While providing critical support for human societies, marine ecosystems face impacts and threats from multiple sources. These include the overexploitation of marine life, pollution, climate change and its associated effects on sea level rise, ocean temperature redistribution and acidification, and other emerging challenges. Assessing the cumulative impacts of drivers and pressures on ecosystem components, as well as the consequences for ecosystem structure, functioning, and services, is recognized as one of the most challenging tasks in marine science. Cumulative impact assessment, and the identification of relevant management objectives and actions, are also one of the primary challenges for advancing ecosystem based management (EBM).
Scientific assessments of species, community, or system vulnerabilities to drivers and pressures lie at the core of assessing cumulative impacts. Approaches to understanding and assessing vulnerabilities provide the means to identify high-risk impacts, and to prioritize management options to reduce those impacts. Recently, diverse approaches have been developed to assess vulnerability to drivers and pressures. These approaches can be qualitative or quantitative, and can range from focusing on species and habitat vulnerabilities to focusing on the vulnerabilities of coupled socio-ecological systems, including both direct and indirect, foodweb mediated effects.
Theme session D welcomes papers on novel qualitative or quantitative approaches to enhance our understanding and assessment of the vulnerability of marine species, habitats, communities, and systems to multiple drivers and pressures. These approaches can be adapted to both situations with high data availability and good knowledge of impacts and responses, and to situations with limited data and knowledge. Finally, we welcome papers relating vulnerability assessments to management objectives and management options for the advancement of EBM.