After seven long years of work, today marks the day that OSPAR’s Intermediate Assessment 2017 is launched!
IA2017, covering both status and trends across the North-East Atlantic, presents a picture of this important marine area and includes consideration of eutrophication, hazardous substances, radioactive substances, offshore oil and gas industries, a range of other human pressures, ocean acidification, the impact of a changing ocean climate, and for the first time, biological diversity.
IA2017 is an internationally important science-policy project, which will help fulfil the UK’s, and other contracting parties’, obligation to the EU for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
The biodiversity portion of IA2017 has been led by ICG-COBAM (OSPAR’s Group on Coordination of Biodiversity, Assessment, and Monitoring). My role in COBAM is the chair of the Pelagic Habitats Expert Group, which is comprised of plankton experts from each OSPAR contracting party.
We have developed and assessed three pelagic habitats indicators for IA2017:
PH1 – Changes in phytoplankton and zooplankton communities
PH2 – Changes in phytoplankton biomass and zooplankton abundance
PH3 – Pilot assessment of changes in plankton diversity
In the coming weeks I’ll discuss each of these in depth, but for now I want to speak a bit about the process.
IA2017 represents a true collaboration between scientists and policy makers. The scale of IA2017 is impressive – policy makers and scientists from 15 different countries and the EU worked together to assess the state of the North East Atlantic. The Pelagic Habitats Expert Group alone used dozens of plankton time-series to develop our indicators and construct our assessments and have achieved a product which is both scientifically robust and useful for policy.
OSPAR’s 2010 Quality Status Report (QSR) was the current state of the art of ecosystem assessment in the North East Atlantic with 10 indicator assessments. IA2017 surpasses this, with 47 indicator assessments, including for the first time biodiversity indicators, a clear indication that our knowledge of marine ecosystems is improving. We have an additional 18 ‘candidate’ indicators still in their development phase and so are expecting the next OSPAR QSR to be even more comprehensive, with at least 65 indicator assessments.
A significant piece of progress with IA2017 is the inclusion of indicators for biodiversity, in line with the MSFD. While indicators for eutrophication and pollution have been in development for decades, the idea of assessing biodiversity is relatively new, with the MSFD the first piece of EU legislation to require such thinking. Through COBAM, the Pelagic Habitats Expert Group have made huge advances in mobilising European plankton expertise, collating plankton biodiversity datasets, developing a suite of biodiversity indicators for key aspects of the plankton community, and framing our results in an OSPAR regional context. As the expert group chair, this process has been challenging, as all innovative work is. That, however, is a story for a future post. Today, I want to celebrate the advances we’ve made in understanding plankton diversity and using robust science to inform European marine policy and sustainably manage our seas.
Abigail, Plankton and Policy
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