How to save our ocean #30by30

Created by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK Government) in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A Three Conditions framework for the Ocean

The Task Force, in partnership with IUCN WCPA Marine and other experts, is in the process of developing a Three Conditions framework for the ocean.  For some of our thinking about the Three Conditions framework and how it may work for the ocean, please see the webinar below.

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Webinar: Conservation targets and how much of the world do we need to protect?

What should global conservation targets be beyond 2020?  The Three Global Conditions for Biodiversity Conservation Framework proposes to divide the world into three conditions: 1) heavily used areas, 2) intermediate areas, and 3) wild areas. Each of these global conditions requires different conservation and restoration strategies to restore or maintain biodiversity and ecosystem function. The Task Force is currently exploring the applicability of this framework to the world ocean. Dr. Harvey Locke, Chair of the Beyond the Aichi Targets Task Force, will present the results of a global scientific survey on area-based conservation and explore the idea of the Three Global Conditions framework.

Presented by: Harvey Locke of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Beyond the Aichi Targets Task Force

Co-sponsors: NOAA National MPA Center, OCTO (MPA News, OpenChannels), and the EBM Tools Network (co-coordinated by OCTO and NatureServe).

How the ocean is key to life on earth
By Sylvia Earle, John Baxter and Dan Laffoley

Cyanobacteria bloom in Baltic Sea © ESA

While the world is finally turning its attention to the problem of carbon emissions, we are missing something big.

While it’s positive that the recently concluded climate discussions at COP25 in Madrid, Spain, finally recognised the ocean as a key part of the climate system, solving the climate crisis is not just about radically reducing carbon dioxide in the air. We also need to sustain the level of oxygen in the ocean. In fact, the two are inextricably linked.

Human activities are driving this life-giving gas out of the aquatic world that provides 90 per cent of the available living space for species on Earth. This increasingly widespread phenomenon is being termed by scientists ‘ocean deoxygenation’…

Read the full blog here


Ocean deoxygenation : everyone’s problem : causes, impacts, consequences and solutions

Dan Laffoley and John M. Baxter, IUCN, Global Marine and Polar Programme

Abstract: The ocean represents 97% of the physical habitable space on the planet and is central to sustaining all life on Earth. Since 2000 significant and dedicated effort has been directed at raising awareness and understanding of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions on the ocean. Carbon dioxide emitted by human activities is driving the ocean towards more acidic conditions. Only in the past decade has it started to become more widely recognized that the temperature of the global ocean is also being significantly affected as a result of the effect that the carbon dioxide and other potent greenhouse gases are having in the Earth’s atmosphere. The heating of seawater and progressive acidification are not the only major global consequences of greenhouse gases emissions in the marine realm. It has been known for some decades that nutrient run-off from agriculture causes oxygen-depleted zones to form in the sea, as life-giving oxygen is used up in the water column and on the sea floor. This phenomenon is called ‘ocean deoxygenation’. Ocean deoxygenation: everyone’s problem tells the scale and nature of the changes being driven by ocean deoxygenation.

Eight urgent, fundamental and simultaneous steps needed to restore ocean health, and the consequences for humanity and the planet of inaction or delay

Laffoley, D, Baxter, JM, Amon, DJ, et al. 2019. Published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.


1. The ocean crisis is urgent and central to human wellbeing and life on Earth; past and current activities are damaging the planet’s main life support system for future generations. We are witnessing an increase in ocean heat, disturbance, acidification, bio‐invasions and nutrients, and reducing oxygen levels. Several of these act like ratchets: once detrimental or negative changes have occurred, they may lock in place and may not be reversible, especially at gross ecological and ocean process scales.

2. Each change may represent a loss to humanity of resources, ecosystem function, oxygen production and species. The longer we pursue unsuitable actions, the more we close the path to recovery and better ocean health and greater benefits for humanity in the future.

3. We stand at a critical juncture and have identified eight priority issues that need to be addressed in unison to help avert a potential ecological disaster in the global ocean. They form a purposely ambitious agenda for global governance and are aimed at informing decision‐makers at a high level. They should also be of interest to the general public.

4. Of all the themes, the highest priority is to rigorously address global warming and limit surface temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100, as warming is the pre‐eminent factor driving change in the ocean. The other themes are establishing a robust and comprehensive High Seas Treaty, enforcing existing standards for Marine Protected Areas and expanding their coverage, especially in terms of high levels of protection, adopting a precautionary pause on deep‐sea mining, ending overfishing and destructive fishing practices, radically reducing marine pollution, putting in place a financing mechanism for ocean management and protection, and lastly, scaling up science/data gathering and facilitating data sharing.

5. By implementing all eight measures in unison, as a coordinated strategy, we can build resilience to climate change, help sustain fisheries productivity, particularly for low‐income countries dependent on fisheries, protect coasts (e.g. via soft‐engineering/habitat‐based approaches), promote mitigation (e.g. carbon storage) and enable improved adaptation to rapid global change.

The ocean and climate change

  • The ocean is being disproportionately impacted by increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from human activities.
  • This causes changes in water temperature, ocean acidification and deoxygenation, leading to changes in oceanic circulation and chemistry, rising sea levels, increased storm intensity, as well as changes in the diversity and abundance of marine species.
  • Degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems threatens the physical, economic and food security of local communities, as well as resources for global businesses.
  • Climate change weakens the ability of the ocean and coasts to provide critical ecosystem services such as food, carbon storage, oxygen generation, as well as to support nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation.
  • The sustainable management, conservation and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems are vital to support the continued provision of ecosystem services on which people depend. A low carbon emissions trajectory is indispensable to preserve the health of the ocean.

Marine protected areas and climate change

  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of the ocean set aside for long-term conservation aims.
  • MPAs support climate change adaptation and mitigation while providing other ecosystem services.
  • Currently 6.35% of the ocean is protected, but only just over 1.89% is covered by exclusively no-take MPAs.
  • Most existing MPAs do not have enough human and financial resources to properly implement conservation and management measures.
  • Increased political commitments can help boost the governance of and resources available to MPAs.


Download the PDF

Marine Protected Areas: global standards for success

  • The standards to MPAs are a synthesis of the existing IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas Standard, together with current relevant policies and positions taken from approved IUCN Resolutions, Recommendations and Guidance documents.
  • This synthesis will aid those governments, agencies, community-based organisations, donors, and MPA managers considering establishing new MPAs, as well as those with already designated MPAs, to easily consider all the various quantitative and qualitative elements that are needed to achieve success.

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