Marine ecology and achieving societal impact

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Thu Sep 16 2021

Author: Guest contributor

In honor of Global Goals Week (17-26 September), we’ve launched the SDG 13 hub dedicated to global warming mitigation and our better adaptation to changing environment under a rapid climate change. As a part of this initiative, we spoke to several opinion leaders about how they address issues directly related to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 through their work as well as their experience in making societal impact beyond their academic circles.

In this interview we hear from Jean-Claude Dauvin, Professor Emeritus of the University of Caen Normandy and Chairman of the Scientific Council of GIS (Scientific Interest Group) ECUME (Cumulative Effects at Sea).

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What is the focus of your research work?

The focus of my research work is marine ecology, using an ecosystem approach of the Channel-North Sea ecosystem on several time and spatial scales. It involves determining anthropogenic impacts on marine habitats (benthos) such as oil pollution, eutrophication, extraction of aggregates, harbour dredging deposits, installation of wind turbines and tidal turbines at sea. The aim is a sustainable development and preservation of natural marine heritage. I also focus on introduced and invasive species and effects of human activities and climate change on coastal and estuarine systems (Seine estuary).

Multidisciplinary research between ecology, sedimentology and numerical modelling plays a crucial role and we have strong links with the social sciences (geography, sociology in particular) on the issue of ecosystem services.

I am also Chairman of the Scientific Council of the GIS ECUME, member of the CS of the GI Eolien en Mer, member of the 3SMO (monitoring of the marine aggregates extraction zone in the Eastern Channel) and member of the board (treasurer) of the French-Japanese Oceanography Society.

What are the short- and long-term goals of your work?

In terms of cumulative effects, the aim is to weigh up the effects of various human activities and climate change on the long-term evolution (30-50 years) of coastal socio-ecosystems. Research into ecological indicators of the effects of each human activity is also important (already available for oil pollution, and the effects of harbor dredging deposits on benthic habitats, and under development for other activities). The next step is to search for a multi-criteria indicator integrating those of the individual activities and climate change.

Long-term effects (30-50 years) of the introduction of non-native species on benthic ecosystems are also explored as well as the so-called “reef effect” related to the implementation of wind turbines on the functioning and long-term development (30-50years) of of coastal systems.

In addition, changes in the fauna of the Channel ecosystem as a result of climate change will be evaluated. This involves setting up observatories for marine biodiversity.

How would you define societal impact when it comes to research?

Societal impact can be achieved through a better collaboration between social, life and environmental sciences in transdisciplinary research, especially in projects studying ecosystem services. From experience, a programme can combine SHS with other sciences, but on projects that are carried out in parallel each on its own, it is necessary to get researchers from different disciplines, backgrounds, audiences and visions to collaborate. This is a real scientific challenge that can be met through thesis supervision between SHS disciplines and others.

The link between hard and soft sciences is easier with our geographer colleagues than with other disciplines (physical geography, publishing in English in international journals). Sociologists, lawyers, etc. publish their work in French, unlike economists who publish some of their work in English.

How important is societal impact to your research? Why?

It is fundamental to the understanding and acceptance of new offshore projects such as wind turbines or aggregate extraction for a territory, which explains the importance of the cultural (knowledge, know-how, tourism and landscapes, gastronomy, maintenance of landscapes, etc.), economic (jobs, harbour developments, etc.) and ecological (e.g. eco-design of new sites) components. One of the problems is that some media spread wrong, incomplete or biased information.  Expert opinions play an important role for society, but an experienced scientist has no more influence than the chairman of a local environmental association who expresses their point of view. The role (but also the definition) of experts is fundamental for the societal impact of our research.

What do you think is the most relevant way to measure success against SDG13?

The most relevant way to measure success against SDG13 would be by developing global approaches on a regional scale such as the Channel and banishing sector-based approaches that only cover small areas or a single activity such as offshore wind energy without taking into account other marine activities, including fishing. Furthermore, a systemic approach is needed that considers both the French and English vision for a sea shared between the two countries. To understand what is going to happen on a territorial scale, it is necessary to integrate it into the global picture, i.e. all the interactions of the earth as a whole and to take into account the causes and effects of extreme events.

An observation/model comparison is also important. We need long-term observations, which means that we need to set up funding for observations of the Earth as a whole which is well beyond national, European or international programmes that only last a few years and generally run for less than 5 years.

How, if at all, has your research shifted given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the trends you’ve noticed within your field?

We were able to conduct a study in Tunisia on the resilience of the tidal channel ecosystem without fishing activity for three months and could collect evidence of the resilience of the fauna. Another trend we have noticed is a psychological wandering of doctoral students, some of whom have abandoned their thesis. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we had to switch to video conferences for meetings, seminars and conferences. This led to a lack of interaction and discussion with colleagues which usually takes place between official conference sessions and sometimes lead to international collaborations and projects.

What do you believe are the most effective ways of communicating your research?

The most effective ways of communicating our research are publications in international journals.  We see an increasing number of Open Access online journals, but most of the time journals still have to be paid for and are expensive.  Scientific books are also expensive, and therefore often cannot be afforded by students. Online downloads are often associated with lower costs and there is no doubt that in the future there will be no more printed publications, journals and books. International conferences and the relevant proceedings play an important role and should be maintained.

What do you see as the role of publishers when it comes to addressing the SDGs? How can they best support researchers?

Publishers can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs by offering free publications, enabling communication with students, especially in developing countries, and providing online books and publications.

Visit Springer Nature's SDG13 hub now

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About Professor Jean-Claude Dauvin

Jean-Claude Dauvin is Professor Emeritus of the University of Caen Normandy and Chairman of the Scientific Council of GIS (Scientific Interest Group) ECUME (Cumulative Effects at Sea) since 1 December 2020. From 2012 to 2017, he was Deputy Director of the Unité mixte de recherche (UMR) of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Continental and Coastal Morphodynamics Laboratory (M2C) and has been awarded Knight of the Order of Maritime Merit in January 2017. His numerous publications include two books published by Springer in 2019 and 2020, for which he was a contributing author: Oceanography Challenges to Future Earth – and Natural Impacts on our Seas Human and Evolution of Marine Coastal Ecosystems under the Pressure of Global Changes.



Author: Guest contributor

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