IMBeR West Pacific Symposium: Changing West Pacific Ocean: Science and Sustainability has been held

Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR) West Pacific Symposium: Changing West Pacific Ocean: Science and Sustainability. 22-25 November 2021

The International Project Office-China of the IMBeR and the State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research at East China Normal University held an international symposium on the Changing Marine Biosphere in the West Pacific Ocean: Science and Sustainability during November 22-25 in Shanghai. This online event drew more than 900 participants and more than 160 presentations to provide new scientific observation results and perspectives on the changing marine biosphere in the West Pacific Ocean and its neighboring Indian and Southern oceans. It brought many notable success stories about how scientific research activities empower us to cope with changing oceans due to global warming and harness the ocean’s wealth sustainably. This symposium was also supported by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Oceans and lands have migrated their position continuously since the formation of the Earth. So the climate has changed accordingly with occasional mass extinction. Currently, the Pacific/Philippine plates underneath the West Pacific Ocean collides with the northward moving Australia Plate at a speed of 7-11 centimeters a year. The colliding of those plate boundaries generates the most catastrophic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on Earth to trigger tsunamis and emitted massive volcanic gases and ashes into the sea such as Banda Ache in 2004, off Fukushima in 2011, Mayon in 2008 and many other active volcanoes in the West Pacific.

The northward movement of India plate collided with the Eurasian plate to form the Tibetan Plateau about fifty million years ago. More than 8 km high plateau blocks the circumnavigational trade winds that result in the Asian Monsoon climate.

The close-in northward movement of the Australian continent has formed the current Indonesian Australian Archipelago, which has brought the survived fauna of the ancient Tethys Sea. It contributes to a biodiversity hotspot in the marine biosphere. And the shallow central Indo-Pacific region blocks circumnavigational ocean water flow, thus forming the warm pool in the West Pacific.

More than half of the global population have chosen the coastal regions along the West Pacific and the Indian Ocean as their habitats. They are dependent on the oceans for their livelihoods by and large.

Therefore, we may characterize the West Pacific as the global center of heat, water, tectonic energy, and population, especially the central Indo-Pacific region.

Systematic and comprehensive scientific research initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region have recently addressed many facets of the natural processes. Prof. Fan Wang (Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences) introduced an overview of the Chinese research plan on plate convergence, the formation of biodiversity, and the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Other Chinese scientists presented the effects of variation of ITCZ on the regional seawater flows and marine biodiversity. Scientists from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines also delivered their research outcomes. Their scientific findings and plans were well received.

The regional populations have thrived their civilization by utilizing oceans’ contribution to their needs and have tried to adapt to such natural changes. The recent human-induced climate and environmental changes brought many additional challenges.

Policy objectives to meet the marine ecosystem protection, seafood production, and protecting other legitimate uses of the same sea space are shared challenges of all regional societies. They are seemingly complex and often contradictory. Scientists in the region have attempted to meet such societal demands. One of the fine examples presented in the symposium was on Sanggou Bay, China. A group of dedicated scientists led by Hui Liu (Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences) developed and operationalized various scientific decision support tools for marine functional zoning administration of the bay. The high resolution (10 m – 1 km) hydrodynamic model, water quality model, ecosystem coupled individual aquaculture species (kelp, yesso scallop, Pacific oyster, and abalone) growth models are notable ones. Harmonizing those ecosystem models, they were able to develop an Aquaculture Planning Decision Support System (APDSS) to evaluate their site suitability.

The Sanggou Bay approach and programs should benefit a world community to enhance the oceans’ contribution to the people without sacrificing the natural ecosystem and service.

The symposium also covered coastal blue carbon, coral reefs, dried small fish, marine-extreme events, oceanic top predators, and the tropical ocean ecosystem. It forged a camaraderie among the scientists and stakeholders interested in the West Pacific and its neighboring oceans from more than 70 countries. It will serve as a forum to develop new forms of collaboration in the years to come amid the current unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.