Future Earth Coasts

Inaugural Meeting of the CYBER-COAST Working Group: Advancing Coastal Cybernetics for Ecosystem Sustainability

Following the launch of the Future Earth Coasts Cyber-Coast (A CYBERnetic perspective on COASTal environments) working group, the kickoff meeting was held on September 12, 2023, drawing together coastal researchers from prestigious institutions worldwide. Participants included experts from CNR-IRET Lecce, University of Salento, DiSTeBA, LifeWatch ERIC, SKLEC, NIOZ – Yerseke, Sun Yat-Sen University, University of Caen, University of Hull, and the Argentine Institute of Oceanography, among others.

The CYBER-COAST working group, co-founded by Dr. Francesco Cozzoli and Dr. Xiaoyu Fang, aims to explore the intricate realm of Coastal Cybernetics, which encompasses the intricate interactions and feedback loops between living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of coastal environments, including human activities, infrastructure, resource extraction, and waste generation. These feedback mechanisms play a pivotal role in shaping the structure, function, and resilience of coastal ecosystems.

During the meeting, Dr. Francesco Cozzoli (Italian National Research Council, Research Institute on Terrestrial Ecosystems IRET) introduced the core concept of cybernetics and its application in coastal sciences. He highlighted the hierarchical organization of systems and ecosystems, emphasizing how cybernetic principles can help explain the complex dynamics at play. These principles can illuminate the role of ecosystem engineering in triggering feedback loops that amplify or mitigate changes within ecosystems, shedding light on information dynamics within these systems.

Dr. Xiaoyu Fang ((East China Normal University, State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research), co-executive director of Future Earth Coasts, introduced the overarching objectives of the CYBER-COAST working group. She emphasized the group’s mission to deepen our understanding of coastal ecosystems through cybernetics while fostering collaborative knowledge exchange. This framework will promote the creation of synergistic feedback loops among researchers, thereby fostering a collaborative environment. This approach aims to drive scientific progress and facilitate the sharing of insights among experts.

Keynote presentations were delivered by Prof. Mike Elliott, vice-chair of Future Earth Coasts, and Prof. Gerardo Perillo, FEC Academician and director of FEC IPO Argentina. Prof. Elliott advocated for an integrated model that combines natural and social sciences, governance, and management to effectively assess and manage human activities in marine environments. He proposed a unified model distinguishing ecosystem services from societal goods and benefits, aiming to enhance marine environmental management.

Prof. Gerardo Perillo presented an innovative concept, the estimation of ecosystem Inner Value based on a free energy approach. This non-instrumental and objective measure reflects an ecosystem’s intrinsic value, independent of human valuation. It could serve as a tool to evaluate and model ecosystem health before and after anthropogenic disturbances, potentially becoming a requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments.

The discussion session centered on the future work plan, including the formation of sub-working groups, communication strategies, membership, and funding opportunities. The meeting showcased the collective expertise of the CYBER-COAST working group, highlighting the synergy between research ideas and the diverse skills and knowledge brought by its members.

The CYBER-COAST working group’s efforts promise to revolutionize our understanding of coastal ecosystems and their management, forging new frontiers in ecological science and sustainability.

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