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Centre for Sustainable Ocean Science (SOS)

Centre for Sustainable Ocean Science (SOS)

The Centre for Sustainable Ocean Science (SOS) provides transdisciplinary knowledge on wicked problems linked to marine biodiversity and its role in the societal transition to sustainability. SOS is an ÅAU Centre of Excellence funded by the Åbo Akademi University Foundation during 2024–2028.

We are grappling with the triple planetary crisis; biodiversity, climate change and pollution. Ocean science is acutely needed to understand the pressures on and changes to marine biodiversity, which is central to the green transition and society’s shift towards a more sustainable future. SOS delivers the science that can strengthen the consensus on policymaking options, identify solutions, and guide actions for environmental sustainability, equipping us to address the planetary biodiversity crisis.

SOS asks: When and how do human actions interact with marine biodiversity in creating wicked problems? What can be done to solve such challenges?

These questions are studied in the natural marine laboratory in the Archipelago Sea and Åland Island area, as it hosts a plethora of human-nature interactions where biodiversity is at the heart of the challenges and conflicts.

SOS approaches marine wicked problems through reflexive learning in an inter-/transdisciplinary (ITD) framework. This dynamic approach involves learning to work together transdiciplinarily, includes co-creation, and allows adjusting the research to changes in the wicked problems. In practice, this is done utilizing the Living Lab methodology: a research concept that is often defined as a user-centered, open-innovation ecosystem that integrates concurrent research and innovation processes within a public-private-people partnership.

The work is lead by Director Anna Törnroos-Remes and Vice Director Nina Tynkkynen with a steering group of lead researchers within SOS, supported by a scientific advisory group and a community advisory committee. SOS also works closely with and is supported by the Sea Hub network within the wider interdisciplinary research profile The Sea.

The work is structured around 6 workpackages. WPs 1–3 include specific case-studies of wicked problems, while WPs 4–6 draw on these, support this work and synthesise the findings.

Lead: Christoffer Boström

The prerequisites for a healthy and clean sea include functional and resilient ecosystems, which require effective measures such as mitigation of human pressures, implemented area-based conservation and accountability. A major challenge behind these measures lies in understanding the interlinkages between structure (e.g. habitat extent, distribution and density), function (e.g. the physical, chemical and biological processes) and ecosystem services (e.g. provisioning, regulatory, and cultural services). However, the Structure-Function-Services (SFS) chain in marine ecosystems remains highly understudied, making the understanding and conservation of key marine ecosystems challenging.

The objectives of WP1 are to

  1. establish SFS-links for two key habitats in the model area; seagrass meadows and bladderwrack,
  2. link habitat functions to ecosystem services to guide conservation and identify main threats to service provisioning,
  3. improve knowledge transfer of the SFS chain for blue growth sectors such as maritime traffic by considering biodiversity and ecosystem services in public and private decision-making.

Lead: Sonja Salovius-Laurén

This WP seeks solutions to improve food production development in coastal areas (agriculture and fisheries) towards sustainable practices with reduced nutrient enrichment to the sea, and by engaging stakeholders.

The objectives of WP2 are to

  1. identify strategies and prerequisites for restoration of key habitat-forming macrophytes in fish nursery habitats
    to increase natural fish production,
  2. identify solutions to challenges in decision-making and monitoring of aquaculture practices,
  3. mitigate land runoff from agriculture through incentivising agricultural practices.

Lead: Magnus Hellström

WP3 develops science-based solutions for successful co-existence of marine activities and coastal nature. This is done by studying relevant cases, including impacts from coastal homes/cottages (e.g. piers, leisure boating, small-scale dredging), offshore wind farm development, and habitability in the archipelago.

The objectives of WP3 are to

  1. assess multiple stressors (abiotic and anthropogenic) at the land-sea intersection,
  2. develop biodiversity stress mitigation strategies for sustainable use of the land-sea continuum,
  3. promote sustainable coastal human communities and resources.

Lead: Henrik Ringbom

Drawing mainly on the case studies from WPs 1–3, this WP analyses the path towards holistic marine governance and regulation, balancing the protection and use of marine biodiversity. Holistic governance helps to improve coordination across government levels and policy frameworks and to be responsive to changes in human activities and marine ecosystems, increasing the legitimacy of biodiversity governance and regulation.

The objectives of WP4 are to

  1. identify conditions of holistic governance and social acceptability for biodiversity policy success in the Archipelago Sea and beyond,
  2. translate the findings of WPs 1–3 into a workable legal framework that builds upon such holistic governance.

Lead: Nina Tynkkynen

WP5 contributes to a paradigm shift for sustainable ocean science.

The objectives of WP5 are to

  1. analyse and further develop the methods for knowledge co-creation based on WPs 1–4 and 6 (ITD cooperation; living labs, art-science collaboration; other co-creation)
  2. encourage reflexive ITD learning by developing strategies and concepts to manage diverging knowledge-systems of ocean science.

Lead: Christian Pansch-Hattich

This WP supports WPs 1–5 through the integration and connection of approaches, solution-oriented engagement, and through the establishment of new collaborations and novel bottom-up research fields.

The objectives of WP6 are to

  1. coordinate and develop the Living Lab stakeholder engagement,
  2. foster new internal collaborations and enable co-creation around WPs 1–5,
  3. enable mutual engagement of scientists, arts, and society through establishing an ÅAU ocean literacy effort,
  4. strive for a challenge-based learning.

Updated 22.3.2024