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Five ocean habitats that improve our life on land

15 July 2020
Iyor Bank Cuba Jayne Jenkins 06

Photo: Jayne Jenkins

People’s life on land depends on the health of our ocean, whether we live in the coastal zone or further inland. 

Healthy ocean habitats support people’s lives and livelihoods – from providing jobs and food security to reducing the impact of storm surges and regulating the global climate. Within the European seas alone, €485 billion is generated from maritime activities and 7 million people have jobs connected to the sea.
 
Marine ecosystems that support human life can be found both in shallow waters of national shores, and in the high seas (Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction).
 
However, many of the ocean’s benefits to people are at risk. Marine and coastal ecosystems are being lost and degraded at an alarming rate through human activities like pollution, over-exploitation and the introduction of invasive species.
 
Ecosystem restoration is crucial, as part of wider sustainable use, to tackling this degradation and increasing habitat resilience, particularly in the face of rapidly advancing climate change.

This and next year will see the launch of three UN Decades - the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and the UN Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is fitting because the three are intrinsically connected: achieving the SDGs relies on the restoration of ecosystems, including those within our ocean.

One example of a marine ecosystem restoration project is MERCES – Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas. MERCES is a first-of-its-kind project launched by the European Commission and funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020. Beginning in 2016, this multi-disciplinary, multi-national collaboration works to restore degraded marine ecosystems for 35 focal species in over 120 sites across Europe, helping to create healthy seas for people and planet.
 
Here’s how restoring five often overlooked temperate European ocean habitats could improve our life on land:

Seagrass meadows

Algal forests

Gorgonians

Kelp forests

Cold-water corals


Marine ecosystems, be they those we may see on the coastline or those deep or far out in the ocean that most of us will never see at all, are essential to our daily lives on land. The next ten years are key for tackling the global nature crisis, and restoring marine ecosystems will be a crucial part of that work. Securing healthy ocean habitats for the future will be essential if we are to maintain their multiple benefits to us all.