Global Synthesis Report

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Global Synthesis Report

A report from the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans for the Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook Series

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Executive Summary

The biological diversity of the 72% of our planet covered by seawater is crucial to global resource security, ecosystem function and climate dynamics. We know little of the extent and the interactions of marine biological diversity but in all of the UNEP Regional Seas changes in biodiversity are the symptom of failures to manage marine ecosystems.

The Marine Biodiversity Outlook Reports and summaries have been prepared by UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme for the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). They provide the first systematic overview at a sub-global scale of the state of knowledge of marine biodiversity, the pressures it faces currently and the management frameworks in place for addressing those pressures.

The regional reports reflect a poor outlook for the continuing well being of marine biodiversity, which faces increasing pressures in all regions from land sourced pollution, ship sourced pollution and impacts of fishing. These pressures are serious and generally increasing despite measures in place to address them. They are amplified by predicted impacts of ocean warming, acidification and habitat change arising from climate and atmospheric change. Without significant management intervention marine biological diversity is likely to deteriorate substantially in the next 20 years with growing consequences for resource and physical security of coastal nations.

With respect to fisheries, the main findings of the reports are that in most regions fisheries peaked at some point between the mod-1980s and mid-2000s, that catch expansion is not possible in many cases and that increased exploitation levels would lead to lower catch levels.

All regions report increases in shipping at levels which generally reflect annual economic growth. Reports for the Red Sea and South East Asian Regions reflect concerns at increasing levels of risk of oil and ship sourced pollution because of steadily increasing volumes of traffic in constricted shipping lanes. The Black Sea report raises the issues of the risks and impacts of growing chronic operational pollution from discharges of bilge, tank and deck washings, minor oil spills and deliberate illegal disharges of oily waste.

The North East Atlantic regional report records significant declines in nitrogen and phosphorus inputs from rivers. in most regions progress in addressing land based sources of marine pollution has been offset by increasing pressures. For the Black Sea, declines in nutrient and chemical pollutant inputs from the Danube River are offset by increases from other major river systems . Of particular concern is the effect of where harmful blooms of toxic algae triggered by nutrients as in the Red Sea, and the increasing size of river-mouth dead- zones reported in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

All regions report progress in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas but current levels of 1.17% of global ocean surface or 4.32% of continental shelf areas fall far short of the 10% target set by CBD COP7 in 2004. it is likely to be many years before this target is reached. The figures do not include some managed fishery areas that have objectives consistent with multiple sustainable use and overall objectives for conservation but even if these are taken ito account the proportion managed with with objectives explicitly address sustainability of biodiversity or ecosystem processes is inadequate. The need to plan and implement ecosystem scale and ecosystem-based management of the seas is urgent.

Climate change overshadows the existing challenges of managing declines in marine biodiversity in the face of current levels of human use and impact. The projected increases in temperature, acidity, severe storm incidence and sea level present major challenges for biodiversity management. This is reflected in the Great Barrier Reef, a globally iconic marine ecosystem that has been subject to adaptive scientifically-based ecosystem-based management for more than 30 years. An Outlook Report by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2009) concluded that “without significant additional management intervention, some components of the ecosystem will deteriorate in the next 20 years and only a few areas are likely to be healthy and resilient in 50 years.” Without strong ecosystem based management the global threats to marine biodiversity are similar and their implications for food and physical security are substantial.

The reports provide a reasonable understanding of the nature and extent of the problems facing marine biodiversity and marine resources. There are examples of effective actions to address those problems but management performance is generally insufficient and inadequately coordinated to address the growing problems of marine biodiversity decline and ecosystem change.

It is hoped that the results of these Regional Seas reports and global synthesis will be presented at inter- Governmental Meetings (iGMs) and Conference of Parties (COPs) and will lead to initiatives to protect and manage biodiversity, through long, medium and short term management targets. The development and support of such management will require an improved information base for measuring progress in addressing pressures and the effectiveness of responses.

Providing sound scientific assessments is a key element of the Regional Seas Conventions and Actions Plans as they provide an important tool for policy makers to make informed decisions that ultimately affect the livelihoods of millions of people across the world. it is hoped that Regional Seas Conventions and Programmes will be supported in further development and implementation of this system of regular reporting of the regional outlooks for marine Biodiversity.


Ωceans by Jacques Perrin

News Alerts

  • Guardian UK: Marine ecosystems at risk from pollution
    20 October 2010
  • REUTERS: UNEP Report Shows Rising Threats to Marine Biodiversity
    19 October 2010
  • How will our seas look in 2050?
    19 October 2010

IYB 2010

© United Nations Environment ProgrammePhotos courtesy of Ωceans and Jacques Perrin