Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COMFORT (Our common future ocean in the Earth system – quantifying coupled cycles of carbon, oxygen, and nutrients for determining and achieving safe operating spaces with respect to tipping points)
Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28
The following specific objectives are addressed (CT=core theme, WP= work package; Figure):
1. Identify climate-induced ocean TPs and attribute them to processes (CT1, WPs 1-2).
2. Quantify related impacts and establish multi-dimensional safe operating spaces (SOS) (CT2, WPs 3-4).
3. Provide respective mitigation targets and options, as well as projected mitigation pathways (CT3, WPs 5-6).
4. Integrate stakeholder knowledge and provide new results including data to users (CT4, WPs 7-10).
In CT2, a significant progress was made on TP case studies to assess the impacts, risks, and thresholds for habitat conditions, ecosystem changes, and fisheries under projected changes of key physical and chemical forcings . This work provided the definition of ecoregions, and the identification of ecological niches of benthic mesophotic communities from present conditions. Also, a bleaching susceptibility map and an indicator for the risk of coral bleaching in the Indian Ocean have been formed. Modelling studies of tuna species provided an estimation of the climate change impact on the tuna stock in the Pacific and further impact on the economy of small Pacific Islands States that heavily depend on this resource. Furthermore, the diverse fish stocks data was analysed to explore if climate induced TPs cascade to food webs and higher trophic levels. A first quantitative test of the SOS approach was conducted which will allow the assessment of revised mitigation scenarios.
A comprehensive assessment of mitigation options and targets has been initiated in CT3. First, a list of target variables and metrics to evaluate future projection and SOS has been developed. Currently, the contribution and risks of marine technical mitigation measures to achieve low greenhouse gas emission scenarios is being assessed, including carbon removal scenarios.
In CT4, the Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) consisting of members from complementary domains and a two-way communication have been established. Additionally, the project results have been formatted with interoperable access to all users and all scientific publications are publicly available. Externally, COMFORT scientists have promoted the new results through their roles in international assessments and strategic documents.
The knowledge on marine tipping points and the new tools will be key for designing optimal mitigation pathways concerning emission scenarios and additional mitigation measures. Expected results will be further substantial additions to the scientific literature on abrupt oceanic change with respect to physics, biogeochemistry, and ecosystems. The work on the first 18 months of the project provides a good basis for the further progress of the project delivery on mitigation targets based on observational evidence, Earth system model projections, and ecosystem analysis. We will also receive a better estimate of the robustness of the results on tipping elements, tipping point dynamics, and the issue of irreversibility.
COMFORT work has already contributed to a larger awareness of the scientific community and the public concerning potential damage from imminent ocean tipping points due to warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. An example is the PNAS Perspective article that has been published to this extent. The wider societal implications of COMFORT results are that anticipation of abrupt and partially irreversible change of the oceans is put on improved measurable quantitative ground. The new results on emergent Earth system hazards will help to make efforts towards limiting the damage of increased greenhouse gas emissions to the marine part of the Earth system more effective and will contribute to a follow-up of the Paris agreement guided by scientific guardrails