The ocean is essential to our society – it regulates the global climate, provides us with natural resources such as food, materials, important substances, and energy. It is essential for international trade and recreational and cultural activities. The ocean is estimated to be the seventh largest economy in the world. Goods and services from coastal and marine environments have been estimated at US$2.5 trillion each year worldwide. Together with human development and economic growth, increased use and overuse of ocean resources and services have exerted strong pressure on the marine environment, ranging from overfishing, unsustainable resource extraction, and alteration of coastal zones to various types of thoughtless pollution including CO2 emissions causing climate change – the ocean is warming, acidifying, deoxygenating and sea level is rising.
International cooperation in science and effective local, regional and global governance are required to protect the marine environment and promote the sustainable use of marine resources to preserve an ‘healthy’ and productive ocean to keep delivering fundamental ocean services to meet the needs of future generations. Some of the global challenges such as food security, marine community health, and material and energy supply require more science from discovery and sustained ocean observations to understanding and the development of scenarios and predictions. We need an integrated basin-scale ocean observing system to support ocean management. Coordinated basin-scale activities will lead to better modeling, monitoring, and forecasting products (e.g. through alignment of observing network activities as well as supporting data management and integration). This information needs to be assessed and recommendations for development pathways given. We need both a better understanding of ocean change and its challenges as well as more knowledge about new opportunities in order to develop towards a more sustainable relationship between humans and the ocean.
How do we move from an unsustainable human-ocean interaction towards a world where sustainability is key and ocean-ecosystem-services are valued and preserved? A profitable approach is to fully implement an ocean value chain from observations via understanding to information, from information to scenarios to knowledge and from ocean knowledge to societal action.
Two crucial elements of the value chain are the All-Atlantic Ocean Observing System (AtlantOS), a community-based program to support the implementation of an integrated basin-scale observing system ‘that benefits all of us living, working and relying on the ocean’. AtlantOS is working to support the ocean community to enhance and sustain basin-scale ocean observing in the Atlantic as a contribution to the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and similar programs and promotes the GEO Blue Planet activity. How can we transform current ocean observing from a niche action to the societal norm? A second important element is the concept of a Digital Twin of the Ocean as the next step in the value chain, filling the need to integrate a wide range of data and information sources (from physics to ecology through biology, chemistry and geology, as well as from social or economic sciences and business operators), to transform data into knowledge and to connect, engage, and empower citizens, governments and industries by providing them with the capacity to inform their decisions with the goal to arrive at a more sustainable ocean governing system. Neither AtlantOS nor the Digital Twin Ocean can succeed without full engagement of the ocean community including the Global North and Global South, actors from academia, business, civil society, indigenous and communities of practice. The upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to advance such agendas in the Atlantic and around the globe.
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