Worldwide, the environment is changing rapidly due to activities of the growing human population, with climate change being a major concern. As more and more people settle along the coast, human-induced pressures on coastal waters increase. As a result, we see habitat loss and fragmentation, contributing to a dramatic decline in biodiversity and changes to how ecosystems function worldwide. As a consequence, the wealth we can derive from the ocean (through the Blue Growth policy) is at risk and it is getting increasingly harder to achieve several of the targets defined by the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.
The rockweed beds are part of the BLUE FORESTS, which are the underwater vegetated habitats found all around the globe. Rockweeds cover the rocky shores, providing many different ecosystem services and forming the basis for several SDG targets, such as raw material for humans (including food, animal feed and fertilizers), food and shelter for a variety of species and regulation of global climate through carbon storage. We know that these ecosystems are under pressure from climate change and human activities, but we still do not fully understand the effects of these pressures.
COASTFRAG is a research project that started in 2021 and will last until the end of 2024. During this period the project will work to improve our knowledge of what is needed to protect blue forests and the services they provide.
The status of the work as of November 2022 is that the fieldwork has gone more or less as planned in all regions. All partners (in Norway, Estonia, Great Britain and Spain) have collected data and carried out experiments on variation and regrowth (after clearing) in biological communities associated with intertidal ecosystems under different environmental conditions and human pressures. All partners have mapped their study areas with drones, and the work to analyze the drone images is ongoing, including the development of a fragmentation index for intertidal seaweed communities. This work was done in accordance with an agreed-on protocol developed by the partners in the project, which increases the potential for ecological analyzes across regions. In 2022, we have had a lot of activities including with pupils and students. As part of the Research Council's "Nysgjerrigper" project, we brought took four classes of 10th graders (from Heistad school, Porsgrunn) out to the shore and collected data, we have held lectures and presentations, including some specially adapted for children and young people. In Norway, we currently have one Master's student on the project.
Worldwide, the environment is undergoing rapid changes due to activities of the growing human population, with climate change being a major concern. As more and more people settle along the coast, human-induced pressures also increase, causing habitat loss and fragmentation. These pressures lead to a dramatic decline in biodiversity and changes to ecosystem functioning worldwide. This in turn limits the potential for Blue Growth and undermines the progress towards several of the assessed targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Blue forests, such as seaweeds, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, salt marshes and mangroves, are coastal vegetated habitats that cover huge areas around the globe, providing many different types of ecosystem services. Littoral seaweeds, covering the rocky shores everywhere, form the basis for many of the SDG targets by providing raw material for humans (including food, animal feed and fertilizers), food and shelter for a variety of species and by regulating global climate through carbon storage and sequestration. These ecosystems are experiencing multiple pressures caused by climate change and human activities, but the effect of this is largely unexplored.
The overall aim of COASTFRAG is to contribute with the knowledge base needed to safeguard the Blue forests’ ecosystem services and ensure a long-term sustainable Blue growth. To do so, we will study how pressures, individually and together, impact seaweed communities across Europe. The research approach includes field investigations in the littoral zone, involving observations and experiments at different spatial scales, mesocosms experiments, numerical/statistical analyses, predictive models and projections for climate change effects. The findings will be communicated to a wider audience, including to support regional and habitat specific management strategies.