Marine ecological connectivity under the impact of climate change: can we climate-proof governance of ABNJ?

Dr Ekaterina Popova1, Prof Warwick  Sauer3, Prof  David Vousden3, Dr Essam Yassin  Mohammed2, Mr Stephen Kelly1, Dr Andrew Yool1

1National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom, 2International Institute for Environment and Development, London, United Kingdom, 3Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

Marine ecological connectivity is a complex natural phenomenon linking various components of marine ecosystems in time and space. Ecological connectivity between distant marine ecosystems can be maintained by two types of connections: passive or circulation connectivity mediated by the ocean currents and active or migratory connectivity achieved by active swimming by marine species. Neither of these types of connection will remain static in time due to the emerging impact of climate change on both ocean circulation and the global redistribution of species.


The ongoing debate on the governance of the Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions begins to recognise the importance of ecological connectivity and potential downstream impacts of activities in these areas on the coastal zones and their communities. However, the impact of climate change may undermine the conservation efforts and would require approaches, which go beyond currently proposed adaptive management. As a result, areas deemed important for conservation may not remain so in the long run, thereby indicating an imperative requirement for climate proofing the High Seas conservation regimes. Consequently, continuous effort will be required to monitor evolving patterns of marine ecological connectivity, as well as the various anthropogenic impacts that can affect it. In this presentation we will demonstrate modelling tools which can help establishing circulation connectivity between the High Seas and the coastal zones and address its sensitivity to the impacts of climate change.


Dr.Ekaterina Popova is a senior researcher at the National Oceanography Centre, UK. She is an expert in ocean modelling and biophysical interactions, impact of climate change on living marine resources and ocean connectivity. She is particularly interested in two regions:

  • The Arctic Ocean and its transition to the seasonally ice-free state under continuous global warming and
  • Western Indian Ocean and climate impacts on its living marine resources and coastal communities.

As well as scientific research, Dr.Popova is interested in policy and industry uptake of global high resolution modelling in the following areas:

  • Governance of ABNJ
  • Impact of climate change on living marine resources and communities dependent on them
  • Environmental risk assessment of potential oil spills
  • Navigability of the Arctic sea routes
  • Risk of oil spills in Arctic from increased exploration and transportation
  • Adaptation to climate change in communities dependent on living marine resources
  • Ocean geoengineering

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