders and decision makers, “Knowledge-to-Action” networks for ocean acidification issues have formed at local, regional and international scales to take action. Here, we review three examples of North American groups elevating the issue of ocean acidification at these three levels. They each focus on developing practicable, implementable steps to mitigate causes, to adapt to unavoidable change, and to build resilience to changing ocean conditions in the marine environment and coastal communities. While these first steps represent critical efforts in protecting ecosystems and economies from the risks posed by ocean acidification, some challenges remain. Sensitivity and risk to OA varies by region, species and ecosystems; priorities for action can vary between multiple and conflicting partners; evidence-based strategies for OA risk mitigation are still in the early stages; and gaps remain between scientific research and actionable decision-maker support products. However, the scaled networks profiled here have proven to be adept at identifying and addressing these barriers to action. In the future, it will be critical to expand funding for food web impact studies and development of decision support tools, and to maintain the connections between scientists and marine resource users to build resilience to ocean acidification impacts.

Continue reading ‘Building the knowledge-to-action pipeline in North America: connecting ocean acidification research and actionable decision support’

An enhanced ocean acidification observing network: from people to technology to data synthesis and information exchange

A successful integrated ocean acidification (OA) observing network must include (1) scientists and technicians from a range of disciplines from physics to chemistry to biology to technology development; (2) government, private, and intergovernmental support; (3) regional cohorts working together on regionally specific issues; (4) publicly accessible data from the open ocean to coastal to estuarine systems; (5) close integration with other networks focusing on related measurements or issues including the social and economic consequences of OA; and (6) observation-based informational products useful for decision making such as management of fisheries and aquaculture. The Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), a key player in this vision, seeks to expand and enhance geographic extent and availability of coastal and open ocean observing data to ultimately inform adaptive measures and policy action, especially in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. GOA-ON works to empower and support regional collaborative networks such as the Latin American Ocean Acidification Network, supports new scientists entering the field with training, mentorship, and equipment, refines approaches for tracking biological impacts, and stimulates development of lower-cost methodology and technologies allowing for wider participation of scientists. GOA-ON seeks to collaborate with and complement work done by other observing networks such as those focused on carbon flux into the ocean, tracking of carbon and oxygen in the ocean, observing biological diversity, and determining short- and long-term variability in these and other ocean parameters through space and time.

Continue reading ‘An enhanced ocean acidification observing network: from people to technology to data synthesis and information exchange’

People and the changing nature of coral reefs

Highlights

• Large numbers of people in tropical regions are highly dependent on the goods and services produced by coral reef ecosystems.

• Coral reef ecosystems are under severe threat from both local and global threats, which are degrading the ecosystem services that they provide to humanity.

• Past studies have assumed that the loss of ecosystem services will lead to a proportionate impact on people.

• We argue that this is unlikely to be the case in the short-term due to the high level of adaptability illustrated by communities associated with coral reefs. Eventually, however, stress will reach levels that exhaust the capacity of people and communities to adapt.

• Data sets and analysis are sparse, however, we call for a greater focus on understanding the flexibility and adaptability of people associated with coral reefs, especially in a time of rapid global change.

Abstract

Coral reefs are biodiverse and productive ecosystems but are threatened by local and global stresses. The resulting loss of coral reefs is threatening coastal food and livelihoods. Climate projections suggest that coral reefs will continue to undergo major changes even if the goals of the Paris Agreement (Dec 2015) are successfully implemented. Ecological changes include modified food webs, shifts in community structure, reduced habitat complexity, decreased fecundity and recruitment, changes to fisheries productivity/opportunity, and a shift in the carbonate budget of some ecosystems toward dissolution and erosion of calcium carbonate stocks. Broad estimates of the long-term (present value) of services provided by the ocean’s ecological assets exist and are useful in highlighting the value of reefs yet must be contextualised by how people respond under ecosystem change. The dynamic nature of the relationship between people, economies, and the environment complicates estimation of human consequences and economic outcomes of changing environmental and ecological capital. Challenges have increased given lack of baseline data and our inability to predict (with any precision) how people respond to changing coral reef conditions, especially given the variability, flexibility, and creativity shown by human communities and economies under change. Here, we explore how the changes to the three-dimensional structure of coral reefs affect benefits for people, specifically coastal protection, fisheries habitat, and tourism. Based on a review of available data and literature, we make a series of key recommendations that are required to better understanding of how global change will affect people dependent on coral reefs. These include: (1) baseline studies and frameworks for understanding human responses to climate change within complex social and ecological setting such as coral reefs, (2) better tools for exploring environmental benefits, markets, and financial systems faced by change, and (3) the integration of these insights into more effective policy making.

