Biodiversity in a shifting sea: challenges and solutions for working across the science-policy interface

Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop1

1University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Good policy decisions about the marine environment are based on scientific evidence. Working across the science-policy interface is challenging, however, as these two different communities have separate objectives, ways of communicating, areas of expertise, and even disparate languages. Understanding and communicating climate-driven changes in marine biodiversity is particularly complex, as climate change and ocean acidification are driving large-scale shifts in marine species and habitats while direct human pressures, such as nutrients and fishing, are also changing marine ecosystems. For policy makers to make informed decisions about marine management, robust scientific information about the ecological and societal effects of shifting marine biodiversity are needed, despite these scientific challenges.

This talk uses a case study from the successful science-policy project, EcApRHA (Applying an Ecosystem Approach to (sub) Regional Habitat Assessment), to present challenges and solutions to working across the science-policy interface for the management of changing marine ecosystems. From project conception through to policy assessment, innovative and active engagement methods were used to gain policy feedback, help frame the science in policy terms, and gather consensus from the wider scientific research community. Open communication and trust between scientists and decision-makers was instrumental to project success, which required compromises and altered ways of working on both sides of the science-policy interface. Project results are now underpinning implementation of a pan-European piece of marine biodiversity policy. The lessons learned through this science-policy collaboration are wide ranging and applicable across multiple spatial and political scales.


Abigail McQuatters-Gollop is a plankton ecologist and lecturer in marine conservation at Plymouth University and is the PI of the Plankton and Policy Research Group.  Abigail’s research focuses on marine ecological responses to anthropogenic and climate change and the subsequent integration of results into the policy process.

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