Jo Maniscalco
June 2023

#IESTurningTheTide: Systems thinking for a sustainable ocean – Bridging the gap between land and sea wrap-up

Overhead view of the ocean with a wave 2/3 of the way across. Superimposed with text reading "Bridging the gap between land and sea: wrap-up. #IESTurningTheTide." Bottom right corner features the IES and UN Ocean Decade logos.

At the start of 2023, we launched a year-long project 'Turning the Tide: Systems thinking for a sustainable ocean'. Across four key themes throughout the year, we are championing a systems thinking approach to issues affecting the marine and coastal environment and bringing together the marine and coastal science community via a series of online events and publications.

We are using our platform at the IES to build awareness of topical issues, generate conversations and inspire new collaborations across the community that support the achievement of a sustainable ocean. Reinforcing the collaborative potential of this project, we are delighted to have gained endorsement of this collection of activities from the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The first theme of the project, ‘Bridging the gap between land and sea’ has now come to an end. We kicked off the project by first gaining an overview of the ways in which human activities affect the marine and coastal environment, both from Global South and Global North perspectives. 

Understanding and communicating the relationship that we all have to the ocean is a key driver in encouraging society to take action towards protecting it. We discussed this topic through a forum on ocean literacy, where we heard about a range of research and projects focused on changing humanity’s relationship with the ocean. 

This March was a historic month for global ocean governance, as we saw a Treaty to protect the High Seas agreed at the United Nations after years of hard work. We published a guest authored blog piece to shed light on the journey to get to that point, and explain what happens from here.  

Our penultimate event for this theme took a closer look at the land-sea interface. We heard about Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), illustrated through successful case studies, and touched on key factors for success and challenges facing this coastal management approach.

Key drivers needed to bridge the gap between land and sea

Our final event for the theme was a roundtable discussion held in collaboration with Ocean and Coastal Futures (OCF). The event was chaired by Natasha Bradshaw from OCF, and featured five expert panellists who explored the role of the land-sea interface in achieving a sustainable ocean: 

  • Dr James Massey, Rowan Engineering Consultancy, Ireland 
  • Dr Naomi Greenwood, Cefas
  • Rhiannon Pipkin, ABPmer
  • Emily Hawkes, Defra
  • Dr Pamela Buchan, University of Exeter 

The discussion sought to place the land-sea interface within the wider context of ocean sustainability and touched upon some prominent areas of focus for the marine and coastal community. A number of key talking points from the roundtable are covered below.


What next?

The next theme of our work on the Turning the Tide project will be looking at Blue Carbon, in which we will be exploring the connections between the marine environment and its role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. We have already kicked off this theme with a webinar focused on Coastal Blue Carbon Ecosystems which you can watch back here.

Ways to get involved