Our shared sea

Mechanisms of ecosystem change in the Western Channel

Origins of the project

The English Channel : a cross-border area with intense maritime activity

The English Channel exemplifies many of the problems associated with the sustainable development of marine areas. Human activity is intense in the Channel and occurs in many different forms including open water traffic – most notably heavy transitory cargo ships – together with the intense exploitation of the coastal regions for construction, waste management, agriculture and coastal and cross-Channel traffic and leisure activities.

In addition to these regional effects, global perturbations such as climate change have to be taken into account to obtain a comprehensive view of the impact of human activity on these ecosystems. Because the English Channel also exemplifies a shared marine region, bordering France and England, the effective implementation of sustainable development will only be possible through integrated cross-border policies.

Research and communication for improved awareness of environmental issues.

The development of a sustainable environmental policy for a marine area such as the Channel must be built on a sound scientific understanding of the ecosystems that are present in the Channel area, in particular their ability to cope with anthropogenic perturbations, either in the form of changes to their environment or due to the introduction of competing, invasive species.

This knowledge needs to be effectively communicated to the public and to stakeholders and policy makers so that there is a general, informed awareness of the problem in hand and so that effective, knowledge-based policies can be set in place to ensure ecologically and economically sustainable development.

In this context, one clear advantage of the western English Channel, compared with other marine areas, is the presence of established marine research infrastructures on both the French (Roscoff) and the English (Plymouth) sides. These infrastructures not only provide an essential long-term perspective, but both sites operate long-term monitoring programs, with Plymouth’s being the longest running of its kind in the world. Both sites also provide state-of-the-art facilities in which modern biological methodologies may be applied to understand marine ecosystems and their resilience to human activities.

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