The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is addressing the issue of nutrient loading to the marine environment integrated into a number of its major science programmes. In a broader context the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) is designed and being implemented to embrace the oceans as a single entity, to provide a global view of the ocean system. It is a permanent global system for observations, modelling and analysis of marine and ocean variables to support operational ocean services worldwide. GOOS provides accurate descriptions of the present state of the oceans, including living resources; continuous forecasts of the future conditions of the sea for as far ahead as possible, and the basis for forecasts of climate change. GOOS is a system of programmes, each of which is working on different and complementary aspects of establishing an operational ocean observation capability for all of the world's nations. GOOS is the oceanographic component of GEOSS, the Global Earth Observing System of Systems.
The overall goal of the IOC Harmful Algal Bloom Programme is to foster the effective management of, and scientific research on, harmful algal blooms (HABs) in order to understand their causes, predict their occurrences, and mitigate their effects. Concurrent with escalating influences of human activities on coastal ecosystems, the environmental and economic impacts of HABs have increased. The relationship between HABs and the increasing nutrient enrichment of many of the world’s coastal and estuarine environments is of particular concern. This is specifically addressed through the IOC-SCOR research programme on the Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (GEOHAB) which is aims at fostering international co-operative research on HABs in ecosystem types sharing common features, comparing the key species involved and the oceanographic processes that influence their population dynamics. The GEOHAB Core Research Project on HABs in Eutrophic Systems is facilitating research to begin to understand how trends in nutrient pollution relate to the development of algal blooms in general, as well as how specific nutrients promote the development of particular species. This work is carried out with the full acknowledgement that it is imperative to know how nutrient loading interacts with other major ecosystem changes, such as climate change or over-fishing, which also alter ecosystems and pathways of nutrient transport. The key to this knowledge is an understanding of the ecology and oceanography of HABs at both regional and global scales; comparative field and laboratory approaches combined with advanced observational and modeling tools are required.
The IOC Integrated Coatsal Area Management (ICAM) Programme facilitates investigation of interdisciplinary coastal processes to improve the scientific basis for the management of coastal seas including development of scientific methodologies and techniques to suit the needs of coastal managers; Study of human communities and ecosystem interactions, in coastal areas, and in particular in coastal urban environment, though the development of environmental and performance indicators. The present activities of the IOC/ICAM programme includes the IOC /LOICZ / SCOR Study Group on the Assessment and Management Implications of Submarine Groundwater Discharge into the Coastal Zone and sponsoring of the LOICZ Basins Project, which is looking at the evaluation of the role of catchment basins in cycling of nutrients, sediments, water, in coastal areas and the development of indicators of environmental change and sustainability. The programme is a co-sponsor of the ICM Global Web Service – a coastal area management information clearinghouse.
The IOC Marine Spatial Planning (a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that have been specified through a political process) initiative help countries to operationalize ecosystem-based management by finding space for biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic development in marine environments. One way to do this is through marine spatial planning. IOC work focuses on moving marine spatial planning beyond the conceptual level.