Main challenge addressed by the Action

Marine biodiversity in the European Seas is under threat due to the intensity of cumulative human impacts. Despite the high-level goals to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2020, there are no signs of improved trends in the state of biodiversity. Most services derived from marine and coastal ecosystems are being used unsustainably and therefore marine ecosystems are deteriorating faster than other ecosystems. The challenges of biodiversity conservation and sustainability of ecosystem services are further complicated by climate change, which is expected to decrease the effectiveness of current-state-of-the-art marine management measures by inducing range shifts and biodiversity reshuffling and favouring biological invasions. 

This Cost Action will consolidate a network of scientists and stakeholders who are involved in marine conservation in European and contiguous seas, promote collaboration, reduce redundancy of research efforts in conservation science and practice, make significant progress beyond the state-of-the-art by developing and promoting novel and relevant concepts, methods, and tools, provide support to the related European policies, and enable effective and informed decision-making for the improvement of marine conservation in the European Seas and adjacent regions. By advancing the science of integrated conservation planning, promoting regional coordination and transboundary conservation, proposing specific conservation actions, accounting for climatic change and biological invasions, and providing guidance for assessing governance issues to make marine spatially managed areas more effective, this Cost Action aims to bridge the gap between conservation science and policy makers and substantially contribute to the challenge of halting biodiversity loss in the European Seas by 2020. 

Relevance and timeliness of the Action

Marine resources considered too challenging to exploit are now becoming available through the development of new technologies. This increasing use of the sea has intensified conflicts among users and between users and the environment. Spatial and temporal planning is becoming a necessity. The development of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) (2008/56/EC) and the Framework Directive for Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) (2014/89/EU) and other ecosystem-based management frameworks reflect this need. The year 2020 is a landmark for all the main policies and legislative instruments for the conservation of the marine environment in Europe and globally (EU Biodiversity Strategy, MSFD, Convention on Biological Diversity-Aichi targets). The obligation of EU member states to establish and implement maritime spatial plans has to be fulfilled by 31 March 2021. Hence, this COST Action, initiated 4 years before 2020, is a timely intervention to inform marine managers and policy makers, supporting the implementation of relevant legislation, specifically the development of marine strategies and maritime spatial plans that will effectively contribute towards halting biodiversity loss in the European and contiguous Seas.