Connecting global networks for marine biodiversity

Co-chairs of ICES Working Group on Resilience and Marine Ecosystem Services (WGRMES) recently convened a workshop at the World Biodiversity Forum 2020.
Published: 4 March 2020

​​​In the field of marine social-ecological systems, ecosystem services are being increasingly altered as a result of anthropogenic pressures to which they are subjected. Globally, the oceans' biodiversity provides a wealth of ecosystem services and benefits - such as food from capture fisheries and aquaculture. Despite international commitments, human actions are contibuting to dismantling the Earth's ecosystems at an alarming rate, crossing safe planetary boundaries.

In this way, the role of ICES is key in promoting the scientific cooperation necessary for the maintenance of ecosystem services, in turn ensuring the welfare of present and future generations. 

The World Biodiversity Forum (WBF) operates as a platform for the exchange of knowledge, covering a wide range of perspectives and disciplines, and capturing a diversity of visions. ICES Working Group on Resilience and Marine Ec​osystem Services (WGRMES) co-chairs Andrea Belgrano (Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and Sebastián Villasante (University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain) convened their workshop, Connecting the human dimension and global marine ecosystem services towards a better wealthand health of the Planet​. This provided a transdisciplinary space to share current research on the role of coastal and marine ecosystems in providing wealth and health to humans and also to stimulate cooperation between the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the Future Earth program, the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), and ICES - all global networks working for the maintenance of marine biodiversity.

Belgrano notes that, “By evaluating the impacts of human activity on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and their social and economic consequences, we can highlight the trade-offs between actions to reverse the declining states of marine biodiversity and ecosystems, and possible competing economic interests from different sectors - commercial and recreational fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, etc." Villasante also points out that, “transformative changes are also needed to guide the development of solutions to minimize these trade-offs, and we need to focus on successful examples at local levels”.

Marine and coastal ecosystem services can be valued in quantitative terms using metrics such as monetary value or health value or in qualitative terms, which will always be nonmonetary and usually have some consideration of health, sociocultural, or conservation value including indigenous and local knowledge perspectives. Belgrano adds, “A whole array of methods and techniques for ecosystem valuation exist, but are only occasionally implemented in policy decisions".

Connecting the human dimension and global marine ecosystem services

The workshop provided an opportunity for initiating a dialogue with a non-marine community that shares similar questions on how to use the best scientific evidence-based knowledge to inform policy makers on the current status of biodiversity and ecosystems multifunctionality in relation to direct and indirect drivers, and human well-being.

Different approaches were discussed on how to untangle the complexity of underlying biodiversity and ecosystems processes in relation to socio-ecological systems including fisheries, ocean health, and blue economy. Participants stated the need for an integrated transdisciplinary approach to the management of marine living resources - from the local to the global scale - to allow transformative changes that will embrace the human dimensions of coastal and marine ecosystems. This would provide a better understanding of the trade-offs between blue growth, sustainability, conservation measures, policy and actions including the urgency to stop subsidizing the depletion of ocean biodiversity.

Going forward

​​​Belgrano and Villasante are pleased that the workshop facilitated a broader integration of marine biodiversity and provided an opportunity for initiating dialogue between the WBF 2020, IPBES, and ICES on possible future interactions and collaborations that will create synergies between the current and future activities on biodiversity governance and human well-being.  

The work of WGRMES includes conservation and management science, the impacts of human activities, and sea and society - all of which are ICES science priorities that support our Strategic Plan. Discover our seven interrelated scientific priorities and how our network will address them in our Science Plan: “Marine ecosystem and sustainability science for the 2020s and beyond" ​

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Connecting global networks for marine biodiversity

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