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MARine MAnagement and Ecosystem Dynamics under climate change

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MARmaED (MARine MAnagement and Ecosystem Dynamics under climate change)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

With climate change and human population increase, good management of marine resources is needed. Most of the current knowledge (biodiversity loss, climate change and harvesting effect on marine systems) needs to be updated. The project integrated education and research in complementary marine sciences in Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and France. MARmaED linked state-of-the-art competences in genetics, ecophysiology, ecology, climatology, physical oceanography, statistics and economics. MARmaED thus unified essential disciplines needed to achieve a good understanding and management of the marine environment. The research provided new insights into how the cumulative stress from biodiversity loss, climate change and harvesting affects Europe’s complex marine systems and the consequences for optimal resource use-knowledge that is needed for sustainable, ecosystem-based management (EBM). MARmaED connected science, policy and people by transcended national borders, disciplinary barriers and sectorial divides. By building a greater knowledge-base and training the next generation of scientists to think across disciplines, MARmaED contributed to reinforcing Europe’s position as a global leader in marine science and ensured blue growth and sustainable exploitation of marine living resources. A number of MARmaED results have had a direct impact on industrial partners.
MARmaED gathered a large number of high-resolution climate models for the Mediterranean Sea useful for study in marine ecosystems and maritime activities. We estimated frequency of Mediterranean marine heatwaves throughout the 21st century. A recent IPCC report cites this work. We have assembled, extracted and analysed the genome of 137 cod from over the last century. We developed an open database of abundances and traits of >1500 marine fish recorded in >300000 unique stations in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. We show that the Arctic sea-ice loss due to climate warming may benefit some fish due to light increase (linked to sea-ice melt). However, the extreme light difference between seasons could prevent the migration poleward for other species even when the temperature becomes favourable. Understanding this limitation has a direct implication when predicting the fishing potential in the Arctic. Where the fish are spawning is vital for the industry relying on it, especially since harvesting is often concentrated on spawning fish. We have shown the main advantage of Atlantic cod spawning in southern of Norway is a better growth and survival rate and that temperature is an important factor in determining it. Our genomic results on Northeast Arctic cod show that the fact this stock is thriving is linked to its cold adaptation. Thus, climate warming can hinder the fast recovery of most of the Atlantic stocks. We highlighted the usefulness of a so-called “trait-based approach”; an idea that species and communities (groups of species interacting with one another) can be better described by their shape, behaviour and physiology (i.e. traits). Using a trait-based approach, we identified and understood the general factors that determine the structure of marine fish communities across different regions. We demonstrated that considering how natural communities respond to the range of environmental and human pressures is essential to reach the goal of EBM and be able to predict changes in marine fish communities. Using a trait-based approach will enable users of marine ecosystems to adapt and continue to benefit from the services provided by them. We produced knowledge useful to develop ecosystem-based management in the EU. MARmaED hence strengthened the science-base for a transition of fish stock assessment and management in the EU from a purely single-species to a true ecosystem-based approach. We provided a mechanistic understanding of environmental change and exploitation impacts on communities composition. We have quantified the extent to which a broader diversification of risks (catching different species or working in other sectors than fishing), can effectively mitigate economical risks for individual fishers. We also gave concrete advice for increased awareness of conflicts between fisheries and showed a vulnerability of the existing system of setting “fisheries reference points”. Our work helps the fishing industry to prepare for conflicts arising for example with Brexit. We were able to determine potential conflicts between advisory bodies, industry, and policy makers. Our research shows that the new scientific knowledge is not used in a timely way by policy makers for allocating quota, thus creating a discrepancy. We assessed how to provide information that has the highest value for determining fishing quota. We tried to inform on the optimal use of fisheries from the societal point of view and help in creating better fisheries management in the long-run, eventually helping to correct legislation processes. MARmaED took this role in actively commenting on new fisheries laws. The application of game theory to international fisheries management we advocated will provide the EU with better tools for negotiating favourable outcomes when designing agreements with other countries. The most important channel for dissemination of our results was peer-reviewed high-impact publications (22 papers). Our results were communicated to a broad scientific audience through conference presentations (104). To reach a wider audience, we developed a strong online presence on multiple fora. MARmaED website hosts an active blog where we communicated our results (23 blog posts). Among them, were also popular science essays written in lay language and addressing topical subjects. MARmaED has a strong presence on Twitter, where each paper and presentation was advertised. Finally, several ESRs had a direct impact on the industrial partners during their internships resulting in extended internships and prolonged collaborations.
Evaluating the impact of science in progress is always very hard. The impact may be instantaneous (for a purpose, e.g. supporting fisheries advice for an organisation) but most often only come after years (e.g. research publications where the scientific impact will be more indirect, as the prime aim has not always been to provide advice, but rather to come up with new findings). MARmaED, being a research program, will thus have most of its impact in the years to come. We provided new knowledge on how ecosystems will adapt to e.g. climate change. This knowledge is necessary for the development of better fishery management practices. We have provided better tools for EBM. Our work has been discussed by an ICES working group and several ESRs are now directly involved in them; introduced by partners who were already members. ESRs had a direct impact on the industrial partners during their internships resulting in extended collaboration. MARmaED has trained 15 highly versatile researchers who have the capability to work at all levels of society and easily found employment. The 7 graduated ESRs have been hired directly after their PhD. They are working in a variety of themes ranging from socio-economic consequences of climate change, new climate change models to developing new models for fish stock assessment; thus applying their interdisciplinary education. The remaining 8 ESRs will defend in 2020 having a 4-year education.