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KAUST Research: Rebuilding Marine Life

The ability of the ocean to support human wellbeing is at a crossroads. The ocean currently contributes 2.5% of the global GDP and provides employment to 1.5% of the global workforce, with an estimated output of US $1.5 trillion in 2010, expected to double by 2030. Yet, as attention focuses on the ocean as the last frontier to support further development by providing nutrition and water, clean energy, and opportunities to mitigate climate change, many populations, habitats and ecosystems have already suffered catastrophic declines and climate change is further undermining ocean productivity and biodiversity. The conflict between growing human dependence on ocean resources and declining marine life under human pressures is focusing unprecedented attention on the connection between ocean conservation and human well-being. The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG or “life below water”) posits to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” Achieving this goal will require rebuilding marine life, defined in the context of SDG14 as the life-support systems (populations, habitats, and ecosystems) that comprise the Blue Natural Capital delivering the benefits society receives from a healthy ocean, be rebuilt. Here we show that substantially rebuilding marine life within a human generation is an achievable and necessary goal. Here we provide evidence that reducing pressures to rebuild marine life can increase the ocean’s capacity to support sustainable development. We document the recovery of marine populations, habitats and ecosystems following past conservation interventions and provide specific, evidence-based recommendations to scale proven solutions globally. Documented rebound rates across case studies show that substantial recovery of abundance, structure, and function of marine life could be achieved by 2050, provided climate change is tackled and efficient interventions deployed at scale. Rebuilding marine life represents a doable Grand Challenge for humanity, an ethical obligation, and a smart economic objective to achieve a sustainable future. Learn more at https://www.nature.com/articles/s4158…

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