Plankton science for supporting the implementation of marine ecosystem-based management and conservation

Title: Plankton science for supporting the implementation of marine ecosystem-based management and conservation 

Funder and duration: NERC, Defra, EMFF 2013-2020

Location: Northeast Atlantic

University of Plymouth leads: Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop

Project website: https://planktonpolicy.org/

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) takes an Ecosystem Approach to managing Europe’s seas with the overarching objective of achieving ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES). Under the MSFD, indicators of biodiversity state are used to assess the state of marine ecosystems and determine the main drivers of change affecting European marine ecosystems at the regional scale. If the ecosystem state does not reflect GES a programme of management measures, designed to manage direct human pressures such as fishing, coastal development, or nutrient loading, must then be implemented.

As the base of the marine pelagic ecosystem, indicators of plankton community structure must be used to assess the ‘pelagic habitat’ component of European marine ecosystems, and are representative of broader pelagic ecosystem status. A suite of three plankton indicators recently developed for the MSFD captures aspects of pelagic diversity (OSPAR, 2017c), functioning (OSPAR, 2017a) and productivity (OSPAR, 2017b) in the Northeast Atlantic. Uniquely, these indicators are being co-developed with policy makers, resulting in policy buy-in. The indicators, however, require further scientific development around understanding drivers of indicator change, both prevailing conditions and those caused by direct human pressures, so that policy decisions can be made about effective management measure implementation.

The UK and OSPAR Pelagic Habitats Expert Groups are chaired by Abigail McQuatters-Gollop and are comprised of national and international scientific experts and contracting party policy delegations. The Pelagic Habitats Expert Groups are tasked with steering scientific research to meet policy needs, including MSFD indicator development and assessment and reporting of pelagic biodiversity status to the European Commission. The policy-relevant science is conducted through a variety of EU, national, and international research projects.

The three MSFD plankton indicators which summarize the state of pelagic habitats at the OSPAR level. The suite of productivity indicator, functional group indicator, and diversity indicator allows for a holistic assessment of change in pelagic habitats. (Figure adapted from (McQuatters-Gollop et al., 2017)).

Related articles

Publications

Capuzzo, E., Lynam, C.P., Stephens, D., Barry, J., Forster, R.M., Greenwood, N., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Silva, T., van Leeuwen, S. M., and Engelhard, G.H., (2017). New data reveal a decline in primary production in the North Sea with implications for zooplankton and fisheries. Global Change Biology, doi: 10.1111/gcb.13916. 

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Johns, David G., Bresnan, E., Skinner, J., Rombouts, I., Stern, R.F., Aubert, A., Johansen, M., Bedford, J., and Knights, A., (2017). From microscope to management: the critical value of plankton taxonomy to marine policy and biodiversity conservation. Marine Policy, 83: 1-10.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Edwards, M., Helaouët, P., Johns, D.G., Owens, N.J.P., Raitsos, D.E., Schroeder, D., Skinner, J., and Stern, R.F., (2015). The Continuous Plankton Recorder survey: how can long-term phytoplankton datasets deliver Good Environmental Status? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 162:88-97.

Beaugrand, G., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Edwards, M. and Goberville, E., (2013). Long-term responses of North Atlantic calcifying plankton to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 3: 263-267.

McQuatters-Gollop, A. (2012). Challenges for implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in a climate of macroecological change. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 370: 5636-5655.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Reid, P.C., Edwards, M., Burkill, P., Castellani, C., Batten, S., Gieskes, W., Beare, D., Bidigare, R., Head, E., Johnson, R., Kahru, M., Koslow, J. and Pena, M. (2011). Is there a decline in marine phytoplankton? Nature 472:E6-E7.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Johns, D.G., Bresnan, E., Skinner, J., Rombouts, I., Stern, R.F., Aubert, A., Johansen, M., Bedford, J. and Knights, A., (2017). From microscope to management: the critical value of plankton taxonomy to marine policy and biodiversity conservation. Marine Policy, 83: 1-10.

Bedford, J., Johns, D.G. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (In press). A century of change in North Sea plankton communities explored through integrating historical datasets. ICES Journal of Marine Science, in press

Siddons, B., Glegg, G. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2018). Inter-regional coherence: can Northeast Atlantic pelagic indicators be applied to the Arctic? Marine Policy, 96:53-64. 

Bedford, J., Johns, D., Greenstreet, S., and McQuatters-Gollop, A. (2018). Plankton as prevailing conditions: a surveillance role for plankton indicators within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Marine Policy, 89:109-115. 

OSPAR, 2017a. PH1: Changes in phytoplankton and zooplankton communities. OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017. Available at: https://oap.ospar.org/en/ospar-assessments/intermediate-assessment-2017

OSPAR, 2017b. PH2: Changes in Phytoplankton Biomass and Zooplankton Abundance. OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017. Available at: https://oap.ospar.org/en/ospar-assessments/intermediate-assessment-2017

OSPAR, 2017c. PH3: Pilot assessment of Changes in Plankton Diversity. OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017. Available at: https://oap.ospar.org/en/ospar-assessments/intermediate-assessment-2017.

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