Understanding what the seas give us is central to their future management. Research highlights the interconnections between changing marine ecosystems, human activity and societal and economic impacts
Environmental and human-induced stresses affect marine ecosystem goods and services. Understanding the impacts of these pressures, such as the relationships between the distribution of marine fish populations and activities in sectors like transport, fisheries, tourism and commerce, is critical to policy formation.
The EU-funded 'Vectors of change in oceans and seas marine life, impact on economic sectors' (VECTORS) project has examined the many drivers of change in the marine environment and improved our understanding of the mechanisms by which these pressures cause changes in marine life and how human activity and behaviour influences them. VECTORS has determined the impacts of changes in marine life on ecosystems, their structure and functioning, the services they provide, as well as the economic and societal implications for us all.
Researchers focused on three key changes of concern; species outbreaks, invasive alien species and changes in the productivity and distribution of commercially important species. Work began with extensive reviews of current knowledge and the creation of a repository of genetic materials to identify invasive alien and outbreak-forming species.
Several case studies were conducted in three regional seas; the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Western Mediterranean. Modelling techniques were used to project the future changes and consequences of human activities in the marine environment under different scenarios of adaptation and mitigation in order to understand what will happen to our seas in the future.
VECTORS has developed tools which can be used to achieve sustainable management of marine resources. These include models to integrate a wide range of information on exploited marine ecosystems into a common framework to increase our understanding of system dynamics and provide a mechanism to ‘road test’ management strategies before implementing them in reality. VECTORS also developed methods for undertaking risk assessment of key activities within the marine environment. The project also produced an online information system (AquaNIS) designed to store and disseminate comprehensive data on organisms introduced to marine, brackish and coastal freshwater environments of Europe and neighbouring regions, and assist the evaluation of the progress made towards achieving biological invasion management goals.