Operationalizing Ocean Health: Toward Integrated Research on Ocean Health and Recovery to Achieve Ocean Sustainability

Andrea Franke, Thorsten Blenckner, Carlos M. Duarte, Konrad Ott, Lora E. Fleming, Avan Antia, Thorsten B.H. Reusch, Christine Bertram, Jonas Hein, Ulrike Kronfeld-Goharani, Jan Dierking, Annegret Kuhn, Chie Sato, Erik van Doorn, Marlene Wall, Markus Schartau, Rolf Karez, Larry Crowder, David Keller, Anja EngelUte Hentschel, Enno Prigge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Protecting the ocean has become a major goal of international policy as human activities increasingly endanger the integrity of the ocean ecosystem, often summarized as “ocean health.” By and large, efforts to protect the ocean have failed because, among other things, (1) the underlying socio-ecological pathways have not been properly considered, and (2) the concept of ocean health has been ill defined. Collectively, this prevents an adequate societal response as to how ocean ecosystems and their vital functions for human societies can be protected and restored. We review the confusion surrounding the term “ocean health” and suggest an operational ocean-health framework in line with the concept of strong sustainability. Given the accelerating degeneration of marine ecosystems, the restoration of regional ocean health will be of increasing importance. Our advocated transdisciplinary and multi-actor framework can help to advance the implementation of more active measures to restore ocean health and safeguard human health and well-being.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-565
Number of pages9
JournalOne Earth
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-02-21
Acknowledgements: This Perspective is based on the results of the workshop “Integrated Science for Future Ocean Health and Recovery,” financed by the Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean.” The workshop took place on June 7, 2018, in Kiel, Germany. The authors acknowledge the funding of travel grants and workshop organization by the Cluster of Excellence and especially the support of its speakers, Profs. Dr. Martin Visbeck, Dr. Ralph Schneider, and Dr. Nele Matz-Lück. Furthermore, the authors thank all participants of the workshop for their contributions and Susanne Landis (@scienstration) for the graphic design. L.E.F. acknowledges funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grants 774567 (H2020 SOPHIE Project) and 666773 (H2020 BlueHealth Project) and from the UK's Global Challenges Research Fund via the United Kingdom Research and Innovation under grant NE/P021107/1 to the Blue Communities project. T.B. acknowledges funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant 820989 (project COMFORT, “Our common future ocean in the Earth system—quantifying coupled cycles of carbon, oxygen, and nutrients for determining and achieving safe operating spaces with respect to tipping points”). C.B. acknowledges funding from the Kiel Marine Science Centre for Interdisciplinary Marine Science at Kiel University. C.M.D. was funded by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. A.F. E.P. and T.B. conceptualized the overall manuscript with expertise and feedback from all authors. A.F. E.P. K.O. L.E.F. and C.S. wrote the original draft. T.B. C.M.D. A.A. T.B.H.R. C.B. J.H. U.K.-G. J.D. A.K. E.v.D. M.W. M.S. R.K. L.C. and D.K. contributed to the writing and editing of the manuscript. All authors reviewed, edited, and approved the manuscript. A.E. and U.H. acquired the funding. C.M.D. serves as a member of the advisory board of the Red Sea Development Company.


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