Before the Flood

“Before The Flood is the product of an incredible three-year journey that took place with my co-creator and director Fisher Stevens. We went to every corner of the globe to document the devastating impacts of climate change and questioned humanity’s ability to reverse what may be the most catastrophic problem mankind has ever faced. There was a lot to take on. All that we witnessed on this journey shows us that our world’s climate is incredibly interconnected and that it is at urgent breaking point.”

-Leonardo DiCaprio, UN Messenger of Peace on Climate Change (Source: Wikipedia)

Watch the full film “Before the Flood” on YouTube till 6th November.

Life Below Water: Sustainable Development Goal 14

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an intergovernmental set of aspiration Goals with 169 targets. The Official Agenda for Sustainable Development outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its associated 169 targets to be achieved by 2030. It all started when I recently attended the Mary Robinson SDG Symposium in Ballina, County Mayo. This covered detailed discussions of SDG 5- Gender Equality, SDG 10- Reducing Inequalities and SDG 16- Peace. For the first time the UN has included a Sustainable Development Goal about the oceans in its new sustainable development agenda. We have a very special interview from Andrew Hudson, Head of Water & Ocean Governance, UNDP  about the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the oceans (Life below Water) and Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water (Clean water and sanitation).

Sustainable Development Goals_E_Final sizes

1) Why are the oceans important to our planet and what are the main threats or challenges affecting it?

Andrew Hudson: “The oceans cover over 70% of the planet and represent over 99% of the earth’s living space.  They provide food security for billions, are the major transport hub on earth for traded goods (via shipping), are probably the single most sought after tourism amenity, produce half the world’s oxygen. Oceans are the major regulator of the earth’s climate through their absorption and release of heat energy, absorbing some 87% of the extra energy that greenhouse gases create in the atmosphere and 30% of the anthropogenic CO2 we emit. The ocean economy – shipping, fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas extraction, tourism – is valued at several trillion dollars per year, and that is only for the marketized benefits, it doesn’t include the immense non-market benefits the ocean provides such as climate regulation.

The principal five threats to a sustainable oceans are: overfishing, coastal habitat loss (corals, seagrass, mangroves, etc.), pollution (especially by nutrients and plastics), invasive species (especially those carried in ship’s ballast water and on hulls) and ocean acidification (since the 30% of anthropogenic CO2 that dissolves in oceans creates carbonic acid, lowering the pH/increasing the acidity of the oceans).”

2) For the first time the UN has included a Sustainable Development Goal about the oceans in its new sustainable development agenda. What are the SDGs and in particular Goal 14: Life below water and Goal 6: Water?

Andrew Hudson: “SDGs 6 (water) and 14 (oceans) are in many ways complementary.  SDG6 sets ambitious targets such as universal access to clean water and sanitation services, dramatically increasing the treatment of wastewater, improving water use efficiency, and protecting freshwater ecosystems.  SDG6 and 14 calls for reducing marine pollution, protecting coastal ecosystems, ending overfishing including elimination of destructive fisheries subsidies, achieving 10% of the oceans under marine protected areas, improving resource and market access for small scale fishers, and enhancing ocean economic benefits to the poorest people and those who live in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).”

SDG143) What is the role of the UNDP Ocean Governance programme in implementing the SDGs Goals 6 and 14?

Andrew Hudson: “Through its Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP is working with other UN agencies, the Global Environment Facility, international financial institutions, regional fisheries organizations and others to improve ocean management and to sustain livelihoods at the local, national, regional and global scales through effective ocean governance. UNDP’s Ocean Governance Programme is strongly aligned with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 on Oceans – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The active portfolio and pipeline of UNDP projects and programmes support the majority of SDG14 targets. We support the creation of an enabling policy environment for ocean restoration and protection through the development of ocean and coastal management strategic planning tools and methodologies.  We support the codification and application of the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis/Strategic Action Programme planning approach to address aquatic ecosystem degradation at the scale of Large Marine Ecosystems (LME). We also promote bottom-up approaches to maintaining aquatic ecosystem services at smaller planning scales (municipalities, provinces, local watersheds) – Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). We help build upon and advance existing or anticipated regional or global multilateral agreements to address threats to large-scale ocean sustainability such as from shipping and highly migratory tuna stocks. We support countries in the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and the strengthening of existing MPAs through the UNDP Ecosystems and Biodiversity programme.”

Continue reading “Life Below Water: Sustainable Development Goal 14”

World Oceans Day Quiz


Happy World Oceans Day 2016! This year for World Oceans Day (8th June) we have prepared a special World Oceans Day Quiz! Some answers can be found dotted around this blog, with others about topical issues affecting the oceans today. Try the quiz today and test your knowledge of the oceans and its habitats!

