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Cumulative Human Impacts on Marine Ecosystems

Key indicator facts

Indicator type

Pressure

Applicable for national use

Yes (find out more)

Indicator classification

Potential for future use at global and regional levels

Indicator type

Pressure

Applicable for national use

Yes (find out more)

Indicator classification

Potential for future use at global and regional levels

Last update

2016

Coverage

Global

Availability

Data freely available

Partners

Nc logoalt 4c

National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Contact point

Indicator description

The Cumulative Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems indicator predicts the impact on marine biodiversity and ecosystems from multiple anthropogenic stressors.

Cumulative impact assessments model, or predict, the overall impact from a suite of stressors based on the unique and cumulative vulnerability of biodiversity to anthropogenic stressors such as pollution, climate change and fishing. An increase in the cumulative impact score indicates that a stressor or suite of stressors is having an increased impact on biodiversity. As cumulative impact scores approach zero, biodiversity is decreasingly threatened by human activities.

Related Aichi Targets

Primary target

10

Target 10:

By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.

Secondary targets

Target 4:

By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.

Target 5:

By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.

Target 6:

By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

Target 12:

By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

Target 15:

By 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.

Target 19:

By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.

Primary target

10

Target 10:

By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.

4
5
10
12
15
19
6

Related SDGs

E sdg goals icons individual rgb 14

GOAL 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Target 14.1| Relevant indicator

By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

Target 14.2| Relevant indicator

By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans.

E sdg goals icons individual rgb 14

GOAL 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

E sdg goals icons individual rgb 14

Other related MEAs and processes

Indicator icon

IPBES Global Assessment Chapters

Chapter 2| Relevant indicator

Status and trends; indirect and direct drivers of change

Indicator icon

IPBES Regional Assessment Chapters

Chapter 4| Relevant indicator

Direct and indirect drivers of change in the context of different perspectives of quality of life

Indicator icon

IPBES Global Assessment Chapters

Indicator icon

IPBES Regional Assessment Chapters

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Themes

Marine

Marine & freshwater habitats

View related indicators >
Marine

Partners

Nc logoalt 4c

Key indicator facts

Indicator type

Pressure

Applicable for national use

Yes (find out more)

Indicator classification

Potential for future use at global and regional levels

Indicator type

Pressure

Applicable for national use

Yes (find out more)

Indicator classification

Potential for future use at global and regional levels

Last update

2016

Coverage

Global

Availability

Data freely available

Indicator description

The Cumulative Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems indicator predicts the impact on marine biodiversity and ecosystems from multiple anthropogenic stressors.

Cumulative impact assessments model, or predict, the overall impact from a suite of stressors based on the unique and cumulative vulnerability of biodiversity to anthropogenic stressors such as pollution, climate change and fishing. An increase in the cumulative impact score indicates that a stressor or suite of stressors is having an increased impact on biodiversity. As cumulative impact scores approach zero, biodiversity is decreasingly threatened by human activities.

Contact point

Graphs / Diagrams

Figure 1. Global map of impact of anthropogenic stressors on marine biodiversity. Source: Halpern et al. (2008) Science 321: 1444-1445.

The Cumulative Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems indicator results can also be viewed and explored on the BIP Dashboard, which includes downloadable graphs of trends. Further graphs and maps are also available through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

Current storyline

Cumulative impact assessment and mapping was developed in response to scientific and management needs to inform ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning, both of which explicitly require such assessments. It also addresses the longer-standing need in species risk assessments to evaluating cumulative impacts rather than single-stressor responses. It has since been adapted and used in a wide range of policy, management, and scientific contexts.

Cumulative impact scores are surprisingly high for much of the world’s ocean in part because climate change, commercial fishing, and commercial shipping have a truly global reach and impact on marine systems. Coastal areas, where most human uses of the ocean are concentrated, are particularly heavily impacted.

Cumulative impact assessments can be used to address a range of policy questions related to the cumulative and interactive effects of multiple human uses and associated stressors on marine ecosystems and species, including but not limited to 1) identifying top threats, 2) prioritizing areas for mitigation or protection, 3) informing where new uses should or should not be permitted, and 4) identifying and prioritizing information gaps to be filled.

Data and methodology

Coverage: Global and regional time series.

Scale: Not aggregated.

Time series available: 2008 onwards.

Possible disaggreagations: By region, by country.

Methodology: Cumulative impact maps are calculated at high resolution for global and sub-global assessments. All data and methods are freely available and documented elsewhere (see project website). Regional applications of cumulative impact mapping have been developed, and documented data and methods are available from those reports and websites.

National use of indicator

Producing this indicator nationally: Individual stressor and cumulative impact measures are all reported at 1km2 resolution and thus can easily be summarized at any scale larger than that. Producing national level indicators is thus simple and has already been calculated and published in many cases.

Use at the national level: This indicator provides the only comprehensive, standardized, transparent, quantitative and repeatable means to assess and map cumulative human impacts, providing a unique measure of the likely ‘pristineness’ of a system. The methods are flexible to use for habitats, taxa, or individual species at any scale, and the results can be used to inform a very wide range of policy and management objectives. Most data and results from the initial assessment (published 2008) are currently available online, as are the tools, code and full set of data (raw to processed) for the most recent update (assessment year 2013, published in 2015). Results can also be found here.

Dozens of national and regional assessments have been done to date using this methodology. These efforts leverage higher resolution, higher quality and/or additional data available at the scale of assessment, allowing use of the best available data and science for the region. Two examples provide good case studies for regional, policy-relevant assessments: the Baltic Sea and the The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), an area surrounding a string of atolls and banks known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). A synthesis of the patterns of all types of human impacts across the PMNM was identified as being a useful tool for managers applying local scale spatial management of the Monument with an ecosystem-based perspective. A more precise and comprehensive view of the spatial distribution of cumulative impacts in the Monument was provided by application of the cumulative impact mapping framework here on a finer scale (1 ha resolution) with location-specific data. Guidance on where to apply different management regulations and which threats are most in need of attention was provided by this analysis. The Baltic Sea assessment was developed by HELCOMM to inform reporting mandated by the E.U. Maritime Strategy Framework Directive

Examples of national use: Regional assessments have been conducted in over 65 locations and countries around the world, including the Baltic Sea, Antarctica, Mediterranean, California, and Australia. The intended purpose and outcome of these assessments has varied and included scientific discovery, conservation planning (e.g. marine spatial planning), informing policy, and indicator calculation for national or international biodiversity goals.

Availability of global data for national use: Freely available for non-commercial use.

Contact person for supporting national use: halpern@nceas.ucsb.edu

Further resources

Key indicator facts

Indicator type

Pressure

Applicable for national use

Yes (find out more)

Indicator classification

Potential for future use at global and regional levels

Indicator type

Pressure

Applicable for national use

Yes (find out more)

Indicator classification

Potential for future use at global and regional levels

Last update

2016

Coverage

Global

Availability

Data freely available

Partners

Nc logoalt 4c

National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Contact point