The Ocean and Us

Paul van Gardingen, Director, Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Services fromMarine and Coastal Ecosystems are Essential in Transforming our World by 2030. Since 2010, when the United Kingdom’s Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation programme, ESPA, (www., was launched, its research generated evidence of how ecosystems contribute to human well-being and the reduction of poverty around the world. Ten of ESPA’s projects have documented the importance of coastal and marine ecosystems in some of the world’s poorest countries. ESPA was designed to link the Millennium Development Goals and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to demonstrate how ecosystem services can provide a sustainable pathway out of poverty for the world’s poor. The results of research are now highly relevant as plans are developed to implement the UN’s SDGS. What does ESPA’s research on coastal and marine ecosystems mean for the SDGs? The benefits that people derive from coastal and marine ecosystems are linked to virtually all of the 17 proposed SDGs. Efforts to ‘conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources’ (Goal 14), will help to end poverty, end hunger, promote health, provide clean drinking water, promote jobs and economic growth, provide resilient infrastructure and combat climate change and its impacts (Goals 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 13).

In many locations, human consumption of services from marine and coastal ecosystems is no longer sustainable (Goal 12), leading to resource degradation and in some cases conflict. Climate change including sea-level rise and extreme events, is also reducing the resilience and productivity of ecosystems, but so are other social and environmental changes. In some regions the combined impact of environmental change and loss of ecosystem productivity means people’s livelihoods are being affected leading people to migrate to other locations, often cities. ESPA’s research is however also showing that it is possible to reverse the trends of over-exploitation, degradation and conflict over resources. There are examples of how communities are being empowered to make better decisions leading to more sustainable and resilient outcomes. As we look forward to implementing the SDGs, evidence from research programmes including ESPA shows that coastal and marine ecosystems must been seen as a crucial component of how the world builds a sustainable future. The challenge will be how to learn from this research evidence to build a future where the links between ecosystems and people become more productive, resilient and sustainable in a rapidly changing world.

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