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Climate Change and Future Marine Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FutureMARES (Climate Change and Future Marine Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-02-28

Coastal and offshore marine systems support a large portion of the global biodiversity and play a major contribution to society, harboring key climate regulating processes and habitats, contributing to worldwide food security, in addition to other valuable economic and wellbeing services and resources. These areas also hold some of the most heavily exploited ecosystems in the world. The ongoing global crises of biodiversity loss and climate change pose great threats to the natural capital of these systems. FutureMARES is designed to provide socially and economically viable actions, strategies and Nature-based Solutions (NBS) for climate change (CC) adaptation and mitigation to safeguard future biodiversity, and ecosystem functions, maximising natural capital and its delivery of services from marine and transitional ecosystems.

To achieve its goal, the objectives of FutureMARES are to:

1. Advance our understanding of the links between species traits and community roles, ecological functions and ecosystem services as impacted by CC by analysing the best available large-scale in situ data sets;
2. Deliver ensemble projections of the physical and biogeochemical effects of CC at appropriate spatiotemporal scales that reduce uncertainty and identify climate hotspots and refugia;
3. Perform targeted field and mesocosm experiments to address key knowledge gaps on CC impacts on species functions and habitats, using a trait-based approach including ecological adaptive capacity;
4. Predict the effects of CC on the distribution and productivity of important (keystone, structural, endangered) species and consequences for marine biodiversity using a suite of state-of-the-art tools;
5. To conduct novel, social-ecological vulnerability assessments ranking the severity of effects of CC on various ecosystem services and dependent human communities;
6. To perform economic analyses of implementation scenarios of NBS at real-world demonstration sites including the costs and benefits of habitat restoration, conservation strategies and sustainable harvesting;
7. To co-develop project research activities with decision- and policy-makers and managers to help ensure impactful, transformative, science-based advice to contribute to CC adaptation and mitigation strategies;
8. To effectively communicate and engage with a broad range of stakeholders involved in the stewardship of natural capital, biodiversity and ecosystem services, particularly those implementing NBS in marine, transitional (and terrestrial) ecosystems.
FutureMARES has made a strong start to accomplishing its goals during this first, 18-month period. Most of the research will be finalized in mid to late 2023. A brief summary related to each goal is:

Goal 1. Historical climate impacts on species and communities were analysed after compiling 88 time series (~512,000 obs.) spanning up to 4 decades. Workshops advanced statistical methods to explore relationships among traits, ecological functions and ecosystem services including reviews of the ecological indicator literature.

Goal 2. Ensemble model projections were downscaled for use in "Storylines" (regional cases of NBS research) and uncertainty analyses and techniques to identify climate hotspots and refugia have been discussed and are being applied. Discussion with project partners helped ensure that projections are suitable for social-ecological analyses.

Goal 3. Experiments were performed comparing ecological function of healthy and degraded habitats such as native versus invasive seagrasses, macrophytes or shellfish. First results are available on the ecophysiology (e.g. thermal / heat wave tolerance) of key species. Adaptive capacity has started to be explored.

Goal 4. Models were updated or created to better project the future distribution and/or productivity of i) plants and animals at the base of the food web being restored or harvested (kelp, shellfish), ii) at-risk species (marine turtles), and iii) traditionally harvested fish and shellfish. Methods were formulated to transfer those results to ecosystem models updated for the Bay of Biscay, and Baltic, North and Mediterranean Seas.

Goal 5. A general methodology was designed that partners are using to perform climate risk assessments of species, habitats and human communities. The method accommodates differences among Storylines and incorporates the effect of NBS on risk-mitigation, as well as the risk faced under different CC scenarios.

Goal 6. Ecosystem service indicators are being compiled for each Storyline. Project workshops were conducted to discuss the economic analyses to be performed including traditional valued (e.g. provisional - fisheries) and non-valued (cultural) services. Plans have been outlined for economic outputs to inform NBS ecosystem modelling.

Goal 7. Scenario narratives were developed and policymaker feedback obtained via an online workshops. A call for knowledge was drafted to be released soon to EU and other regional policy-makers and managers. Tools to facilitate engagement were created. Engagement has benefitted from the strong networks of FutureMARES participants.

Goal 8. Policy-makers and managers have been continually updated on project progress. FutureMARES has been integrated within larger programs exploring NBS in terrestrial (rural, urban) and marine environments, and collaboration started with other projects examining CC adaptation and mitigation and/or solutions to the ongoing biodiversity crisis.
FutureMARES collects, develops and applies the best available physical and biological data sets, projection tools, and innovative social and economic frameworks to provide innovative science-based advice on implementing marine NBS. State-of-the-art tools providing results to the latest IPBES and IPCC reports will be advanced to provide knowledge integrating ecological, social and economic impacts of CC under different scenarios of NBS implementation. FutureMARES: i) improves projections of physical and biological impacts of CC, ii) incorporates neglected but critical ecological processes, and iii) better account for risks to both social and ecological systems. Partners are world-renown scientists actively training the next generation of researchers to be at the forefront of their disciplines or to perform interdisciplinary research needed to address society’s “wicked problems” such as the impacts of CC on social-ecological systems. FutureMARES will maximise the exploitation and implementation of its results and products through active engagement of policy-makers and managers at the national, regional and international levels to share fit-for-purpose tools and advice needed for national climate adaptation plans, marine spatial planning, various EU's Nature Directives and its Biodiversity and Climate Adaptation Strategies, and international (IPCC, IPBES, CFB, UNEP) levels. Coastal and marine waters and their biodiversity are cherished by society. These are, arguably, among the most beloved ecosystems with emblematic flora and fauna. The effectiveness of NBS to rebuild the natural capital and delivery of ecosystem services (including carbon capture potential) from these habitats is visible to society (not only in terms of better livelihoods but also through increases in aesthetic and cultural values). Effective planning for CC adaptation using NBS in these habitats is, therefore, an obligation for responsible governance.
The three NBS advanced in FutureMARES to provide climate resilient pathways