WCMB 2023

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Special Sessions

Above and Beyond – Completing the World Register of Marine Species (ABC WoRMS)

Conveners: Leen Vandepitte and Jan Mees (Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Oostende, Belgium)

Last year, the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) celebrated its 15th anniversary. Whereas it originally started as – and still is – an authoritative classification and catalogue of marine names, its content can capture a wide range of non-taxonomic information, including type localities, species attributes, distributions, and literature. In 2021, WoRMS received project endorsement under the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. A number of high-level objectives were put forward under the Decade for WoRMS, including to further strive towards completeness on marine taxon names, as well as serving as a data rescue platform for taxonomically-focused databases at the brink of disappearing. To keep up with the continuous evolution in the genomics field, a strategy and guidelines are being developed to consistently deal with well-established temporary names from this field, as well as open taxonomic nomenclature. Next to taxonomy, the WoRMS community continues to invest in the documentation of species traits which are of critical importance for ecological marine research. WoRMS provides support to and links with other global databases and infrastructures that use a marine taxonomic backbone (e.g. OBIS, GBIF, COL, MarineLife 2030,…), thereby building stronger relationships, as well as reaching out to environment-independent initiatives in need of marine taxonomic information.

This session not only aims at providing background information on WoRMS, and its relationships with ongoing regional, thematic and global initiatives, but also invites speakers with any link to WoRMS, be it as an editor or a user in the widest sense, who want to share their contributions, experiences and use-cases on WoRMS.

Marine Biodiversity Monitoring, Research, and Conservation for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region: Contribution of the AP Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON)

Convener: Masahiro Nakaoka (Hokkaido University, Japan)

The Indo-West Pacific Region is a hotspot of marine biodiversity, yet many knowledge gaps remain. The Asia Pacific Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (AP MBON) was formed in 2019 to fill these gaps and promote basic and applied science of marine biodiversity. This session seeks to engage groups from multiple disciplines in the AP region to study and conserve regional and global marine biodiversity. The activities are an important regional contribution to the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, including Ocean Decade programs like Marine Life 2030, OBON, Challenger 150, SUPREME, and others.

The AP MBON symposium will review past and current activities of marine biodiversity research in the Asia-Pacific region. The group will discuss directions of research, education, and outreach activities.

Diversity Changes in Disturbed Marine Ecosystems

Conveners: Po Teen Lim (University of Malaya, Malaysia) and Haifeng Gu (Third Institute of Oceanography, China)

Our coastal ecosystems are experiencing increasing pressure due to anthropogenic and climatic pressures, regionally and globally at different degrees. Nutrient discharge from land-based or sea-based activities caused the alteration of the coastal zone, increased algal blooms events, formation of hypoxic-anoxic death zones, and eventually resulted in biodiversity changes or loss.

In this session, the key topics that would be covered are the aspects of biodiversity change in marine ecosystems, including marine organisms from lower to higher trophic levels, both for long-term and short-term changes (or losses). The use of conventional and advanced methodology approaches (eg. NGS and metabarcoding) to assess the changes is most welcome. The environmental driver(s) in spatial and temporal scales that drive the biodiversity changes are also within the scope of this session. A discussion session for recent advancements in long-term biodiversity observation technologies will be held.

Challenges and Solutions to Sustaining Marine Algae Conservation in a Changing Environment

Conveners: Professor Emeritus Dr. Phang Siew Moi (UCSI University, Malaysia) and Professor Dr. Lim Phaik Eem (University of Malaya, Malaysia)

The marine and coastal ecosystems are undergoing unprecedented change. Overexploitation, climate change and pollution are recognised as common factors causing the impacts. An initiative known as the Marine and Coastal Horizon Scan, resulted in 15 volumes of Nature. Ecology & Evolution (2022), that identified new issues that are likely to have a significant impact on the functioning and conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity over the next 5–10 years. These issues, relevant to the marine ecosystem include, ecosystem impacts, effect of poleward migration on equatorial biodiversity; resource exploitation, including an increase in the trade of fish swim bladders and increased exploitation of marine collagens; and new technologies, such as soft robotics and new biodegradable products. We invite contributions that align to this important topic, especially research focussing on the tropical and sub-tropical regions, where marine biodiversity hotspots exist. These contributions will support all stakeholders, including scientists, conservationists, resource managers and policymakers to address the challenges facing tropical marine ecosystems.

