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Deep sea snail
Entemnotrochus adansonianus
Credit: Brooke et al., NOAA OE 2005/Marine Photobank

 

Content:

A) Questions on the CBD Scientific Criteria

B) Questions on the Scientific Data

C) Questions on the CBD EBSA inventory

D) Questions on Capacity Building

 

A) Questions on the CBD Scientific Criteria

 

1) What are EBSAs?

"EBSAs" is the abbreviation for Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, these are marine areas in need of protection that are identified using the seven scientific criteria adopted at the ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention in 2008 (CBD Decision IX/20, Annex I). These criteria were adopted following the recommendation made by the Expert Workshop on Ecological Criteria and Biogeographic Classification Systems for Marine Areas in Need of Protection. For more information, see: www.cbd.int/doc/decisions/cop-09/cop-09-dec-20-en.pdf

 

2) When were the EBSA criteria established and by whom?

Scientific criteria for identifying EBSAs (Annex I) and the scientific guidance for designing representative networks of marine protected areas (Annex II) were adopted by the ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 9) in Bonn, Germany, in 2008 (CBD Decision IX/20, §14). COP 9 "adopts the scientific criteria, as contained in annex I to the present decision, for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in need of protection, and the scientific guidance, contained in annex II to the present decision, for designing representative networks of marine protected areas, as recommended by the Expert Workshop on Ecological Criteria and Biogeographic Classification Systems for Marine Areas in Need of Protection, and requests the Executive Secretary to transmit the information contained in annex I and II to the present decision to the relevant General Assembly processes" (CBD Decision IX/20, §14). COP 9 further "urged Parties and invited other Governments and relevant organisations to apply, as appropriate, the scientific criteria in annex I to the present decision, the scientific guidance in annex II, and initial steps in annex III, to identify ecologically or biologically significant and/or vulnerable marine areas in need of protection..." (CBD Decision IX/20, §18). For more information, see: www.cbd.int/doc/decisions/cop-09/cop-09-dec-20-en.pdf

 

3) What is the definition of each CBD scientific criterion for identifying EBSAs and for designing representative networks of marine protected areas?

Scientific criteria for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in need of protection in open ocean waters and deep-sea habitats (CBD Decision IX/20, Annex I)

Criterion Definition
Uniqueness or rarity
Area contains either (i) unique ("the only one of its kind"), rare (occurs only in few locations) or endemic species, populations or communities, and/or (ii) unique, rare or distinct, habitats or ecosystems; and/or (iii) unique or unusual geomorphological or oceanographic features.
 Special importance for life-history stages of species
Areas that are required for a population to survive and thrive.
Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats
Area containing habitat for the survival and recovery of endangered, threatened, declining species or area with significant assemblages of such species.
Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery
Areas that contain a relatively high proportion of sensitive habitats, biotopes or species that are functionally fragile (highly susceptible to degradation or depletion by human activity or by natural events) or with slow recovery.
Biological productivity
Area containing species, populations or communities with comparatively higher natural biological productivity.
Biological diversity
Area contains comparatively higher diversity of ecosystems, habitats, communities, or species, or has higher genetic diversity.
Naturalness Area with comparatively higher degree of naturalness as a result of the lack of or low level of human-induced disturbance or degradation.

 

Scientific guidance for selecting areas to establish a representative network of marine protected areas, including in open ocean waters and deep-sea habitats (CBD Decision IX/20, Annex II)

Criterion Definition
Ecologically and biologically significant areas
Ecologically and biologically significant areas are geographically or oceanographically discrete areas that provide important services to one or more species/populations of an ecosystem or to the ecosystem as a whole, compared to other surrounding areas or area of similar ecological characteristics, or otherwise meet the criteria as identified in annex I to decision IX/20.
Representativity Representativity is captured in a network when it consists of areas representing the different biogeographical subdivisions of the global oceans and regional seas that reasonably reflect the full range of ecosystems, including the biotic and habitat diversity of those marine ecosystems.
Connectivity Connectivity in the design of a network allows for linkages whereby protected sites benefit from larval and/or species exchanges, and functional linkages from other network sites. In a connected network individual sites benefit one another.
Replicated ecological features
Replication of ecological features means that more than one site shall contain examples of a given feature in the given biogeographic area. The term "features" means "species, habitats and ecological processes" that naturally occur in the given biogeographic area.
Adequate and viable sites
Adequate and viable sites indicate that all sites within a network should have size and protection sufficient to ensure the ecological viability and integrity of the feature(s) for which they were selected.

