Rossi, Sergio, Bramanti, Lorenzo, Horta, Paulo, Allcock, Louise, Carreiro-Silva, Marina, Coppari, Martina, Dennis, Vianney, Hadjioannou, Louis, Isla, Enrique, Jimenez, Carlos, Johnson, Mark, Mohn, Christian, Orejas, Covadonga, Ramšak, Andreja, Reimer, James, Rinkevich, Baruch, Rizzo, Lucia, Salomidi, Maria, Samaai, Toufiek, Schubert, Nadine, Soares, Marcelo de Oliveira ORCID:, Thurstan, R.H, Vassallo, Paolo, Ziveri, Patrizia and Zorrilla-Pujana, Juanita (2022) Protecting global marine animal forests. Science, 376 (6596). p. 929. DOI

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Despite years of awareness raised through international initiatives such as the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) (1), the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) (2), and the Ecosystem Restoration decade (3), human activities continue to deeply transform marine ecosystems (4). Sustainable Development Goal 14—Life Below Water—is the least-funded and most-underrepresented objective in the European Union (2), with decades of budget allocation delay for ocean research and conservation. Benthic ecosystems suffer from the effects of bottom trawling, urban and agricultural pollution, bioinvasions, climate change, and other anthropogenic pressures (5). Among these ecosystems, marine animal forests, which are dominated by benthic suspension feeders such as sponges, hard corals, and gorgonians, form three-dimensional habitats (6) that are particularly vulnerable to disturbances (7).
Marine animal forests include habitats ranging from coastal to deep sea, representing one of the largest biomes on Earth (8). The forests are ecologically relevant as biodiversity hotspots and nursery grounds, and evidence suggests that they have the potential to provide ecosystem services (9), especially by ameliorating the effects of climate change by immobilizing carbon (10). However, information on distribution, population dynamics, connectivity, and ecosystem functioning of key marine animal forest species is still lacking. Although technology is available to gather the needed data (11), these targets are not currently a political priority. Anthropogenic disturbances, past and present (12), jeopardize the ecological processes of marine animal forests and threaten the services they provide to human societies worldwide. These communities urgently need conservation, monitoring, and restoration far beyond the efforts made up to now. Protecting marine animal forests requires scientific, social, and political investment in increasing our knowledge. With a more extensive understanding, we will be able to properly manage these threatened habitats. Given that their eradication will have substantial negative consequences for the maintenance of plan-
etary health, marine animal forests should be prioritized in conservation plans.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Affiliations > Not ZMT
Ecology > Reef Systems
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 0036-8075
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2022 12:34
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2023 08:50

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