The South and Tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean (referred to as the South Atlantic Ocean in the survey) are the least studied systems of all ocean masses, despite their influence on global climate change and their economic importance. In this context, the Ocean University Initiative, in collaboration with the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), aims to identify research priorities in the South Atlantic Ocean to analyse synergies and gaps with respect to policy priorities for the next decade. In particular, the objective of the project is to develop an agreed set of priorities for research related to the needs of a target audience, namely, researchers and public policymakers/managers/practitioners, both on an individual basis, and to analyze the gaps between these two sets of priorities. Responses to this survey will be analysed and consolidated in two seminars in 2019. The final result, a report, will be available from October 2019. The project will seek to inform the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. The project has been launched at the UNESCO conference ‘From COP21 towards the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)’ on the 10th and 11th of September 2018 at Paris.
Blue carbon in the NDCs for Paris agreement
Blue carbon is a term that refers to the carbon contained in the coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses. These ecosystems sequester carbon from the atmosphere continuously over thousands of years, building stocks of carbon in biomass and soils. As a sink of carbon, blue carbon ecosystems help to mitigate climate change. In addition, they provide adaptation and coastal protection benefits by absorbing incoming wave energy, providing storm protection, and preventing erosion.
However, these ecosystems are threatened globally due to coastal development, pollution and climate change. Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement sets the goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. They underline the importance of adaptation to climate change effects throught the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); each country sets out the actions it takes to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The protection and restoration of coastal blue carbon ecosystems is recognised as a priority for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition of the positive effects on coastal biodiversity, one solution to climate change issues could therefore be the development and implementation of ‘blue carbon’ actions in the NDCs. In 2017, 151 countries contain at least one blue carbon ecosystem but only 28 countries’s NDC include a reference to coastal wetlands in terms of mitigation (19 %), and 59 into their adaptation strategy (39 %). It is worth noting that today blue carbon is not an official term under the UNFCCC or related guidance. Many countries refer to coastal ecosystems or the coastal zone in general, without using the term ‘blue carbon’.
Underwater noise in the marine environment
Shipping is the most widespread and persistent source of underwater noise at the global scale. In some areas in the ocean, noise levels have doubled every decade for the past 60 years, primarily due to commercial shipping activity with the global increase in economic activity. This type of noise should continue rising in the coming years, particularly close to shipping lines and in the Northern hemisphere. At the same time, scientific evidence has proved that underwater noise can lead to physical, behavioural and masking effects in fauna. What are the appropriate management frameworks that ports can consider to act in favor of reducing underwater noise from shipping?
Dynamics and impact of Sargassum proliferation
Since 2011, the Sargasso crisis has been hitting the Caribbean region. Massive and irregular strandings of algae are disrupting ecosystems and people’s activities from Brazil to Florida. In February 2019, France, under the leadership of the National Research Agency in partnership with the regions of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana (INTERREG – Caribbean), ADEME and FACEPE (Brazil), launched an international call for projects to respond to this ecological and sanitary emergency. Claire Tito de Morais joined the Ocean University Initiative team to set up a consortium of French, Mexican and Brazilian researchers to understand the origin and causes of the stranding phenomenon in order to better prevent, manage and valorize sargasso algae.