 

4) How are EBSA criteria used?

EBSA criteria are used to identify ecologically or biologically significant areas in need of protection. Any area which meets one or more of these scientific criteria can be defined as an EBSA. The GOBI Multi-Criteria Task Group is currently working on a background document to inform the development of guidance on this issue. Some considerations for the application of the scientific criteria were provided by the Expert Workshop on Ecological Criteria and Biogeographic Classification Systems for Marine Areas in Need of Protection which took place on the Azores in 2007. Progress on the identification of areas beyond national jurisdiction meeting the EBSA criteria was also reviewed at the Expert Workshop on Ecological Criteria and Biogeographic Classification Systems for Marine Areas in Need of Protection which took place in Ottawa, Canada, in 2009. For more information, see: www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/mar/ewsebm-01/official/ewsebm-01-01-en.pdf (Azores Workshop Report) and www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/mar/ewbcsima-01/official/ewbcsima-01-01-en.pdf (Ottawa Workshop Report).

 

5) Are GOBI's illustrations EBSAs?

GOBI's illustrations show examples of various scientific methods and techniques that can be applied for each of the CBD scientific criteria to identify EBSAs in the real world. Although strictly speaking the GOBI illustrations are not EBSAs, some of them could potentially become nominated as EBSAs.

 

6) Does the identification of EBSAs stop at the countries' national water boundaries?

The CBD scientific criteria and the methodologies developed for the identification of EBSAs can be applied both within and beyond national jurisdiction. The work of the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative, however, focuses on the open ocean and deep seas, areas that are in general legally known as the high seas (i.e. areas beyond national jurisdiction). That said, as the marine environment is very dynamic, many marine species are highly migratory and there are ecological connections between areass within and beyond national jurisdictions, it is very likely that some ecologically or biologically significant areas will cut across jurisdiction boundaries.

 

7) Are EBSAs marine protected areas (MPAs)?

EBSAs are neither MPAs nor necessarily precursors of MPAs. They could be used in a variety of management systems, not all of them exclusively area-based. According to IUCN's definition, a protected area is "a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values" (Dudley 2008, http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/PAPS-016.pdf) and is thus used as a tool for management purposes. EBSAs, on the other hand, are important marine areas in terms of the ecological and biological processes that take place therein, and are identified based on scientific criteria adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). They show the diversity, richness and fragility of marine ecosystems. While many EBSAs likely require enhanced protection, the management of these marine areas remains in the hands of the competent authorities. Therefore, EBSAs could be turned into marine protected areas for management purposes.

 

8) Does the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative also look into management options for EBSAs?

GOBI is an international scientific partnership composed of various scientific insitutions and organisations which aims to help countries, as well as regional and global organisations, to use existing and develop new data, tools, and methodologies to identify ecologically significant areas in the open ocean and deep seas. As a scientific body, GOBI looks into the science behind the identification of EBSAs. The use of EBSAs for enhanced management corresponds to responsible management organisations or authorities, such as regional fisheries management organisations, regional seas organisations, the International Seabed Authority, the International Maritime Organisation.

 

9) Has there been some work on the scientific criteria for representative network of marine protected areas?

The Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative has to date concentrated its efforts on the CBD scientific criteria for the identification of EBSAs. However, as EBSAs begin to be identified, it will be necessary to address the design of management systems or networks that use MPAs giving due consideration to "other means of protection, for which management plans exist" (Convention on Biological Diversity 2005). Examples of such protection might include fisheries, pollution controls, spatial planning regulations and shipping restrictions. An Expert Workshop convened by the CBD, similar to the Ottawa Workshop in 2009 could further elaborate upon existing guidance for establishing representative networks or systems using MPAs as well as other non-area based management instruments. GOBI would be pleased to assist as required.

 

10) Should ecologically or biologically significant areas be defined with "fuzzy" or dynamic boundaries to account for variability in the marine environment?

