Healthy marine ecosystems depend on science-policy collaboration

Photo: Emiliania huxleyi Credit: Mr Glenn M Harper, Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre

Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, lecturer in marine conservation, led the first regional pelagic habitat biodiversity assessment in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, launched in June 2017. 

The Intermediate Assessment 2017 (IA2017) was coordinated by OSPAR, the Northeast Atlantic regional seas commission, and will help fulfil the UK’s obligation to the EU for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, a high profile piece of marine policy. IA2017 considers, for the first time, the biodiversity of marine ecosystems and links changes to human pressures. This information is used to guide conservation and policy decisions. Abigail chairs the Pelagic Habitats Expert Group, which used dozens of plankton time-series to develop biodiversity indicators and construct assessments. The Expert Group found that significant changes are occurring in plankton communities throughout the Northeast Atlantic, causing alterations in foodwebs that may impact fisheries. The scale of IA2017 is impressive – policy makers and scientists from 15 different countries and the EU worked together to assess the state of the Northeast Atlantic. The results will be used to support marine policy and management to ensure the achievement of good environmental status in European marine waters.

“Collaboration between scientists and policy makers is critical to ensure that scientific research supports binding decisions about the marine environment.”

Abigail McQuatters-Gollop

The pelagic zone

  • The pelagic zone is the ocean’s open water realm, making up 98 per cent of the world ocean.
  • The pelagic zone is inhabited by fish, mammals, and plankton. 
  • Plankton are microscopic algae and animals.
  • Plankton produce 50 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen and are the base of marine foodwebs. 
  • Policy makers need scientific evidence to inform decisions, but are not scientists themselves so rely on researchers for scientific expertise.