» The effects of climate change on the productivity in North-West African waters
21.09.2018 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

The effects of climate change on the productivity in North-West African waters

© UNESCO/IOC - Participants in the workshop in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain (18-20 September 2018).

Discussions on scientific knowledge and gaps, regional cooperation and capacity building took place during the kickoff meeting of phase III of the project “Enhancing oceanography capacities in CCLME Western Africa countries", with a focus on the effects of climate change on the productivity in the region.

Since 2013, the project “Enhancing oceanography capacities in CCLME Western Africa countries” has increased access to existing ocean science data to reinforce oceanographic capacities in the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) region.

Through the CCLME Eco-GIS Viewer, a dynamic analytic web application conceived during phase II of the project to support researchers in doing new science, users can create meaningful data products at regional scale adding value to raw data, while having the possibility to drag their own data files into several functionalities.

“The CCLME Eco-GIS Viewer is an advance in mapping of and data availability on sea surface temperature, upwelling and other parameters, in real time and in a usable format. It is currently used by our institution (Mauritanian Institute of Oceanographic Research and Fisheries – IMROP) in the updating of data but also spatio-temporal distribution of different climatic factors,” says Dr. Cheikh-Baye Braham, one of the project’s beneficiaries.

Beyond the CCLME Eco-GIS Viewer, two reports were also issued, “a reference in the work published about the CCLME area in the last ten years,” continues Dr. Braham. The Directory of Atmospheric, Hydrographic and Biological datasets for the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem. 3rd Edition: Revised and Expanded was published in 2017 (a second revised edition had been published in 2016). The 3rd edition includes 118 metadata sheets on a total of 449 datasets, 34 databases and 26 time-series sites identified in the area, and even includes metadata managed by organizations in Northwest Africa on biological data from fisheries surveys.

This gradual engagement of countries and institutions is the result of a positive networking through the implementation of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s (IOC) activities in the CCLME and the involvement of regional scientists, who have tremendously contributed through their expertise to the successful results obtained since the launch of the project.

“This project is just about to fill the gaps found in data and knowledge exchange between scientists. It has created a platform in the CCLME area between researchers from different fields (fisheries, biology, environment, etc.). It has yielded important results and its activities will have to be pursued to address other aspects of the study of the dynamics of our fisheries resources,” states Dr. Braham.

Phase III of the project builds on the challenges for scientific research, data collection and analysis on climate change identified in the two previous CCLME project phases and benefits from the networks already developed therein. Dr. Aissa Benazzouz, from Morocco’s Higher Institute for Maritime Studies, adds: “In fact, this project can be considered as a suitable communication channel and hub for regional researchers.”

The project brings to the table the need to further study the dynamics of eastern boundary upwelling systems (EBUS) and the effects of climate change upon them, including other stressors such as ocean acidification. “Global climate change has an impact on upwelling systems and, in turn, the upwelling process can potentially have substantial effects on ecosystems and needs to be more documented,” explains Dr. Benazzouz.

EBUS are the most productive ecosystems in the world in terms of fisheries production. In West African countries in particular, the proportion of animal protein obtained from fish is very high. Changes in the productivity of the CCLME would have a direct impact on their national economies and food security, as they largely depend on fisheries resources.

“For example, small pelagic species make up the largest share of catches in the Northwest African zone with more than 2.5 million annual tons,” says Dr. Braham. “Strengthening scientific campaigns, data collection, analysis and publication of available information should be maintained and continuous. The support of partners and international organizations should be assured without interruption.”

The new phase of the project will also contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and more specifically to its Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) on the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, as well as SDG 13 on climate change. A future indirect impact is expected on SDG 2 on Zero Hunger.

The project has been made possible thanks to the funds provided by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and implemented by UNESCO’s IOC in partnership with the Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO).This third phase of the project will be linked with the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) activities in EBUS.

The kickoff meeting of phase III on “The effects of climate change on the productivity in the CCLME” took place in the Centro Oceanográfico de Canarias of the IEO in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Spain, 18-20 September). The workshop was attended by 20 participants from 12 organizations, including experts from: Cabo Verde, Guinea, Morocco, Senegal, Peru, France, Sweden and Spain. Participants included experts from WCRP/CLIVAR Research focus in EBUS, SCOR Working Group 155 and relevant IOC networks*. Among the main objectives was the identification through a holistic approach of knowledge gaps to address possible changes in the primary productivity of the CCLME, and capacity development needs in the region. A draft Work Plan for Phase III of the project is currently under discussion.

* Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE), Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), IOC Working Group to Investigate Climate Change and Global Trends of Phytoplankton in the Oceans (TrendsPO) and the GlobalHAB Programme.

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For more information, please contact:

Itahisa Déniz-González (i.deniz-gonzalez(at)unesco.org), for more information about the project “Enhancing oceanography capacities in CCLME Western Africa countries”

Salvatore Aricò (s.arico(at)unesco.org), for more information about all ocean science activities and programmes of UNESCO’s IOC




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