The oceans are a very dynamic and variable environment. Biological, chemical and physical processes in the marine environment take place at many different and nested scales. Exchanges of matter and transfer of energy occur both horizontally and vertically in the water column. Therefore, ecological connections in the oceans, particularly between the benthic (i.e. bottom habitats) and the pelagic (i.e. open ocean habitats) realms, are relevant and need to be taken into account. Marine species' distribution depends on physical, chemical and biological parameters and can change seasonally or yearly. Many of these species in the oceans are highly migratory, with some of them better studied or more predictable that others. The variability of EBSAs in time and space around core locations will thus have to be taken into account both during their identification and for future management purposes. Data extrapolation and modelling can be important tools to predict likely variations across seasons and years.

 

11) How are the CBD scientific criteria applied with depth?

Consideration of depth is important in applying the EBSA criteria. As the marine environment is a three-dimensional environment, depth, directly related to physical pressure and many other relevant environmental factors, is an important vector influencing marine life. Depth is implicitly taken into account in the network level criteria "Representativity" (CBD Decision IX/20, Annex II). According to the 2009 CBD Ottawa Expert Workshop (see www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/mar/ewbcsima-01/official/ewbcsima-01-01-en.pdf), the benthic and pelagic systems should be considered both separately and as an interacting system, interaction that undoubtedly tracks and changes with depth of the ocean. However, due to practical reasons and for purposes of simpler management, regulatory authorities often collapse this complexity and choose to treat all depths and the bottom together.

 

12) How can we deal with climate change?

Environmental changes such as those induced by climate change can affect the physical and chemical dynamics of the marine environment and lead inter alia to changes in species' distribution. Modelling provides a good way of predicting such shifts and thereby helps to predict future changes in EBSAs. Looking at the possible effects of climate change on EBSAs is particularly important when management options will be considered.

 

13) Does the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative take into account human impacts on the marine environment for the identification of EBSAs?

Although human activities are affecting many natural systems in the ocean, therefore influencing ecological and biological observations, GOBI does not focus on human impacts on the marine environment "per se". Some of the EBSA criteria, such as naturalness and vulnerability require taking human impacts into account in their application.

 

14) What are the outcomes of the SBSTTA 14 meeting in relation to EBSAs?

The CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 14) met in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 2010 to prepare recommendations for the tenth CBD Conference of Parties (COP 10) that will take place in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010. Following the discussions, SBSTTA 14 through CBD Recommendation XIV/3 invites Parties, other Governments and relevant organisations "... to use, as appropriate, the scientific guidance on the identification of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, which meet the scientific criteria in annex I to decision IX/20 ...." (XIV/3, §23) and "encourages [them] to cooperate, as appropriate, collectively or on a regional or subregional basis, to identify and protect ecologically or biologically significant areas in open-ocean waters and deep-sea habitats in need of protection ..." (XIV/3, §24).

 

SBSTTA further requests the Executive Secretary "... to outline a process for creating and maintaining a CBD global inventory of ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, [...] [and] to begin provisionally to populate such an inventory ..." with the help of relevant organisations and the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (XIV/3, §26).

 

The proposd process for the inventory is to be submitted for consideration and approval at the next SBSTTA meeting before COP 11 in 2012 (XIV/3, §27). Parties are also invited "to notify the CBD global inventory of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) identified within national jurisdiction ..." before COP 11 (XIV/3, §28). In order to help countries to identify EBSAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction and use the scientific guidance, and to facilitate capacity-building of developing countries, SBSTTA further requests the Executive Secretary "... to organise [...] a series of regional workshops ..." (XIV/3, §31) as well as "... to prepare [...] a training manual and modules..." (XIV/3, §33).

 

The work of the Census of Marine Life and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) was recognised at SBSTTA 14 and Parties, other Governments and organisations were requested "... further enhance globally networked scientific efforts [...] to continue to update a comprehensive and accessible global database of all forms of life in the sea, and futher assess and map the distribution and abundance of species in the sea, and [...] to foster further research activities to explore marine communities where current level of knowledge is scare or inexistent" (XIV/3, §9). For more information,  see: www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/cop/cop-10/official/cop-10-03-en.pdf.

 

Turtle_Graham
Juvenile green sea turtle
Credit: Kelly Graham/Marine Photobank

 

B) Questions on Scientific Data

 

15) Areas beyond national jurisdiction are data poor. How can we identify EBSAs without all the necessary scientific data?

