Plenary Session: Projections of the responses of living marine resources to carbon emissions

Chair: Alistair Hobday

Associate Professor William Cheung

Climate change and ocean acidification in a high CO2 world are challenging the conservation and sustainable management of living marine resources (LMR). Projecting the future marine ecosystems that are grounded by theories, observations and local knowledge has become an important decision support tool to inform mitigation and adaptation options for managing the ocean. This presentation aims to (1) review the existing projections of LMR and their implications for human societies under contrasting scenarios of carbon emissions in the 21st century, and (2) highlight major areas of development in scenario modelling that would improve their utilities in understanding the responses of natural and human systems to carbon emissions and in informing policies. These projections include global and regional changes in oceanographic drivers (temperature, oxygen, and pH), primary productivity, phenology, biogeography, life history traits, fisheries catches, revenues and rent. Particularly, these projections highlight areas, species and human communities that are most vulnerable to CO2 emission. Systematic exploration of uncertainty to examine confidence in LMR projections is being undertaken; current findings suggest that projected decreases in potential catches in tropical oceans and increases in the polar regions have relatively higher confidence than other regions, while the direction of changes in most mid-latitude (or temperate) and upwelling regions is more uncertain. Increasing focus is being put in quantifying the role of adaptation (natural and human), policy interventions and other human pressures (e.g., fishing, pollution) in moderating the risk of impacts on LMR from carbon emissions, as well as their cross-scale linkages and feedbacks. Given the Paris Agreement, projections of LMR and their linkages to other components of human and earth systems contribute to informing policy makers, stakeholders and the public about what the different pathways of the reaching agreed goal would mean for the oceans.