Continue reading ‘People and the changing nature of coral reefs’

Ocean acidification post-Paris: Gauging law and policy responses in light of evolving scientific knowledge

On 12 December 2015, 195 States agreed on the text of the Paris Agreement, opening a new phase in the global response to the threat of climate change. The Agreement has been lauded as an “historic breakthrough in that it seems to have broken a decade long impasse” in the climate change negotiations. The impressive number of ratifications to date and its quick entry into force are indicators of this diplomatic success.

The Agreement achieved this remarkable feat by fundamentally changing the approach to the climate change cooperation. The Kyoto Protocol, generally considered unsuccessful to the influence States’ action, was drafted on the premise of jointly negotiated (i.e. top-down) and binding emission targets with strong consequences in case on non-compliance and rigid differentiation between developed and developing countries. The Paris Agreement, in contract, is a universal agreement that adopts a managerial approach to climate change cooperation under the premise that “self-imposed, voluntary commitments [nationally determined contributions or NDCS] are more likely to be met than those imposed by the global community”.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification post-Paris: Gauging law and policy responses in light of evolving scientific knowledge’

Does the European Union achieve comprehensive blue growth? Progress of EU coastal states in the Baltic and North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean against sustainable development goal 14

Highlights

• European Union Blue Growth is assessed by set of 18 indicators for 15 EU coastal states.

• The results put into question that the EU has achieved comprehensive blue growth.

• Unsustainable development is in particular driven by increasing fishing mortality.

Abstract

The Sustainable Development Goal for the oceans and coasts (SDG 14) as part of the 2030 Agenda can be considered as an important step towards achieving comprehensive blue growth. Here, we selected a set of 18 indicators to measure progress against SDG 14 for 15 EU coastal countries in the Baltic and the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean since 2012. In our assessment we distinguish between a concept of weak and strong sustainability, assuming high and low substitution possibilities, respectively. Our results indicate that there are countries which managed to achieve sustainable development under both concepts of sustainability (most notably Estonia, achieving the strongest improvement), but that there are also countries which failed to achieve sustainable development under both concepts (most notably Ireland and Belgium, experiencing the strongest decline). Unsustainable development is in particular driven by increasing fishing mortality and reduced willingness to set total allowable catch in accordance with scientific advice.

Continue reading ‘Does the European Union achieve comprehensive blue growth? Progress of EU coastal states in the Baltic and North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean against sustainable development goal 14’

Ecological and socioeconomic strategies to sustain Caribbean coral reefs in a high-CO2 world

The Caribbean and Western Atlantic region hosts one of the world’s most diverse geopolitical regions and a unique marine biota distinct from tropical seas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. While this region varies in human population density, GDP and wealth, coral reefs, and their associated ecosystem services, are central to people’s livelihoods. Unfortunately, the region’s reefs have experienced extensive degradation over the last several decades. This degradation has been attributed to a combination of disease, overfishing, and multiple pressures from other human activities. Furthermore, the Caribbean region has experienced rapid ocean warming and acidification as a result of climate change that will continue and accelerate throughout the 21st century. It is evident that these changes will pose increasing threats to Caribbean reefs unless imminent actions are taken at the local, regional and global scale. Active management is required to sustain Caribbean reefs and increase their resilience to recover from acute stress events. Here, we propose local and regional solutions to halt and reverse Caribbean coral reef degradation under ongoing ocean warming and acidification. Because the Caribbean has already experienced high coral reef degradation, we suggest that this region may be suitable for more aggressive interventions than might be suitable for other regions. Solutions with direct ecological benefits highlighted here build on existing knowledge of factors that can contribute to reef restoration and increased resilience in the Caribbean: (1) management of water quality, (2) reduction of unsustainable fishing practices, (3) application of ecological engineering, and (4) implementing marine spatial planning. Complementary socioeconomic and governance solutions include: (1) increasing communication and leveraging resources through the establishment of a regional reef secretariat, (2) incorporating reef health and sustainability goals into the blue economy plans for the region, and (3) initiating a reef labelling program to incentivize corporate partnerships for reef restoration and protection to sustain overall reef health in the region.

Continue reading ‘Ecological and socioeconomic strategies to sustain Caribbean coral reefs in a high-CO2 world’


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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book