In an attempt to form a vision for the future, Stockholm Resilience Centre will, together with Princeton, Duke, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and University of British Columbia, form the scientific backbone of a new 9-year programme to study the future of the world's oceans and to monitor the impact of human activities on seafood resources.
Launched by the Japanese non-profit Nippon Foundation, the prestigious Nereus programme will engage a variety of international experts in fisheries, climate change, environmental policy, geospatial modelling, marine ecology and socio-economics to boost research collaborations, capacity building and increasing public awareness about fish stock depletion.
Life under the sea from 1960 to 2060
As part of the extensive programme, the first global model of life in the world's oceans was unveiled at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada.
The model allows scientists and policymakers to predict — and show through 3D visualizations — the state of life in the oceans of the future.
Combining scientific data from three major factors impacting our oceans — climate change, human activity (including fisheries and river run-off) and food web dynamics (fish eating fish), the model shows life under the sea from 1960 to 2060. Based on current policies, the model shows a strong decline in the biomass of large fish, while some small fish may actually be increasing.
"This is the first comprehensive attempt to model life in our global oceans, and will require refining, but we can now show the future impact of choices we are making today, and answer the question: what must we do now to leave healthy oceans and fish to future generations?" says Professor Villy Christensen from University of British Colombia.
A substantial governance challenge
A vast team of researchers from the centre is involved in the Nereus programe. One of them, Henrik Österblom, highlights the importance of a social-ecological perspective for dealing with the marine challenges of the Anthropocene.
"The global governance challenge for marine system is truly substantial. In order for us to effectively be able to address this challenge, we need to transform the way we manage marine resources. We are starting to understand factors contributing to such critical governance shifts," Österblom says.