Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning are the pillars of Good Environmental Status

The definition of Good Environmental Status in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive considers eleven descriptors based on the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems. The first descriptor is Marine Biodiversity, most of the other descriptors cover various impacts of human activities on the functioning of ecosystems. This calls for the centrality of bio-ecology in the way we evaluate the conditions of the ocean. Current observation systems focus mostly on physics, chemistry and biogeochemistry, with the use of sophisticated devices, from satellites to oceanic buoys, gliders and other state of the art instruments that, however, cannot measure neither biodiversity nor its bearing on ecosystem functioning. The revolution of GES, thus, calls for the upgrade of current observation systems, so as to include biotic variables that, so far, have been disregarded. This will spark technological innovation and, also, the building of human capacities that have been neglected in the last decades. Our knowledge of biodiversity, in terms of the species composition of marine biota, and on their roles in making ecosystems function is to be improved, with the construction of experts that are presently lacking in the scientific community. This does not mean that reductionistic approaches must be abandoned, but requires also a timely evolution towards holistic visions that account for the emerging properties of complex systems covering, for instance, the consideration of cumulative impacts that are presently almost unexplored. This evolution of marine sciences gives a new centrality to marine stations and long-term series, and to disciplines such as taxonomy that, however, will have to profit from modern technologies based, for instance, on molecular approaches to the exploration and understanding of marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

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