Is our most valuable nature also our most endangered?

We did two exercises in the SEAmBOTH project.

First, we used the MOSAIC tool to determine how valuable certain nature types or habitats are. The tool lets experts consider different aspects of the nature type, for example, how critical this environment is to a certain species’ specific events of life, like spawning, or if this environment is interchangeable with some other nature type etc. The MOSAIC tool gave us scores for each habitat or nature type, which can be taken as the value of the nature. The higher the score, the more important this habitat or nature type is to the functioning of a healthy marine environment.

Then we did another exercise. In this one, the experts decided, which of the MOSAIC nature types or habitats were the most vulnerable to human pressures.

Alarmingly, it turned out that the most vulnerable ones were the most valuable as well.

Then we looked at the official records of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Nature Types. The Finnish one was just updated and published Dec 18th 2018. There, at the top of the most vulnerable or endangered list of nature types in the Baltic Sea, were all the most valuable nature types that we had come up with using the MOSAIC tool.

To a person working in the field of nature conservation, it is quite alarming that the nature types that are the most valuable to a healthy marine environment and the ecosystem services are also the most threatened. Especially now, when the climate change is changing the marine nature at the same time in sometimes predictable, sometimes not so predictable, ways.

Fourleaf mare’s tail (Hippuris tetraphylla) meadow

The only consolation in the situation is that the more we know of the underwater nature and the more we understand it, the more we can actually do to change the way things are right now. We can’t affect all things, but some we can. For example, in the future, we might see more marine nature restoration.

Coastal lagoon in Kuivaniemi, Finland.

Let’s hope we still have time to react with all the new data we are gathering in the SEAmBOTH project and in all the other efforts around the Baltic Sea.

Written by Essi Keskinen

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