Question 1: Why do the oceans appear blue in colour?
because the oceans scatter red light and absorb blue light.
Try again! Hint: If the oceans absorb it than it doesn’t reach our eyes!
because the oceans scatter both red and blue light.
Try again! Hint: If the oceans scatter red light than the oceans would appear red
because the oceans absorb red light and scatter blue light.
Correct! The oceans scatter blue light so they appear blue when the light reaches our eyes! Further more, red light does not reach the deep sea as it is absorbed so many deep sea creatures are red in colour, so they appear black to predators and prey.
Question 2: Where are the largest rhodolith beds in the world found?
South Western Australia.
Abrolhos Shelf in Eastern Brazil.
The Abrolhos Shelf rhodolith beds cover an estimated 21 000 square km area- an area nearly the size of El Salvador! More can be found at the blog post link below.
At the Mouth of the Amazon.
Incorrect, although newly discovered rhodolith beds have been found in this area
  Rhodolith beds (© Rodrigo L. de Moura)
Question 3: Coral bleaching is caused by…
Predatory sea stars such as the crown-of-thorns starfish who eat the coral
changes in conditions causing the coral to expel symbiotic algae from their tissue.
Correct! When corals are stressed by changes in temperature, light or nutrients they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissue (known as zooxanthellae), turning white.
the presence of symbiotic animals such as worms living in the coral.
This answer is incorrect!
  Coral Bleaching Photograph by XL Catlin Seaview Survey Copyright of National Geographic reproduced for Educational Use only

Continue reading “World Oceans Day Quiz”

GeoHab Conference, Winchester


This year the annual GeoHab international marine habitat mapping conference took place in Winchester, UK. This is an annual conference with over 160 people attending from 24 countries, for the first time in England! Organised by my former department of study at the National Oceanography Centre, it had been a long time since I had been back in the South of England. The Monday started with a workshop on Object Based Image Analysis (OBIA). Seabed classification methods can be based on classifying pixels, whereas these newer OBIA methods are based on classifying a group of similar pixels or “objects” on the seafloor. The conference began on the Tuesday with the key note speaker Dr. Larry Mayer of Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center. The first session was on “Technological Advances in Habitat Mapping” with presentations on how new hydrographic surveying techniques can be used for habitat mapping. A poster session took place where one minute oral snapshots of posters were given. The following session on “Coastal and shallow water habitats” discussed environments such as tidal inlets, seagrass beds and mangroves and then “Shelf and deep-sea habitats” had rhodolith beds, shelf breaks, deep sea corals, submarine canyons, mud volcanoes and cold seeps. “National mapping programs” session then discussed important issues regarding the seabed mapping programs internationally and within the UK. The following session on “Anthropogenic and natural disturbance effects” then looked at man’s and nature’s impacts on benthic habitat and “Role of oceanography in habitat mapping” looked at the physical processes driving habitat distribution. This was for me one of the most interesting sessions. Following this, was very pleased to introduce a special lunchtime screening of my full one hour documentary- “Maerl:A Rare Seabed Habitat.” Being a firm believer in science communication, marine science documentaries can serve to educate, inform and transform the science and are useful tools for stakeholder management. It was great to be able to share our team’s work with scientists and educators internationally and even had one request to translate into Swedish! The final session was on “Development of standards for classification, confidence and assessment of habitat maps“- an important session to conclude on new methods to quantifying the uncertainty of the habitat map.  The conference concluded with thanking the organising committee and preparing for Geohab next year in Halifax, Canada. Overall, it was my first GeoHab in ten years and I was so inspired by the dedication of the GeoHab community – at home and abroad.

Admiral Nelson at the Naval Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Book Review: “Ocean of Life” by Callum Roberts

“Ocean of Life – How our seas are changing” by Callum Roberts was shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. In an insightful prologue, Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation, outlines his motivations for writing this book and how from his own personal experience, he has seen the seas changing in the past 30 years. Motivated by challenging problems and realising the need for a more multidisciplinary dialogue to take place between scientists, this book aims to take the reader through both the problems and the solutions to the changing seas of the 21st century. The book begins with a history of life on Earth and how through out geological time, the conditions necessary for life evolved. Throughout the first chapter we begin to realise the transient nature of life on Earth with respect to geological processes and time.

Discussing human origins and man’s relationship with the sea; for food and how fishing methods have evolved over time through to the present day.  A shocking but revealing study (Thurstan et. al. 2010) of the landings from bottom trawlers explains the steep decline in fish stocks especially of the larger fish. Then changes due to greenhouse gas emissions on the thermohaline circulation and the consequences of low oxygen zones on the life of the sea are discussed; climate change is already underway. The impacts of sea level rise; the human cost of climate change; ocean acidification to rivers of the world. Oil spills and the threat of pollution; PCBs to plastic pollution to underwater noise, “Mare Incognitum” or “unknown seas” of the future are inevitable, especially with exploitation. This book is a comprehensive and thought provoking summary of the current state of the oceans and in some ways serves to be a much needed warning for the future. But hope is not lost; the following part of the book deals with solutions for the great clean-up. A new deal for the ocean is proposed, solutions are possible for the next hundred years if we make the steer right now. It is also a book which drives one to change. For the ocean activist there are the appendices with a collection of conservation charities to protect the oceans. A persuasive read!

Further Links

Thurstan, R.H., Brockington, S. and Roberts, C.M (2010). The effects of 118 years of industrial fishing on UK bottom trawl fisheries. Nature Communications 1 (15): 1-6.

Lecture by Callum Roberts in English with German

Review by the Guardian