What is it
Develop new empirical models on the interaction between climate change, biodiversity, functions and services in marine coastal ecosystems
Establish a framework to assess the vulnerability of marine socio-ecological systems under climate change scenarios.
Evaluate the effectiveness of nature-based solutions and protection measures at enhancing the resilience capacity of marine coastal ecosystems.
Provide evidence-based guidance for marine policy formulation and innovative research pathways.
The overall concept of the MaCoBioS project is to propose cost-effective mitigation and adaptation nature-based solutions to tackle the effects of climate change by disentangling the relationship between climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem services in marine coastal ecosystems under complex combinations of stressors. To this aim, MaCoBioS will use the ecological condition of ecosystems as a cornerstone (Figure 1). The absorption of climate change effects by marine coastal ecosystems is directly linked to their ecological condition and their level of biodiversity and adaptive capacity. Indeed, the range, quality and quantity of services provided by an ecosystem is dependent on its ecological condition. For instance, the provision of ecosystem services may decrease or change when the ecosystem is disturbed or degraded and there is a loss in biological integrity due to climate change environmental drivers and anthropogenic stressors. A decrease in ecosystem services provisioning could then lead to a higher sensitivity to climate change and toward a non-linear response in the ability of a socio-ecological system to absorb climate change impacts as a consequence. Methodological constraints and the lack of data mean it is not yet possible to robustly evaluate the relationship between the degradation of an ecosystem and the level of ecosystem services provided along with the potential feedback on climate change dynamics. Blue Carbon assessments currently rely on an assumed linear relationship between targeted ecosystems’ surface areas and average carbon sequestration rate data, without any consideration for the ecological condition of ecosystems and the complexity of the spatio-temporal dynamics of carbon sequestration processes.
The development of a comprehensive indicator system for biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment will facilitate more accurate predictions on how the provision of services change. Many indicators already exist in the literature and will be reviewed (e.g. Marine Strategy Framework Directive indicators) but these indicators are often based on simple metrics (i.e. coral cover in reefs) that do not integrate the complexity of biodiversity and functional dimension. As a consequence, current indicators may not reflect the global ecosystem condition, but more individual compartment responses to changes. Defining what constitutes a good ecological condition for an ecosystem is, however, very complex to assess as it requires a detailed understanding of its intricate functioning. It relies on the overall productivity, the safe operating space of foundation and associated species, the connectivity with other habitats, the diversity and redundancy of functional groups, the presence of rare species, the adaptive capacity of species at the individual and population levels, and on the fragile mutualistic interactions involving foundation species (i.e. coral species and zooxanthellae). MaCoBioS will work on such parameters to elaborate a comprehensive and integrated indicator system with correlation and discrimination analysis, following principles of hierarchy, simplicity, comprehensiveness, and operability. Defining the right set of indicators is critical to predicting the effects of climate change and more direct anthropogenic stressor, defining the vulnerability of the ecosystem (that depends on its ecological condition) and assessing the potential consequences to human well-being. Developing ecological condition indicators will be crucial to monitor marine coastal ecosystems effectively and to guide policymakers into developing adapted ecosystem-based policies to maintain in or restore marine coastal ecosystems to a good ecological condition through increased investment in integrated and cost-effective nature-based solutions. MaCoBioS will bridge the ecological impact of climate change on marine coastal ecosystems, the vulnerability of socio-ecological systems according to multiple climate change scenarios, the implementation of effective nature-based solutions, and ensure efficient uptake from and to policymakers and other decision-making stakeholders involved in marine coastal ecosystems management
Figure 1 : Schematic of MaCoBioS overall concept representing the complex linkages between climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem services and ecological condition of marine coastal ecosystems. Abiotic and social factors, and ecosystem functions and services represent a non-exhaustive selection. Adapted from Duncan et al. (2015).
There is a critical need for dedicated research on the concept of ecological condition, as it is central for policies and management measures regarding biodiversity protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation measures at four levels:
• – At the international level, mainly quantitative targets have been defined such as the Aichi ones within the convention on biological diversity framework or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). There is, therefore, a critical need to integrate more robust measures of ecosystems restoration and conservation initiatives, and their contribution to climate change mitigation based on the ecosystems’ ecological condition. In that regard, the MaCoBioS project will contribute to provide these missing indicators. We will work in collaboration with intergovernmental panel on climate change , convention on biological diversity and intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem service (alongside with the UN Environment Programme – UN Environment, Regional Sea Conventions and Regional Biodiversity Conventions), other UN bodies (IOC- UNESCO, Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN – FAO, World Bank, etc.), and intergovernmental organisations outside the UN (e.g. large NGOs and other organisations in charge of the management of Marine Protected Areas – MPAs) to develop targets that are not linked to quantitative indicators but rather qualitative ones based on the ecological condition of ecosystems. Synergies will also be created within the UN Decade of Science for Oceans (led by IOC-UNESCO) with various institutional partners to ensure a strong commitment towards the use of qualitative indicators.
• – At the European level, the Agenda 21 was well accepted and mostly implemented, however, there is no single policy or set of policies to manage the marine environment but a complex web of interacting and overlapping policies that leave significant problems unaddressed (Grip, 2017). The marine spacial planning Directive is a cornerstone of the Commission’s Blue Growth Strategy and the Integrated Maritime Policy. The Water Framework Directive also has a significant influence on the management of the European seas through the reduction of pollution. MaCoBioS will provide substantive information through key environmental indicators to consider for the conception of these biodiversity, environmental and climate change-related policies.
• – At a national level, MaCoBioS will contribute in formulating comprehensive guidance for integrated policies for marine and maritime affairs (e.g. UK Government Environment Plan; Stratégie Nationale pour la Mer et le Littoral in France, Protection Plan for watercourses in Norway). It will also be a determinant for the implementation of the convention on biological diversity Strategy 2021-2030 as well as the national determined contributions in preparation for the 2020/2025 period, especially by providing evidence of the importance of having ecosystems in good ecological condition to fulfil biodiversity and climate change commitments. For the former, it will furthermore highlight the contribution of marine coastal ecosystems into the climate change mitigation process and the effectiveness of nature-based solutions in that regard.
• – At a local level, regional or more local watershed scale decisions follow other sub-directives through the EU Water Framework Directive and national directives.
MaCoBioS will work directly with stakeholders and policymakers in local case studies in the Caribbean, the Western Mediterranean Sea and Northern Europe to provide further guidance on the implementation of these directives.