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OCEAN-CERTAIN Report Summary

Project ID: 603773
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: Norway

Periodic Report Summary 2 - OCEAN-CERTAIN (Ocean Food-web Patrol – Climate Effects: Reducing Targeted Uncertainties with an Interactive Network)

Project Context and Objectives:
Climate change is posing serious risks for both natural systems and human beings. Plausible and feasible policy decisions and strategies to mitigate these risks are therefore urgently needed. To achieve this goal, predictive capacity with respect to the core natural processes and their interaction with stressors are required. However, there are important uncertainties and gaps in our knowledge about the large-scale natural processes that have a controlling role in climate change (and vice versa). Moreover, we also lack knowledge on feedbacks from the socio-economic system generated by human response to changes in the natural processes that result from the effects of climatic and non-climatic stressors. These together are the main obstacles for increasing the predictive capacity and subsequently developing effective policy strategies. Traditional climate-related marine research suffers from fragmentation, and often deals with local problems such as a single stressor or a single species. The relationships between climate and oceanic systems are complex however, and require a system-dynamic level approach rather than a focus on parts of this system in isolation.

The marine food web (FW) is at the centre of both the climate-related CO2 cycle and food production in the marine environment. It plays a key role in regulating the climate system and is highly sensitive to climate change and other stressors. OCEAN-CERTAIN’s central hypothesis is that these stressors will impact the structure and functions of the marine FW and the associated biological pump (BP) in predictable ways. The project will first seek to confirm this hypothesis and to specify these impacts and then work to develop descriptive tools with qualitative and quantitative parameters/boundary conditions based on these findings that can be used to reduce the two types of targeted uncertainties.

The overarching goals of OCEAN-CERTAIN are:
• Determining qualitative and quantitative changes in the functionalities of the FW and estimating the efficiency of the BP in exporting carbon as a response to multi-stressors,
• Identifying the interactions (impacts and feedbacks) between climate related oceanic processes (FW and BP) and global climate dynamics,
• Integrating marine ecosystem scenarios with probable socio-economic scenarios to help estimate/quantify human feed backs to the coupled socio-ecological system, relevant to mitigation and adaptation pathways,
• Developing scenario-based impact prediction capacity,
• Producing and testing decision support tools and systems (DSS) and their ability to support the sustainable exploitation of marine resources.

In order to develop scenarios and predictive capacity, OCEAN-CERTAIN aims to produce the knowledge about past and present states of the ecosystem structure and functionality, and knowledge about the processes of change (potential new states which develop from existing ones) by using Ecosystem models supported by:
• Data mining in available data bases,
• LBKD to extract latent/hidden knowledge from scientific literature in multiple disciplines
• Mesocosm and laboratory experiments in three distinct ecosystems
• Targeted field-based process studies

OCEAN-CERTAIN will compile these data and knowledge for testing our hypotheses with the ecosystem model. Using a similar logic, OCEAN-CERTAIN will assess the current state of marine goods and services reliant communities and analyse how these may change, thereby estimating feedbacks from socio-economic systems on the marine ecosystem. A key feature of OCEAN-CERTAIN is the integration of the processes of the natural and socio-economic systems.

Project Results:
The main cruises and field experiments, as well as the first rounds of stakeholder workshops and a prototype of the DSS for Ocean-Certain are now finished. Left are the second rounds of workshops and the finalization of the DSS, as well as all the work to analyze, study and report the data, and hopefully contribute with new knowledge before the end of the project period – and beyond. It is our understanding that the issue of carbon uptake and sequestration in the ocean, partly mediated by the biological carbon pumps (the biological carbon pump and the microbial carbon pump), are catching large interests among scientists, organizations and policy makers these days.
We have undertaken three major and similar mesocosm experiments where the plankton community has been exposed to one or more variable factors, and repeated and extended these experiments in three so-called multi-stressor experiments undertaken in microcosms. The UiB conceptual food web model has been the core inspiration for the experimental setup and measurements. Synthesis of the results of multi stressor experiment so far shows that context (physical, chemical, biological, temporal and spatial) dependency is very critical when studying the impact of climatic multi stressors on the functioning of the marine food web.
We have also undertaken two cruises, and perhaps other smaller campaigns. Preliminary indications show that climate shift in Western Mediterranean is a fact. In Eastern Mediterranean, Rhodes Gyre may also be changing structure, which could have important consequences for the thermohaline circulation in the Mediterranean system.
We have compiled a large dataset that encompasses both physical and biological information to achieve OC goals. Atmospheric, hydrological and ecological data have been extracted from global repositories and from available long-term food web data collected at fixed coastal stations in European Seas. These data have been transferred to WP2 for models development and examined to identify FW responses to global anthropogenic change.
Relative to modeling in WP2, initial simulations of all bottom-up stressor combinations have been performed for the Arctic location. All stressor forcing has also been gathered for all three case areas (Patagonia, Arctic and Mediterranean), and stressor forcing for the stakeholder sites specifically has been gathered as an extra for use in WP3 and that the physical set-up is nearing completion for the Patagonian location.
The development of the LBDK software in WP1 is furthermore a novel contribution in marine sciences resulting from Ocean Certain work. This software uses artificial intelligence algorithms to mine scientific literature text data in order to extract variables, events and their associative or causal relations. We believe this constitute a step forward in marine sciences to make use of the large body of scientific text data. The Marine Variable Linker software developed by NTNU for Ocean Certain is available online at

