Should phytoplankton be a key consideration for marine management?
Phytoplankton are an extremely important component of the functioning of ecosystems and climate regulation. Because concentrations of phytoplankton are highly patchy in both space and time, it is proposed that more consideration concerning the potential impact from human developments and activities on the service provision afforded by phytoplankton should be accounted for in marine management processes. The multiple species of primary producers provide important provisioning and regulating ecosystem services (ES) and form the basis of marine food-webs, supporting production of higher trophic levels (a provisioning ES), and act as a sink of CO2 (a climate regulation ES). Spatial and temporal patchiness in the production of phytoplankton can be related to patchiness in the provision of these ES. Patches of naturally high phytoplankton productivity should be afforded consideration within processes to assess environmental status, within marine spatial planning (including marine protected areas) and within sectoral licensing, with marine planning and licensing acting at scales most in harmony with scales of phytoplankton heterogeneity (meters to tens of kilometres). In this study, consideration of phytoplankton in marine management decision making has been reviewed. This paper suggests that potential impacts of maritime developments and activities on the natural patchiness of phytoplankton communities be included in management deliberations, and mitigation be considered. This affords opportunities for researchers to engage with management authorities to support ecosystems-based management. Doing so will assist in maintaining or achieving good environmental status and support further, reliant, ES.
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