Due to the high costs and logistical difficulties in the exploration of deep seas and open oceans, most ocean data come from areas closer to shore. Data are thus scarcer in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. Additionally, most of the poorly sampled marine areas are found in the southern hemisphere and in lower and higher latitude regions. Much of GOBI's momentum comes from the fact that during the last 10 years a significant effort was made to redress these facts. The Census of Marine Life (www.coml.org/), a network of researchers in more than 80 nations, has significantly increased the availability of data and information on the biology of the ocean. Biological data holdings in the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) (www.iobis.org/) increased more than five times, from 5 millions in 2005 to 27, 7 millions in 2010. Nevertheless, it is very important to make the best use of what data do exist by making them publicly and readily available. Some gaps can be addressed by using tested proxies, models and statistical samplings. It is also important to ensure and facilitate the international coordination and collaboration of future scientific research efforts, including focused regional work, developing expert advisory processes. Current methodologies and scientific data available are sufficient to begin the identification of some EBSAs. As noted by the 2009 CBD Ottawa Expert Workshop, "... a lack of information should not be used as a reason to defer actions to apply the criteria to the best information that is available. [...] In all areas, the application of the criteria needs to be reviewed periodically, as new information becomes available." (UNEP/CBD/EW-BCS&IMA/1/2, Annex VI, §8). For more information, see: www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/mar/ewbcsima-01/official/ewbcsima-01-02-en.pdf

 

16) Who is responsible for the quality of the data?

The initial quality of the data comes from the scientists who created and obtained the data. Good data collection can be ensured for instance through the use of good and adequate tools, regular training as well as quality control during and at the end of the collection process. Data submitted to the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) (www.iobis.org/) is checked as it comes in to ensure its quality. The GOBI Metadata Task Group further selected the best available data for GOBI's work.

 

17) How can scientific data be obtained?

Various platforms and databases where scientific data is properly archived exist and their sources traceable through standardised metadata. From these places data can be obtained and used at the nominal cost of retrieving the data. A wide variety of tools are freely available to retrieve and process data. For example the NASA Global Change Master Directory (http://gcmd.nasa.gov/index.html) or the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (www.iobis.org/) are two of these high level databases. The type of scientific data required depends on the scale and aim of the project.

 

18) Would fishing data be useful for the identification of EBSAs?

There are different types of fishing data, not all of them easily available to be potentially used in the process of identifying EBSAs. Standard trawl surveys, acoustic surveys as well as mark and recapture of fish populations can offer precise and accurate estimates of the abundance of fish or other target species at a given local. However, catch or landings statistics, the most abundant type of fishing data regularly collected and published, is less amenable of scientific use. Without correcting it with accurate fishing effort statistics and verifying a number of underlying assumptions, catch data is of limited use.

 

Crown lobo
Galapagos sea lion yawning
Credit: Rod Mast/Marine Photobank

 

C) Questions on the CBD EBSA Inventory

 

19) What did SBSTTA 14 recommend to COP 10 in terms of an EBSA inventory?

SBSTTA 14 recommended that the Executive Secretary of CBD should "... outline a process for creating and maintaining a CBD global inventory of ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, [...] [and] to begin provisionally to populate such an inventory ..." with the help of relevant organisations, including the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (CBD Recommendation XIV/3, §26). 

 

Penguins
Penguins on ice float
Credit: Suchana Chavanich/Marine Photobank

 

D) Questions on Capacity Building

 

20) Why should capacity building also focus on marine conservation beyond national jurisdiction?

Because marine areas beyond national jurisdiction are a shared natural resource and heritage for humanity, it is necessary that nations work together to collectively care fore and sustainably manage these areas. This requires all types of capacity including human resources, technological equipment, ship time, oceanographic expertise, and so forth. Some nations have advantages in certain aspects of this while others are more adept at other capacities. Thus, there is a need to build these capacities across regions and hemispheres.

 

21) How is the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative working on capacity building issues and which is the targeted audience?

GOBI has already created a range of resources that can contribute to building capacity, such as the development of an informative website, a newsletter with current articlees and features on progress, a guidance document, and mapping tools. GOBI is currently building increased access to best available datasets. In addition, GOBI is planning regional workshops and toolkits to ensure that government organisations, regional bodies and scientific institutions have access to knowledge, tools and each other.

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