32 institutions from 17 countries, including the Marine Research Center of the University of Vigo (CIM-UVigo), participate in the European FutureMARES project, which aims to develop actions, strategies and solutions based on nature, aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. Funded with more than 8 million euros by the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union, the Vigo institution is represented by the Future Oceans Lab group of the CIM-UVigo in this project led by the professor at the University of Hamburg Myriom Peck. Specifically, the researcher Elena Ojea, coordinator of the Future Oceans Lab group, together with the post-doutoral researcher Juan Bueno-Pardo, will be the responsibles for leading the working group in charge of evaluating the “climate vulnerability” not only of the different marine and coastal ecosystems but also of the communities of people who depend on them. Its purpose will be to identify the “ecosystem services” and communities in a higher risk situation, through the studies that will be carried out in different parts of Europe and Latin America.
Together with the CSIC and the ATZI Foundation, the University of Vigo is one of the three Spanish partners of a project whose “main objective is to provide adaptation and mitigation measures based on nature (NBS)”, such as sustainable fishing, the restoration of marine habitats and the conservation of marine protected areas. The Vigo institution will receive 187,000 of the total budget of a project that these days celebrates, by virtual means, its kick-off meeting and that will last until 2024. A project that Future Oceans Lab defines as a “great opportunity” to “expand our collaborators network ”and to achieve“ greater visibility and internationalization, since we aspire to be a reference group in the study of the adaptation of marine systems to climate change ”.
Ecological, economic and social analysis
FutureMARES, Julia Ameneiro, the project manager of Future Oceans Lab explains, “covers the study of marine ecosystems in an integrative way, combining the ecological and the social fields”, conceiving them as “a functional system, in which the processes and ecological functions communities interact with people ”, providing them with services ranging from food and climate regulation to tourism.
In this way, it will be sought to explore “adaptation or mitigation solutions” focused on the conservation or restoration of ecosystems “against the threats posed, for example, by rising temperatures or rising sea levels, which involve” important changes in marine ecosystems ”with ecological and social consequences. They explain the measures “simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits”. It will be sought “economically and socially viable”, as well as adapted to the local reality to achieve greater efficiency and highlight the possibilities of the NBS. It would be the case, for example, of betting on the conservation of a marsh, which “has the functionality of avoiding the intrusion of the sea on the coastline and reducing the impact of rising sea levels”, instead of by the construction of dams, with which, Ameneiro recalls, “I would be missing out on services such as the regulation of water and air or fishing.” Through these studies adapted to each area, they will seek to “know the real cost and benefit of the implementation of the NBS in the different habitats”, in such a way that the project can lead measures that can be integrated into climate policies.
Future Oceans Lab will lead, together with the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies of the CSIC, the execution of WP5, a work package in which “we will develop the methodology for the evaluation of the vulnerability of marine systems and we will coordinate its application in places such as the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea or the coasts of Chile”. The analysis of climate vulnerability, “the degree of susceptibility or inability of an ecosystem to face the impacts of climate change”, will be the axis of this working group, which will collaborate with the different partners “to obtain the scenarios of climatic impacts and study the perceptions of communities that depend on coastal habitats”, Ameneiro explains.
“Our work will try to understand which ecosystems, resources and communities are more vulnerable and, therefore, where the intervention of the different institutions should be focused,” add from the group, which expands with FutureMARES its line of work on vulnerability studies, giving continuity to projects such as Interreg- MED MPA- Engage, which develop the researcher Francesca Barazzetta.
Multiple analysis points
Besides Mediterranean, the Baltic and the coasts of Chile, also the Northeast Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic, the Bay of Biscay or the Caribbean are part of the points in which the studies of this project will be carried out. “These regions were chosen”, Ameneiro explains, for “prior scientific knowledge of the climatic, ecological and socio-economic characteristics”, which will allow “testing the effectiveness of the NBS” when it comes to “increasing the resilience of society to the impact of climate change and ensuring what services “such as fishing or aquaculture” can provide long-term food in a sustainable way for the environment, the economy and society.
However, the crisis generated by the covid-19, could imply changes in the planned activities, which included “an extensive program of consultations and workshops with local agents, which have to be redesigned.”