The University of Plymouth has played a lead role in a seven-year project assessing the importance of plankton to the future biodiversity of the North East Atlantic.
IA2017 is an internationally important science policy initiative, which will help fulfil the obligations of the UK and other contracting parties to the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which strives to achieve good environmental status in European seas.
Coordinated by the OSPAR Commission IA2017 considers issues such as eutrophication, hazardous and radioactive substances, offshore oil and gas industries, ocean acidification, and the impact of a changing ocean climate.
But for the first time, such an assessment has taken biodiversity into account and the plankton element of that part of the project has been chaired by Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Lecturer in Marine Conservation at the University.
She leads a group made up of representatives from 15 European countries, who collated plankton biodiversity datasets, developing a suite of biodiversity indicators for key aspects of the plankton community.
Dr McQuatters-Gollop, whose participation is funded through a Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, said:
“Plankton are vital for many aspects of our lives, creating half of the oxygen we breathe and being crucial for the global food web. It is therefore important to include them and other aspects of biodiversity within this kind of policy, as we seek to develop a holistic approach to international ocean management.”
OSPAR’s 2010 Quality Status Report (QSR) was the previous state of the art ecosystem assessment in the North East Atlantic, with 10 indicator assessments. But IA2017 surpasses this, with 47 indicators, a clear indication that knowledge of marine ecosystems is improving.
Dr McQuatters-Gollop is principal investigator of the University’s Plankton and Policy Research Group which focuses on applying and implementing marine conservation policy in the UK and Europe, with an emphasis on planktonic systems.
And as well as leading the European initiative, she is chairing Defra’s plankton expert group developing the UK’s response to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
“With all these collaborations, what we are trying to do is establish what changes within the oceans are as a result of climate change, and which from direct human pressures. Through that, we can provide the scientific evidence that enables governments to develop policies that allow ecosystems to be used sustainably and in a way that preserves them for future generations.”