Doctoral Programme on Marine Ecosystem Health and Conservation
 The MARES Researchers and their Research
Development of social-ecological system indicators of marine health and management effectiveness (SESIM)
PhD Code: MARES_15_2010:
  • Host institute 1: P11 - Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)
  • Host institute 2: P3 - University of Bologna
Research fields:
  • T1 - Future oceans : temperature changes - hypoxia - acidification
  • T6 - Habitat loss, urban development, coastal infrastructures and Marine Spatial Planning
  • Joachim Claudet
  • Laura Airoldi
Contact Person and email: Joachim Claudet -

Subject description
Coastal zones play a crucial part in the economic, social and political development of many countries, but just as in terrestrial environments, the world's oceans are subjected to increasing and often unregulated sources of anthropogenic disturbances (Halpern et al., 2008). Human activities can lead to homogenization of ecosystems due to reductions in food-web complexity, diversity within functional groups, distribution range, biogenic habitat structure, and size of organisms (Parmesan and Yohe, 2003; Airoldi and Beck, 2007; Airoldi et al., 2008). Entire ecosystems may cease to function in their current form (Lejeusne et al., 2010), potentially leading to a complete loss of the goods and services derived from those ecosystems by humans (Naeem et al., 1994), resulting in economic and social disruptions for human populations whose occupation or lifestyle rely directly or indirectly on marine biodiversity (Chapin III et al., 2000). These trends are exacerbated by the growing human populations in coastal areas and increasing need for marine resources (Mora, 2008).
A complex suite of interacting factors limits the identification of conservation priorities, implementation of mitigation strategies, and accomplishment of effective restoration plans for marine habitats and biodiversity (Claudet and Fraschetti, 2010). Major impediments are related to the general lack of baseline data on coupled social-ecological systems prior to human interventions and to the over-use of expert opinion (Claudet and Fraschetti, 2010).
There is an imperative need for quantitative, repeatable, and objective ways to measure whether the ocean’s health and human uses of marine biodiversity improve or declines over time. It is a requirement drawn from international agreements, intergovernmental panels and other high-level recommendations regarding marine conservation and resource use.
The objectives of the PhD are to develop indicators to measure the most critical ocean stressors (climate change, fisheries, habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species) as well as their effects on the ocean's ability to provide ecosystem goods and services and to support human well-being. The indicators will then be combined within a health index that will be published in a simple, accessible format, maximizing its utility to the public, ocean managers and stakeholders.
Indicators will be built from two case studies, the Natural Marine Park of the Côte Vermeille, western Gulf of Lyons, France , and the coastlies of the northern Adriatic sea, Italy. The park will be freshly established by the time of the beginning of the PhD, it is more than 100 km-long with 12 coastal towns, and it encompasses several unique features such as rocky, sandy and muddy habitats, seagrass meadows, red corals colonies, canyons, nursery zones, lagunas, estuaries, Natura 2000 sites and a marine protected area (Cerbère-Banyuls). The northern Adriatic coastline is also varied in the natural environments. In both places, environmental problems are varied and severe, including: erosion, developments of urban, industrial and tourist infrastructures, transformation and loss of native habitats and assemblages, eutrophication and spread of exotic species.
The work will comprise three phases: In the first year at CNRS, the candidate will collate all previous existing information, on biotic and abiotic environments, human uses of the marine system goods and services and regional environmental and human-driven stressors. The candidate will also participate in field surveys in the marine park to collate and complete any missing information. In the second year at Bologna University the candidate will start analysing the data and will valuate the Adriatic case study using the same approach as in the first phase. In the third year at CNRS the candidate will ideintify the sets of parameters that best describe the status of the social-ecological system by using multivariate techniques, and will combine the indicators into a health index designed to be used routinely for adaptive management purposes.
The PhD will benefit from the multidisciplinary expertise of the respective laboratories of the two partners involved, including conservation and community ecologists, biologists, economists and law and social scientists.

Airoldi, L. and Beck, M. W., 2007. Loss, status and trends for coastal marine habitats of Europe, Oceanography And Marine Biology, Vol 45 45, 345-405.
Airoldi, L., Balata, D. and Beck, M. W., 2008. The Gray Zone: Relationships between habitat loss and marine diversity and their applications in conservation, Journal Of Experimental Marine Biology And Ecology 366, 8-15.
Chapin III, F. S., Zavaleta, E. S., Eviner, V. T., Naylor, R. L., Vitousek, P. M., Reynolds, H. L., Hooper, D. U., Lavorel, S., Sala, O. E., Hobbie, S. E., Mack, M. C. and Diaz, S., 2000. Consequences of changing biodiversity, Nature 405, 234-242.
Claudet, J. and Fraschetti, F., 2010. Human-driven impacts on marine habitats: A regional meta-analysis in the Mediterranean Sea, Biological Conservation 143, 2195-2206.
Halpern, B. S., Walbridge, S., Selkoe, K. A., Kappel, C. V., Micheli, F., D'Agrosa, C., Bruno, J. F., Casey, K. S., Ebert, C., Fox, H. E., Fujita, R., Heinemann, D., Lenihan, H. S., Madin, E. M. P., Perry, M. T., Selig, E. R., Spalding, M., Steneck, R. and Watson, R., 2008. A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems, Science 319, 948-952.
Lejeusne, C., Chevaldonné, P., Pergent-Martini, C., Boudouresque, C. F. and Pérez, T., 2010. Climate change effects on a miniature ocean: the highly diverse, highly impacted Mediterranean Sea, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25, 250-260.
Mora, C., 2008. A clear human footprint in the coral reefs of the Caribbean, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275, 767-773.
Naeem, S., Thompson, L. J., Lawler, S. P., Lawton, J. H. and Woodfin, R. M., 1994. Declining biodiversity can alter the performance of ecosystems, Nature 368, 734-737.
Parmesan, C. and Yohe, G., 2003. A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems, Nature 421, 37-42.

Expected outcomes
- At least three scientific publications: a review of the marine health indicators and expert opinion vulnerability indices used until now, a presentation of the methodlogy used to develop the indicators and its application to the Côte Vermeille Natural Marine Park, a presentaiton of the application of such trans-disciplinary indicators to guide management actions and policy decisions. The first two articles will target leading conservaiton journals and the last one will target a policy-oriented journal.
- Presentation of the methodlogy and results in leading internation conference (target: the Third International Marine Conservation Congress in 2013).
- A guidebook for managers to use the indicators for monitoring and adaptive management actions.
- A guidebook for decision-makers to guide their policy decisions.
- Public meetings for results dissemination in the riverine towns.
- We also expect this PhD co-supervision to lead to new scientific collaborations between the two partners involved.

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