Scientists analyze critical habitats and biodiversity and propose measures to reverse the decline
Over the past fifty years, biodiversity has suffered a rapid decline, with almost half of some coastal habitats disappearing. However, there are measures that can be implemented, which leave some hope for scientists. Jorge Assis (CCMAR) was part of an international group of researchers from the High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy that is launching an article on the topic this Thursday.
The article is released this Thursday and examines the distribution of species and critical marine habitats across the world’s oceans; analyzes trends in drivers, pressures, impacts and response; and establishes thresholds for protecting biodiversity hotspots, and indicators to monitor change.
In this article, with the collaboration of Jorge Assis, researcher at the Centre for Marine Sciences - University of Algarve, limits are set to protect the critical points of biodiversity and indicators to monitor possible changes to be implemented.
From this scientific base, it assesses the current legal framework and available tools for biodiversity protection, current gaps in ocean governance and management and the implications for achieving a sustainable ocean economy.
Life has been evolving in the ocean for over four billion years, but in just fifty years we have seen biodiversity rapidly decline, with up to 50 percent of some coastal habitats disappearing. This loss of variety and variability of life in the ocean undermines the functionality of marine ecosystems, which provide essential services to people from food to coastal protection.
Biodiversity is threatened by over-fishing, climate change, coastal development and pollution. Loss of biodiversity undermines the ocean’s natural capacity to provide essential ecosystem services and leaves the ocean less resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Previous studies have shown that more than half of the ocean is considered to be heavily disturbed by human activities and that the area of the vast ocean that remains untouched by human impacts stands at just 3 percent. This paper finds that the higher the biodiversity of an area, the more intense the human pressures in that area, meaning that the most biodiverse areas are also the areas most threatened by human activity. If business-as-usual continues there is a risk that further tipping points could be exceeded, resulting in negative and irreversible changes to ecosystems and the broader services they provide.
Fortunately, there are proven approaches that, if implemented, can help to effectively protect and preserve the unique biodiversity found in the ocean, conclude the scientists.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one area-based management tool that, if well-designed, enforced and financed, can increase biodiversity and restore ecosystem function. However, the majority of MPAs are only lightly to minimally protected, with many lacking even basic management plans, and very few classified as fully protected.
Alongside this measure, scientists point to four more opportunities for action in order to reverse the current decline in coastal habitats that are undergoing: use of technologies for mapping and monitoring habitats; addressing the biodiversity data gap; Citizen science and education programs; and Ecosystem-based fisheries management.
This paper, “Critical Habitats and Biodiversity: Inventory, Thresholds and Governance” is part of a series of 16 “Blue Papers”, which will be published until June this year, by the “High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy”.
The official launch takes place this Thursday, May 7, after a webminar with the authors on the same theme.
Further information, please contact:
Blue Paper Webinar (in spanish): Thursday, 7 of May at 5pm. Register here