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Policy and management responses to biodiversity shifts

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Concern over the interaction between biodiversity and climate change has been reflected in the recommendations of the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy, which were introduced to a meeting of EU Nature Ministers in October 2005 (Recommendations on Climate Change and Biodiversity Conservation: Knowledge Needed to Support Development of Integrated Adaptation Strategies, www.epbrs.org). Ongoing work is now underway through an e-conference “Life on a Blue Planet”, which has developed a draft list of research priorities, which will be presented at the EPBRS meeting in Porto on November 7 to 9, 2007. Results there will be presented to the EU (www.cimar.org/epbrs).

The overarching theme throughout the “Life on a Blue Planet” e-conference was that integrated monitoring, with a long-term perspective operating on a European scale, would lead to a better understanding of the effects of climate change on marine biodiversity. Though the focus at the meeting was on marine biodiversity, many of the research priorities are equally relevant for terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. They are summarized below to provide a comprehensive overview of biodiversity issues.

Taxonomy: -Compile comprehensive catalogues of faunas and floras - Analyse the genetic and morphological diversity in multiple marine communities and combine these with the analysis of long-term data to assess global change phenomena

Baselines, monitoring and indicator species - Explore understudied marine geographical regions - Determine baselines in order to better understand the impacts of ongoing and future changes - Long-term monitoring of intra-specific genetic biodiversity and genetic expression to improve the knowledge base of studies on the impacts of global change and human activity - Carry out quantitative monitoring to record the effects of acute and chronic disturbances to intertidal ecosystems - Increase funding to long-term monitoring networks (to derive ‘evidence-based’ policies)

Mechanisms by which species respond to climate change - Determine the thermal and pH tolerances of marine organisms - Better understand sensitivities and adaptation capabilities of key species in the marine environment - Determine the effects of climate on recruitment pathways and phenology of coastal habitat biodiversity - Understand the mechanisms by which a warming climate affects marine organisms - Understand the mechanisms by which ocean acidification affects marine organisms - Understand the ecological mechanisms by which climate change alters the marine environment

Variability in climatic and biodiversity responses - Better understand the interactions between natural climate variability and anthropogenically driven change Ecosystems consequences - Understand the effects of climate change on ecosystem functioning in benthic communities - Understand and assess pelagic diversity and heterogeneity - Determine the effects of “low-dissolved-oxygen” events such as hypoxia and anoxia on function and status of the marine environments Validation and prediction - Develop systems that can track, forecast and control uncertainties regarding biodiversity loss - Develop tools to validate predictions

Restoration and mitigation - Assess the responses of different biodiversity indicators to restoration measures - Determine the impact of global change on plankton communities and the sequestering of carbon in ocean sediments.

Policy relevant priorities - Develop guidelines to summarize and effectively disseminate scientific results to end-users - Develop mechanisms by which science could inform policy and practice more rapidly - Promote the training of intermediaries between scientists and policy-makers, who could interpret the scientific data, and put an “economical” value on or identify the “risk” factors - Develop better communication systems between scientists, policy and stakeholders - Promote the development of multidisciplinary studies in marine resource management - Create representative marine protected areas which factor climate change into their design

Effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation measures, and role of marine and coastal ecosystems in the mitigation of climate change effects - Determine the consequences of coastal defences on ecosystem function and services - Conduct sound monitoring before and after construction of coastal defences in order to assess their effectiveness at meeting management goals. - Determine the effects of coastal defences on non-target systems and species, including promotion of range extensions on non-natural habitat - Establish the environmental benefits and costs of wind farms, especially the long-term effects on ecosystem processes and function - Determine the impacts of tidal and wave projects on marine biodiversity - Determine the effectiveness of iron fertilization and the long-term impacts of such fertilisation - Carry out molecular and biochemical research to enhance the physiological properties of algal strains, as well as optimisation of algal production and harvesting systems.

Current status and trends: - Map, list and rank coastal habitats types in terms of vulnerability to human impact, species richness, relevance for ecosystem functioning and uniqueness - Understand relationships between impacts and biotic response in estuarine habitats - Develop knowledge of deep-sea specific diversity and distribution of main macro-habitats - Develop current knowledge on the ecology and functioning of biodiversity in the high seas

Drivers of biodiversity change in marine environments: - Assess the main drivers of change by addressing impact and environmental quality at the relevant scale - Develop consistent methods for monitoring environmental parameters (e.g. water and sediment nutrient concentrations, light attenuation) to better interpret community variability - Determine the impact of new chemicals and synthetic materials and compounds on the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems - Understand the links between increased marine traffic and the spread of alien species - Determine the impacts of industry, commercial fishing, and pollution on deep-sea environments - Develop new functional indicators (rather than species) as a more predictive approach to detecting ecosystem changes

Biodiversity management: - Develop a framework that allows marine protected areas (MPAs) to be treated as designed experiments at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales, allowing for the re-design of MPAs following proper assessment and critique. - Analyse fine scale spatio-temporal data and information (i.e., fisheries) in the creation of MPAs - Determine current and predicted future state of benthic communities in Natura 2000 areas and how fishing activities could impact on these communities - Determine the actual effects of marine reserves on the genetic structure of populations, the spatial scales involved, and the suitability of islands as reserves in terms of connectivity - Promote the creation of large deep-sea and high sea MPAs to protect habitats such as deep corals and other natural reefs, seamounts, cold-seep and hydrothermal vent communities. - Promote the development of an EU sustainable fishery certification mechanism Linking research with policy: - Develop a balanced dialogue between scientists and policy makers to ensure that research priorities are correctly identified and supported - Develop mechanisms to better incorporate key actors and publics in the discussions about marine biodiversity conservation to gain their active support for conservation measures - Develop mechanisms to integrate effective, detailed and long-term knowledge with precautionary policy-making flexible enough to be able to incorporate new knowledge - Carry out research on the adaptation of existing legislative instruments - Carry out research on integration within nature conservation instruments and integration with other sector