Marine ecosystems provide fundamental climate regulation, food and cultural services. FutureMARES focuses on socially responsible and economically viable actions, strategies and nature-based solutions to safeguard these ecosystem services.

The programme will increase knowledge on connections between species and characteristics of communities and the impact of climate change on ecological functions and ecosystem services. To this end, the best available data from monitoring programmes will be analysed, dedicated experiments will be carried out and calculations will be made with the most advanced models. Physical-biochemical projections will identify climate hotspots and refugia. Shifts in distribution and production of key and threatened species and consequences for biodiversity will be predicted within different climate change scenarios. This will reveal potential ecological benefits, feedbacks and trade-offs. New, socio-ecological vulnerability analyses will map the severity of climate impacts on different ecosystem services and dependent human communities.

These physical, ecological, social and economic analyses will be integrated into three nature-based climate solutions:

(i) restoration of habitat-forming species that buffer coastal systems from adverse impacts of climate change, by improving water quality and storing carbon, and thus acting as climate rescuers

ii) protection specifically targeted at the range of climate change risks to habitat suitability for biota and food web integrity (e.g. closed areas) and protection of threatened species (e.g. charismatic megafauna), and

(iii) sustainable, ecosystem-based harvesting (fisheries and aquaculture) of seafood.

The aim of FutureMARES is to provide socially responsible and economically viable actions, strategies and nature-based solutions for sustainable human co-use for climate adaptation and mitigation to conserve future marine biodiversity and ecosystem services and maximise natural capital. The contribution of Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) and Wageningen Economic Research (WEcR) focuses on coastal seas and estuarine ecosystems, and more specifically on oyster reefs in the southwestern delta and the North Sea. Oyster reefs can play a role in the sustainability of a resilient North Sea by providing substrate on which other organisms can settle (increase in biodiversity) or in which they can take shelter (increase in productivity).

In addition, oyster reefs in the southwestern delta can act as breakwaters that grow with rising sea levels and thus help to adapt to accelerated sea level rise and increasing weather extremes. Finally, oysters may contribute to carbon storage through their shell formation and sediment capture. Several restoration projects are under development, but there is a need for a better understanding of the potential contribution of oyster reefs to climate adaptation and mitigation.

The WUR contribution to FutureMARES concerns (1) field and laboratory measurements with a.o. incubation chambers on oyster reefs to determine the carbon storage as a possible mitigation of climate change, (2) laboratory experiments with a.o. (2) laboratory experiments with oyster heart rate monitors to determine the sensitivity, adaptation and recovery capacity of oysters (Pacific oysters and Flat oysters, originating from Norway to Spain) to changes in temperature and food supply as well as adaptation to increasing weather extremes due to climate change, (3) analysis of the economic value of oyster reefs and their ecosystem services and cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions such as building oyster reefs compared to artificial structures such as dikes.

New knowledge that FutureMARES will deliver concerns the quantification of carbon storage and ecosystem services of oyster reefs and the sensitivity to climate change of oyster populations from different climate zones. Construction of oyster reefs creates new nature in the North Sea. It increases biodiversity (more hard substrate) and, if successful, can eventually be combined with oyster harvesting.