MPA Europe is a project that was funded under the same call as MSP4BIO and that aims to map the optimal locations where biodiversity and carbon stores could be protected for Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in European seas. MPA Europe partners have expertise in marine biodiversity, ecology, oceanography, biogeochemistry, and biogeography, as well as more specific knowledge on MPA network design, benthic habitat mapping, carbon dynamics, species distribution, climate modelling, science communication, stakeholder engagement and maritime spatial planning, among others.
The MPA Europe project will run from January 2023 until April 2026, with the majority of the outputs being completed by the end of 2025. The project will organize an international conference on Marine Protected Areas and Marine Spatial Planning in Bodo, Arctic Norway, in the summer of 2025.
Progress to date includes:
(1) compiling a compendium of environmental and habitat data for use in ecosystem modelling;
(2) adding over 3 million species records into OBIS to support our forthcoming species distribution modelling;
(3) engaging with stakeholders in the Baltic, Black Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean ocean basins;
(4) compiling a new database on sediment organic carbon stocks in European regional seas;
(5) calculating wave exposure for all European coasts. All results will be freely available through Zenodo MPA Europe Project. There was an international call for contributions to the organic carbon database; all contributors will be recognized as co-authors on a forthcoming data paper. MPA Europe’s vision includes making the entire dataset available through an open-source database, reinforcing transparency and collaboration within the scientific community.
A series of online stakeholder engagement workshops for each European sea basin brought together 42 representatives from national planning authorities, NGOs, sister projects and initiatives and regional seas conventions, to discuss the project’s scope, goals, and activities and how these can contribute to optimising MPA expansion and designation within climate-smart marine spatial planning frameworks. These interactive sessions covered diverse topics such as data sources for modelling; how we assess species richness and climate change effects on species distributions; and possible case uses for the interaction of project results with existing human activities and MPA. Feedback and questions from these workshops have been summarized into a series of FAQs and we identified many collaboration opportunities with new and existing initiatives which will be explored in the coming months through our ongoing stakeholder engagement activities.
Presentations about how MPA Europe will lead systematic conservation planning at a European scale have been made to meetings of related projects, namely MSP4Bio, MarinePlan, Blue Missions, Blue Parks, PROTECT BALTIC, MedPAN, PREP4BLUE, OBAMA-NEXT, ActNOW, and at conferences: the World Oceans Day conference on MPA in Cork Ireland, “Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Ocean Conference” in Bergen Norway, 56th European Marine Biology Symposium, and “Human Impacts on Marine Functional Connectivity” in Sesimbra, Portugal.
The MPA Europe project has been accepted into the “Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters” Charter. This recognition signifies our pivotal role in advancing Mission Ocean and Waters’ objectives, aligned with the EU legislation and initiatives such as Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the Action Plan Towards Zero Pollution, and the Sustainable Blue Economy Strategy.
We invite you to visit MPA Europe website and follow them on social media so that together, we can reach a sustainable future for European seas.