Monday, June 8, 2020, is World Oceans Day. While Future Earth Coasts joins others in celebrating this special day, this year it is also time for us to reflect as individuals, as citizens and as members of a global community. This has been a strange year worldwide when a Pandemic has pushed all other thoughts from our minds.
The 2020 United Nation World Ocean Conference was to be held in Lisbon 2-6 June but has been postponed. The second World Ocean Assessment (1), to be delivered in December 2020, focuses on establishing trends in the marine environment with relevance to global reporting needs, such as those associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2).
Meanwhile, our oceans, seas, and particularly coasts are coming under increasing pressures, for example from pollution, from climate change, from urbanisation and habitat modification, from increased resource use and de-oxygenation (3).
Marine and coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs, are collapsing and marine species, from polar bears to sharks and whales, are under threat. Large areas are now ‘dead zones’. 2021 will see the beginning of a UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable development (4), a rallying call to scientists to come together and not only study problems but find solutions.
So, what are the scientific challenges (5)? They include (i) understanding of the interaction among diversity and ecosystem processes, structure and function; (ii) ecosystem shifts, biodiversity and habitat loss; (iii) restoration; (iv) sustainability strategies for human activities in the ocean, including the assessment of ocean health; (v) cumulative human impacts and climate change, as drivers of shifts; and (vi) marine conservation. Scientists can propose options for management and governance but need societal leaders to take action and make the decisions, commit to implementing these and result in positive changes.
Major challenges of governance and social priorities (5) include: (i) meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals, (ii) new methods into decision support tools for policy frameworks, (iii) climate-ready Marine Spatial Planning and MPAs, (iv) transnational observation strategies, (v) engaging society more effectively in ocean and coastal science, and (vi) the role of fake news.
To be successful and sustainable, solutions to tackle the challenges oceans and coasts are facing need to cover multiple aspects (3) – among others, they need to be (i) ecologically sustainable, (ii) economically viable, (iii) socially desirable, (iv) ethically defensible, and (v) culturally inclusive.
Future Earth Coasts continues its commitment to working with coastal scientists from various disciplines and engaging with society for partnerships at the science-society-policy nexus to effectively address the challenges facing our coasts, and sends best wishes to all marine scientists and lovers of the sea on the occasion of the 2020 Day of the Oceans.
(1) Evans, K., Chiba, S., Garcia-Soto, C., Bebianno, M., Ojaveer, H., Park, C., Ruwa, R., Simcock, A.J., Thanh, C. and Zielinski, T., 2019. The
Global Integrated World Ocean Assessment: Linking Observations to Science and Policy Across Multiple Scales. Frontiers in Marine
Science, 6, p.298. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00298
(3) Elliott, M., Day, J.W., Ramachandran, R., and Wolanski, E. 2019. A Synthesis: What Is the Future for Coasts, Estuaries, Deltas and
Other Transitional Habitats in 2050 and Beyond?,” in Coasts and Estuaries, eds. E. Wolanski, J.W. Day, M. Elliott & R. Ramachandran.
Elsevier, pp. 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-814003-1.00001-0
(5) Borja, A., Andersen, J.H., Arvanitidis, C.D., Basset, A., Buhl-Mortensen, L., Carvalho, S., Dafforn K.A., Devlin, M.J., Escobar-Briones,
E.G., Grenz, C., Harder, T., Katsanevakis, S., Liu, D., Metaxas, A., Morán Xosé, A.G., Newton, A., Piroddi, C., Pochon, X., Queirós, A.M.,
Snelgrove, P.V.R., Solidoro, C., St. John, M.A. and Teixeira, H., 2019. Past and Future Grand Challenges in Marine Ecosystem
Ecology. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, p.362. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2020.00362