International policy and its implementation in Baltic Sea marine protected areas

Abstract: 

Genetic diversity is needed for species’ adaptation to changing selective pressures and is particularly important in regions with rapid environmental change such as the Baltic Sea. Conservation measures should consider maintaining large gene pools to maximize species’ adaptive potential for long-term survival. In this study, the researchers explored concerns regarding genetic variation in international and national policies that governs biodiversity and evaluated if and how such policy is put into practice in management plans governing Baltic Sea Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Germany. The researchers performed qualitative and quantitative textual analysis of 240 documents and found that agreed international and national policies on genetic biodiversity are not reflected in management plans for Baltic Sea MPAs. Management plans in all countries are largely void of goals and strategies for genetic biodiversity, which can partly be explained by a general lack of conservation genetics in policies directed toward aquatic environments.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Taken into account in an MSP process
Sectors: 
Nature protection
Type of Issue: 
Environment aspects
Type of practice: 
Study
Coherence with other processes: 
Habitats and Birds Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Which key international agreements and regulations apply to the Baltic Sea including its biodiversity?
  • How are aspects from these agreeements and regulations taken into consideration in implementing international conservation policy in national and regional Baltic Sea management.

Implementation Context

The Baltic Sea represents a system where genetic diversity is expected to be of particular concern. Relatively extensive knowledge on genetic diversity is available for several Baltic Sea species.This knowledge has shown that human-induced pressures are extensive in the Baltic and that these pressures are expected to increase the importance of genetic variation as a basis for population and species adaptation and resilience.

Aspects / Objectives

Investigate if and how genetic biodiversity is taken into consideration in implementing international conservation policy in national and regional Baltic Sea management.

Method

With respect to regional management, the focus is on marine protected areas (MPAs) because they constitute an important tool for biodiversity conservation in the marine environment. The study includes

  1. Documenting the extent of genetic considerations including how concerns regarding genetic variation are formulated in international policies that govern the Baltic Sea and its biodiversity.
  2. Investigating if and how international policies are transformed into national policy in the four countries.
  3. Evaluating if and how international and national policies regarding gene level biodiversity are transformed into management plans governing Baltic Sea MPAs in the four countries.

Main Outputs / Results

Key findings are as follows:

  • International and national policy on genetic biodiversity are not reflected in management plans for marine protected areas of the Baltic Sea. Management plans in all four countries are largely void of goals, concerns, strategies, or other mentioning of genetic biodiversity.

 
  • Goals for genetic biodiversity are much less frequent in international and national policies directed exclusively toward aquatic environments (the Helsinki Convention and the EU Marine Strategy and Water Framework Directives) as compared to documents with a broader focus (CBD and the EU Habitats Directive).

Other results include the following:

  • International policy clearly express that genetic biodiversity should be conserved, strategies for such conservation should be formulated, and monitoring programs should be developed.

 
  • National policies in all four countries are in line with international intentions. Quantitatively, Finnish documents have the highest occurrence of our genetic search words, whereas qualitatively Swedish documents are strongest including most far-reaching intentions for monitoring genetic biodiversity of wild animals and plants.

 
  • Area protection is expressed as a frequent, explicit measure to conserve genetic biodiversity both at the international and the national level.
  • Genetic diversity is mentioned much less than species diversity in Baltic Sea MPA management plans.

Transferability

The research is conducted for the Baltic Sea region specifically, but a similar framework could be used to research how genetic biodiversity is taken into consideration in implementing international conservation policy in other regions.

Costs / Funding Source

This research was funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas (LL), and the BONUS project BAMBI, the joint Baltic Sea research and development programme (Art 185), funded jointly from the European Union’s Seventh programme for research, technological development and demonstration and from the Swedish Research Council Formas (LL, AS).

Responsible Entity

Department of Zoology, Division of Population GeneticsStockholm University

Contact Person

Linda Laikre

Phone: +46 8 16 42 83

Email: linda.laikre@popgen.su.se

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