Nearly 2.4 billion people (about 40% of the world's population) live within 100 km (60 miles) of the coasts. While coastal areas include zones for different activities, blue nature areas are those that have an explicit human-nature connection. In these areas, the ecosystem services provided by blue nature areas offer an alternative to traditional 'grey' infrastructure, offering benefits for citizens and biodiversity.
In the field of marine social-ecological systems, ecosystem services are being increasingly altered as a result of anthropogenic pressures to which they are subjected. ICES has a key role in promoting the scientific cooperation necessary for the maintenance of ecosystem services.
Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has increasingly impacted on global health with significant social and economic consequences on people who live in these areas. The European Union “stressed that in addressing the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery strategies should aim at keeping oceans healthy and productive, fighting climate change, halting biodiversity loss, as well as tackling ocean inequality. These should not be seen as 'either or' options, as ensuring resilience of the society, economies as well as the environment to future shocks can only be achieved by tackling these challenges.
For the EU, in line with the principles of its Green Deal, the best way forward to recover from this pandemic is by rebuilding greener and bluer. This requires decision-making on the basis of the best available science."
To contribute to increased knowledge and also helping the scientific community, policy makers, and maritime industries to better understand the COVID-19 impacts on human wellbeing and interactions with coastal nature, ICES Working Group on Resilience and Marine Ecosystem Services (WGRMES) is conducting a global survey to better understand the impacts of the COVID- 19 pandemic on blue nature areas.
In their work, WGRMES documents current approaches available in connection to multidimensional valuation of marine ecosystem services and their contribution quality of life for humans. Valuing marine ecosystem services is key for policy makers, however regional and local data is lacking in Europe.
The findings will increase understanding about the resilience of coastal zones, the adaptive measures developed by coastal populations, and how interacting with the natural environment in blue areas may influence human health and wellbeing and help us identify solutions to help people cope with pandemics or other similar shocks.
Sebastian Villasante, co-chair of WGRMES, notes that “this is the first global study that will specifically focus on blue coastal zones and their effects on the quality of life of coastal populations, including changes in dietary habits, cultural enjoyment of protected areas, as well as physical and cognitive impacts due to the pandemic".
Given that social-ecological crises, such as COVID-19, can increase vulnerabilities and risk of inequality for coastal zones, generating scientific evidence and disseminating it publicly - to policy-makers, industry, and wider society - will increase awareness of the wide range of impacts of the pandemic on the different segments of the coastal population (e.g. younger and older people, gender imbalance, etc.). The results will provide insights on possible adaptation measures that coastal regions could develop to deal with new social-ecological crises in the future.
WGRMES invites you to complete this anonymous survey and to forward it to others living in or near coastal areas. This research is being coordinated by Sebastian Villasante and his team at University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain and funded by the Galician Regional Government.
Please contact Sebastian Villasante for further information.