Deep Seabed Mining Under Scientific Uncertainties: Biodiversity Risks Versus Economic Needs

Conveners: Tina Molodtsova (Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia), Khaira Ismail (Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Malaysia) and Pradeep Singh (Research Institute for Sustainability, Germany)  

The demand for minerals and metals is proliferating, driven by the increasing use of technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles attracting increasing stakeholders to deep-sea mineral development within and beyond areas under national jurisdiction. Scientists are rushing to gather critical baseline data and robust environmental impact assessment standards in advance of any commercial mining.  If the exploitation of mineral-rich environments proceeds, it is crucial to be prepared for the possible adverse consequences of these operations (including transboundary) and to be able to carefully monitor the myriad of impacts on biodiversity that this industry will impose.

Knowledge of the biodiversity of areas targeted for deep-sea mining, their drivers, distribution and variations in space and time is essential for informed and science-based policymaking. Indeed, discussions on deep-sea mining appear to be at a critical crossroads, with negotiations for a Mining Code for exploitation activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction at the International Seabed Authority currently ongoing at an accelerated pace (with a deadline of July 2023 in mind), as well as growing interests to exploit in several areas within national jurisdiction.

In this special symposium, we expect to engage researchers from multiple geographic areas and nations with diverse backgrounds to discuss their work on various aspects of biodiversity in areas hosting potential mineral resources and adjacent areas and biotopes. Through this special symposium, we aspire to create more awareness of the deep-sea and mining activities that could start imminently. The discussions in this special symposium will facilitate further engagement in deep-sea science and the interaction between science with policymaking at the international, regional and national levels.

Harnessing AI and Machine Learning for Marine Protection and Conservation

Conveners: Qianshuo Zhao (Ocean University of China, China)  

The World Conference of Marine Biodiversity 2023 features a dedicated session on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques in marine protection and conservation. The interdisciplinary session aims to present cutting-edge research, innovative solutions, and collaborative efforts undertaken by scientists, conservationists, and technologists for biodiversity conservation and general marine protections.
Key topics discussed in the session include but not limit to:
  • AI-assisted remote sensing and monitoring: This segment focuses on the utilization of AI and ML in combination with satellite and drone-based remote sensing technology to monitor and track marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves. Presenters showcase how AI algorithms can effectively identify and classify marine habitats, detect changes, and predict potential threats.
  • Automated species identification and tracking: Participants explore the application of AI and ML in automating the identification and tracking of marine species, including fish, marine mammals, and invertebrates. They highlight the significance of these techniques in generating critical data for population assessments, understanding species distribution, and informing conservation efforts.
  • AI-driven oceanographic modelling and forecasting: This portion of the session covers the use of ML algorithms in oceanographic modelling, including species distribution modelling, predicting ocean currents, temperature, and chemical composition. The insights generated from these models can help predict the spatial and temporal distribution patterns of various marine organisms, identify potential threats to marine ecosystems, such as ocean acidification, temperature anomalies, and pollution events.

Where all streams converge: the human dimension of marine biodiversity conservation

Conveners: Justine Vaz (The Habitat Foundation)  

The Habitat Foundation will convene and moderate a special session featuring presenters that are working on aspects of marine biodiversity conservation in Malaysia. All presenters will zoom in on the human dimension of marine biodiversity conservation. In the Anthropocene, human activity is the dominant source of environmental pressure which undermines the balance of nature and the sustainability of productive marine ecosystems. Yet. Human societies living close to these areas will also be the basis of beneficial actions towards reducing impact, implementing active protection and restorative action. Local communities have ecological knowledge, cultural connections, and community-based natural resource management practices that may have a role in stewarding vulnerable ecosystems. This session will showcase a diversity of challenging and complex scenarios, but with a common theme – any solution to marine biodiversity conservation must be found at the convergence of local people, science, governance and policy priorities. The session will highlight the critical need for healthy dialogues which feature perspectives, knowledge and experience from a range of key stakeholders to address the stewardship of essential natural resources and the integrity of dynamic marine ecosystems.