Ethics of Assisted Evolution in Marine Conservation

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For the week of 11 February 2019

Greetings OpenChannels Community Members,

Frontiers in Marine Science has published, Ethics of Assisted Evolution in Marine Conservation, "Climate change is outpacing existing rates of evolution and adaptation for many marine organisms. Human societies are pushing hard to find new solutions to save and protect marine ecosystems, generating research on manipulating genetics of wild organisms for the goal of conservation. This – “assisted evolution” – raises challenging ethical questions because the intention is not to revert to a previous status quo, but to modify a community so that it survives better in the conditions we have created. In so doing, our role changes toward “designers” of nature, which requires a rethinking of what is natural, and whether altering or influencing genetics of wild organisms changes the way we conceptualize nature. Assisted evolution could also perpetuate damaging habits and dispositions, such as commodification and technological intervention, which have caused the harm in the first place. Even if we feel morally obliged to repair ecosystems, we still risk further havoc if our attempts to fix our damage are affected by ignorance. Still, from an ethical point of view, we offer cautious support for research on assisted evolution tools. However, we must be clear that we are using these approaches for our own benefit, and should only proceed when they are adequately understood and other options are exhausted. In many cases, we should instead focus our efforts on protecting what we can, minimizing future damage, and understanding future changes. Either way, we need stronger ethical regulations on applying assisted evolution techniques in marine conservation so that there is sufficient deliberation before we use these tools."

As always, if we've missed anything, please feel free to let us know. You may simply reply to this message, or you may email Allie directly at: abrown [at]

You can read everything (not just the free stuff) we have found this week at Additionally, you can browse literature by the week we've added it at

Thank you for being part of the OpenChannels Community,
– Allie Brown, Raye Evrard, and the rest of the OpenChannels Team

Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and Ocean Warming

OA: Morley, S. A., Barnes, D. K. A. & Dunn, M. J. Predicting Which Species Succeed in Climate-Forced Polar Seas. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, (2019).

Deep-sea ecosystems and hydrothermal vents

OA: Le Bris, N. et al. Hydrothermal Energy Transfer and Organic Carbon Production at the Deep Seafloor. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, (2019).

Fisheries and Fisheries Management

OA: Dee, L. E., Karr, K. Anne, Landesberg, C. J. & Thornhill, D. J. Assessing Vulnerability of Fish in the U.S. Marine Aquarium Trade. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, (2019).

Food for Thought

OA: Filbee-Dexter, K. & Smajdor, A. Ethics of Assisted Evolution in Marine Conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science 6, (2019).

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

OA: Fox, A. D. et al. An Efficient Multi-Objective Optimization Method for Use in the Design of Marine Protected Area Networks. Frontiers in Marine Science 6, (2019).

OA: Stratoudakis, Y. et al. Environmental representativity in marine protected area networks over large and partly unexplored seascapes. Global Ecology and Conservation e00545 (In Press). doi:10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00545


OA: Evans, W. et al. Marine CO2 Patterns in the Northern Salish Sea. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, (2019).

Natural Sciences

OA: Hooker, S. K. et al. Future Directions in Research on Beaked Whales. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, (2019).

OA: Robinson, C. Microbial Respiration, the Engine of Ocean Deoxygenation. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, (2019).

Sea-level Rise, Coastal Flooding, and Storm Events

OA: Enríquez, A. R., Marcos, M., Falqués, A. & Roelvink, D. Assessing Beach and Dune Erosion and Vulnerability Under Sea Level Rise: A Case Study in the Mediterranean Sea. Frontiers in Marine Science 6, (2019).

Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing

Preprint: Bennett, N. J. Marine Social Science for the Peopled Seas. Coastal Management 1 - 9 (2019). doi:10.1080/08920753.2019.1564958