What about the Marine Strategy Framework Directive?
What do we mean by “Good Environmental Status” for biodiversity?
Good Environmental Status (GES) is “The environmental status of marine waters where these provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive”. 11 Descriptors are used to help define what the achievement of GES looks like in practice, four of which are considered to be the biodiversity related descriptors; Descriptors 1 (biological diversity), 2 (non-indigenous species), 4 (food webs) and 6 (seabed integrity).
Climate change implications for achieving Good Environmental Status
The investigation of how climate change may affect the implementation of the MSFD is at an early stage.
An analysis of OSPAR common indicators* concluded that climate change could compromise the achievement of GES for a number of biodiversity indicators. As such, it will be important to understand how management measures to support the achievement, and maintenance, of GES may be affected by climate change.
Examples of some issues that may need to be considered:
Moving baselines: The well documented impacts of climate change on the marine environment have led to concerns over moving baselines. These changes in the marine environment will require an adaptive approach to defining targets, and implementing measures in order to achieve GES. A specific example is for Descriptor 2 (non-indigenous species) where climate change has enhanced the introduction and establishment of non-indigenous species in the MSFD regions (e.g. an increase of tropical species into the Mediterranean Sea; the introduction into the Atlantic of the Pacific Ocean diatom Neodenticula seminae). Targets for Descriptor 2 (non-indigenous species) may need to be flexible to accommodate climate mediated introductions.
Suitability of indicators: It is also important to identify species, communities and habitats included as MSFD indicators that may be sensitive to climate change. For species of mammal in the Northeast Atlantic region for example, indicators for Descriptor 1 (biological diversity) have been proposed for grey seal, harbour seal, harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin. Their suitability as an MSFD indicator is improved by the fact that as yet there is no clear evidence of climate change impacts on these species. A proposed Descriptor 1 (biological diversity) indicator based on the short-beaked common dolphin, in contrast, may have to take into account distributional shifts, possibly occurring in response to climate change. Also, mammals with less specific feeding requirements (e.g. that can switch prey and feed across trophic levels) are going to be more resilient to climate change impacts on prey species.
* Report of the Working Group on Biodiversity Science (WGBIODIV). 9-13 February 2015 ICES Headquarters, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2015/SSGEPD:04. 308pp.