While the momentum is strong, the area is relatively small: in 2013 there were 123 publications on this topic, growing to about 484 in 2017; that’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41 percent. Relating to climate change, for instance, the topic ocean acidification also has high momentum. It would be of interest to look deeper into these trends to understand how national priorities align with global challenges.
Stressing the urgency – highlights from the S20 discussions
In the public part of the S20 meeting, Prof. Biliana Cicin-Sain, President of the Global Ocean Forum, stated that changes in the climate have significant impacts on the oceans, including ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise and altering currents, all of which have accelerated in recent years. The G20 nations have already experienced significant impacts on their coasts, economies and people. Beyond G20, she said, these trends call for urgent action and should be addressed at all levels of policy for our planetary health. Further, she mentioned the importance of disaster science to understand and mitigate against risks.
Prof. Yoshihisa Shirayama of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the key local organizer of the Japan S20, explained that while the fragile states of oceans are getting attention, there are knowledge gaps. Only 5 percent of the ocean surface has been mapped in high resolution, 99 percent of habitable marine areas lack basic biodiversity knowledge for their management, and there could be more than 1 million marine species that are still unknown to science.
Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), spoke about the current level of development of oceanography. He stated that the ocean science and even observations remain largely voluntary, while starting to support legally-binding treaties and address existential issues. Meanwhile, the science remains grossly under-resourced and needs urgent mainstreaming.
Planning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development(2012-2030) is underway. A number of breakthroughs are foreseen, namely in ocean mapping, observations, data management, ecosystem knowledge, ocean and climate prediction, warning systems for ocean hazards, capacity development and ocean literacy. Progress in those areas is expected to enable capacity in marine spatial planning, coastal zone management, adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and strengthened ocean governance, towards meeting requirements of both developed and developing countries.
Elsevier’s special collection – and deep dive into marine data
To support the S20 discussions with insights into current issues in marine environment and policies, Elsevier’s Publishers for geography, planning and development (Sara Bebbington) and oceanography (Pablo Secades) invited their editors to curate a special issue from across our ScienceDirect content.
The Chief Editor of Marine Policy, Associate Prof. Quentin Hanich, who leads the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), worked with Nippon Foundation/Nereus Program Policy Director Dr. Yoshitaka Ota and Program Manager Dr. Wilf Swartz and Nereus Fellows to select articles for a special issue from Elsevier’s journals of Environmental Pollution, Marine Policy, Marine Pollution Bulletin and Ocean & Coastal Management. Topics include marine pollution, climate change impact on oceans, UN Sustainable Development Goals, coastal management, fisheries management, and high seas governance, with articles also dedicated to highlighting the latest developments on these issues from Japan.
The online issue – Threats to Marine Ecosystems and Conservation of the Marine Environment — is freely available until the end of 2019.
The message from the S20 meeting seems clear, as echoed by Dr. Hanich in the S20 Elsevier special collection: coastal states and beyond face unprecedented societal and governance challenges due to increasing and cumulative impacts on our marine ecosystems. Ocean management is complex with trade-offs between conservation, societal and sectoral interests, which often must be addressed through international cooperation due to the transboundary nature of our oceanic ecosystems. To achieve sustainable development and conservation goals, we must improve the integration of science into marine policy, with an increasing need for innovative multidisciplinary approaches that provide insights into social, cultural, economic and political concerns.
S20 was a call to action, as Prof. Cicin-Sain urged in her keynote:
Trust the scientific findings that have emerged already, and support your governments to act on the ocean and climate nexus.