What is the capacity of the ocean and its resources to adapt to climate change?

In the latest themed set of papers in ICES Journal of Marine Science, the adaptation capacity of the ocean and marine resources is explored in the face of climate change.
Published: 11 March 2022

​​​​​In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on mitigating and reversing the various effects of climate change. Mitigation and remediation are however insufficient and the global response to the threat of increasingly rapid and severe climate change is turning to a pragmatic adaptation approach. The ability of socio-ecological systems to adapt is yet unknown, and it has become a major topic of research at the global, national, and regional levels (e.g. EU Mission: Adaptation to Climate Change).

"Adaptation science" happens at the intersection of ecology, socioeconomics, and policy governance, and it will become the dominant transdisciplinary science in coming years: its role will be to deliver actual solutions to climate change impacts and anthropogenic activities. Adaptation science is, without a doubt, at the forefront of research right now. As such, the latest themed set of articles in ICES Journal of Marine Science explores adaptation science in a marine and climate change context.

Manuel Hidalgo from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO-CSIC) and Ecosystem Oceanography Group (GRECO), is the main motivatir behind Exploring adaptation capacity of the world's oceans and marine resources to climate change. According to Hidalgo, the articles published in this themed set provide examples of an improved understanding of new or lesser-known climate change impact mechanisms. The papers assess system risks at subnational and international scales, proving and assessing different adaptation options and approaches as well as societal and stakeholder perceptions. All touch upon some of the most important research areas in climate change adaptation. 

“There are still important knowledge gaps to be addressed in climate change adaptation. While many studies have identified the impacts - including long-term projections - far fewer studies have investigated the implementation of adaptation measures", says Hidalgo.

This themed set is also in line with existing ICES activities, such as the recent Workshop on pathways to climate-aware advice (WKCLIMAD), which has been working on identifying practical methods and methodologies for promoting resiliency in fisheries, aquaculture, and ecosystems.

Our oceans' climate resilience is eroding, with few systems and species demonstrating relatively high adaptability. Instead of focusing on marine ecosystem resilience, the themed set takes a broader socio-ecological approach. The findings point out the seriousness of the situation in our oceans and the services they provide, but they also suggest that time and scientific evidence is cause for optimism. However, navigating the path to governance and decision-making is more complex. “Success in climate adaptation will depend on the extent to which new knowledge and approaches can be integrated into the decision-making process to support evidence-based climate policy and ecosystem-based management, which is also the main challenge", concludes Hidalgo.

The latest issue of ICES Journal of Marine Science features the themed set Exploring adaptation capacity of the world's oceans and marine resources to climate change.​

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Cartoon: Bas Köhler. ​Click to enlarge.

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What is the capacity of the ocean and its resources to adapt to climate change?

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