In the months that led up to December's UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, reports forecasting the environmental and socio-economic impacts to come from climate change were sobering. The future for our coasts and oceans? Rising sea levels and coastal flooding. Increased acidification of seawater. Coral bleaching. Poleward shifts in ocean habitats and species ranges. Conceivably, a hundred years from now, our coasts and oceans could look quite different from today.
By Tundi Agardy, MEAM Contributing Editor. E-mail: tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net
Climate change may change everything, even in the vast and resilient global ocean. How can managers be proactive about climate-induced changes? What kinds of information do they need? How can they work around (or with) the substantial uncertainties that surround how ecosystems will respond, and at what rates?
Without zoning, marine planning will be ineffective
Marine spatial planning (MSP) aims to organize the use of marine space in a way that balances demands for development with the need to protect ocean ecosystems. By allocating specific human activities to particular areas, MSP can help reduce user conflicts (when there is spatial overlap among uses) as well as conflicts between uses and important natural areas.
Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools for facilitating EBM processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network (www.ebmtools.org), a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.
By Sarah Carr
Monitoring a variety of ecological and socioeconomic indicators is essential to planning and measuring the effectiveness of EBM. Some useful tools exist to help develop monitoring plans, including:
UK passes Marine and Coastal Access Act
In November, the UK passed the Marine and Coastal Access Act, establishing a wide-ranging policy to enhance protection of the marine environment, improve fisheries management, and allow for easier coastal access. The Act also lays the framework for developing a national marine planning system that will set priorities and guide managers in the sustainable use and protection of marine resources.
Specifically, the Act prescribes the following measures, among others:
There has always been natural "noise" in the sea. Undersea volcanoes, for example, can produce extremely loud sounds - intense enough, hypothetically, to kill a man at close range (if the boiling water and lava did not get him first). The low-frequency vocalizations of some whale species are intense enough to travel 10,000 miles.
Scientific research can be invaluable for effective MPAs. It helps managers understand the ecosystems they oversee, and can observe how those ecosystems respond to management and environmental changes.
An international scientific partnership has been launched to help nations identify significant areas in the open ocean and deep sea that need protection. Facilitated by IUCN with support from the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI) will apply the best available science to analyze areas according to criteria adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008. The criteria include ecological considerations such as uniqueness, vulnerability, diversity, productivity, importance to life history stages, and more.
The new coordinator of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme says the World Heritage Convention has "not been applied anywhere close to its full potential for marine ecosystems." Today, there are just 35 World Heritage sites - out of a total of nearly 900 worldwide - that have been identified and protected specifically for their marine values. The lackluster coverage of marine sites has not been helped by the fact that funding for the Marine Programme dried up three years ago, leaving it without oversight.