Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors
The increasing and diversifying human activities taking place at sea, such as transport, fishing, renewable energy extraction and leisure, are leading to new and challenging changes for marine life and for society. VECTORS is examining how these changes may affect the range of services provided by the oceans ecosystems, the ensuing socio-economic impacts and some of the measures that could be developed to reduce or adapt to these changes. It is adopting a multi-disciplinary and cross-sectorial approach in line with the objectives of the Integrated Maritime Policy.
With its 38 partners from 16 countries across Europe, VECTORS reviewed the current understanding of drivers, pressures and vectors of change for marine life that are affecting ecosystems in the North Sea, Baltic Sea and western Mediterranean Sea, and completed an overview of the current international and European law relating to these seas. By interviewing stakeholders at the regional and EU level, VECTORS could identify some barriers and drivers for successful European marine environmental resources management. The current status of various modelling approaches, used to examine changes
in the distribution and productivity of fish and other living marine resources, has been reviewed and the results of various VECTORS modelling applications have been analysed. The insights gained ensure that the most advanced modelling approaches are being adopted by VECTORS. Data has been collated on the impacts of outbreaks of indigenous or invasive species on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning through three quantitative, systematic reviews focusing on (a) outbreaks of macroalgae (b) invasive primary producers and (c) invasive ecosystem engineers. Furthermore, multi-species assessment modelling
has indicated the relative importance of mortality due to fishing and predation for a number of commercial species and demonstrated the potential influence of outbreaks of predatory species. These findings will underpin VECTORS research to assess impacts of changes in marine ecosystems and on their capacity to deliver ecosystem services and economic benefits to society, now and in the future. Future scenarios of the biogeochemistry of three regional seas have been modelled and incorporated into a synthesis of hypothetical future projections. These will feed into an analysis of the relative vulnerability of the lower trophic level of the marine ecosystem to drivers of change (e.g. climate change) through a modelling study. Results in this work provide important indicators of change in physical, environmental and habitat conditions under simulated scenarios, such as regional warming or changes in productivity. These base conditions constitute a key element of the ecosystem assessment of the Regional Seas and inform consecutive modelling activities including fisheries, invasive species or socio-economic projections.
The project is comprised of seven Work Packages (WPs) and is focused on three regional sea case study areas; the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the western Mediterranean. For each of these seas VECTORS aims to: identify the main pressures being experienced (WP1), develop a mechanistic understanding of the underlying processes causing change (WP2), evaluate the ecological, ecosystem service and social implications of current change (WP3), integrate information and data across sectors into a common modelling framework (WPs 2-5), and project future changes to the ecosystem, its services as well as the corresponding social and economic consequences (WP5 and 6).