Adaptive Management refers to a process of resource management by continuous learning. The participation of stakeholders is inherent and considered essential for adaptive management to be successful. Stakeholders where actively involved in the design of the social-economic submodel through the case study workshops which resulted in group building of the causal loop diagrams (‘mind mapping’) and, eventually, an upgrade to a system dynamics model. This will be further explored in the iterative workshops due to be held in January 2017, which will complete the rounds of stakeholder workshops.
OCEAN CERTAIN will not need to report on global export rates and quantitative uptake rates of the biological carbon pump, but we need to understand in depths was this is about when we elaborate on how it can be disturbed by humans or by climate change.

Potential Impact:
OCEAN-CERTAIN is expected to 1) improve climate predictions and more accurately quantify climate impacts on oceans and marine ecosystems, 2) improve EU and international policies aimed at safeguarding the marine environment, and 3) support more effective policy and management options for societal responses to climate change. Its central contribution will be to reduce uncertainty by focusing on a critical but extremely under-researched area: the combined impacts of multi-stressors on climate-related oceanic processes and the links between climate-related oceanic processes and global climate change dynamics.

More specifically, improved models of the effects of climate change on the FW and BP are expected. In particular, it will focus on the combined impacts of the selected multi-stressors on climate-related ocean processes, an area in which little work has been done. These improvements will be made by 1) scanning the vast body of existing research using innovative techniques to collect available data and uncover previously overlooked interactions, stressors and indicators; 2) adaptation of functionality based FW conceptual model to ecosystem model and coupling ecosystem and chemical speciation models and 3) capturing, quantifying and incorporating elusive data on the vulnerability of human communities and likely responses to climate change and policy to climate change models. The impact of climatic as well as nonclimatic stressors on the FW and BP mechanisms will be thoroughly investigated to ascertain the quality and accuracy of the predictions in three distinct marine regions/ecosystem. The output of OCEAN-CERTAIN will be a critical expansion of climate change related research, addressing a major weakness of existing research: the lack of connections between climate-related oceanic processes and global climate dynamics.

The project will help find better solutions to cope with the impacts of climate change in three ways. First, the key feedback mechanisms underlying climate change, including societal response to policies, will be determined together with the sensitivities and uncertainties of the system. Second, the project will develop and test a DSS to use this knowledge. This tool will make the existing knowledge on the impacts of climate change on available to EU policy and managers. Third, stakeholder involvement and an emphasis on dissemination will help produce management options that are flexible, legitimate, and sustainable, enabling easier implementation of political decisions and regulations.

OCEAN-CERTAIN will use experiments, field work and advanced data, text and literature searching techniques to uncover, establish or improve and validate knowledge and understanding of the interaction (emerging, impact and feed backs) between multi-stressors and Climate-Related Ocean Processes (CROP). Identification and quantification of this interaction by OCEAN-CERTAIN will definitely contribute to understanding and quantifying the link between the CROP and Global Climate dynamics. This link consists of crucial information needed to produce better Global Climate Models which currently lack information on the effects (impact and feed backs) of oceanic processes on global climatic processes.

OCEAN-CERTAIN will use new or newly uncovered knowledge and also draw upon existing, extensive, databases (such as EMODNET, ESA, GMES and NOAA-NODC databases) to improve ecosystem models that can capture the dynamics of the complex marine systems and how these marine systems are likely to respond under increased pressure from climatic and non-climatic stressors. An improved systemic perspective will in turn enhance knowledge about the workings of the specific physical-chemical ocean processes and dynamics.

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