In coupled human and natural systems ecosystem services form the link between ecosystem function and what humans want and need from their surroundings. Interactions between natural and human components are bidirectional and define the dynamics of the total system. Here we describe the MIMES, an analytical framework designed to assess the dynamics associated with ecosystem service function and human activities. MIMES integrate diverse types of knowledge and elucidate how benefits from ecosystem services are gained and lost. In MIMES, users formalize how materials are transformed between natural, human, built, and social capitals. This information is synthesized within a systems model to forecast ecosystem services and human-use dynamics under alternative scenarios. The MIMES requires that multiple ecological and human dynamics be specified, and that outputs may be understood through different temporal and spatial lenses to assess the effects of different actions in the short and long term and at different spatial scales. Here we describe how MIMES methodologies were developed in association with three case studies: a global application, a watershed model, and a marine application. We discuss the advantages and disadvantage of the MIMES approach and compare it to other broadly used ecosystem service assessment tools.
In the present work, abundance, spatial distribution and qualitative composition, of benthic marine litter, were investigated in five study areas from the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas (Saronikos, Patras and Echinades Gulfs; Limassol Gulf; Constanta Bay). Surveys were performed using the monitoring protocol proposed by the Technical Group for Marine Litter. Densities ranged from 24 items/km2 to 1211 items/km2, with the Saronikos Gulf being the most affected area. Plastics were predominant in all study areas ranging from 45.2% to 95%. Metals and Glass/Ceramics reached maximum values of 21.9% and of 22.4%. The size distribution of litter items showed that ⩾50% fall into medium size categories (10 × 10 cm, 20 × 20 cm) along with an elevated percentage of small-sized (<5 × 5 cm) plastic litter items. The comparative analysis of the data highlighted the dependence of the marine litter problem on many local factors (human sources and oceanographic conditions) and the urgent need for specific actions.
There is growing concern that modifications to the global environment such as ocean acidification and increased ultraviolet radiation may interact with anthropogenic pollutants to adversely affect the future marine environment. Despite this, little is known about the nature of the potential risks posed by such interactions. Here, we performed a multifactorial microcosm experiment to assess the impact of ocean acidification, ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation and oil hydrocarbon contamination on sediment chemistry, the microbial community (composition and function) and biochemical marker response of selected indicator species. We found that increased ocean acidification and oil contamination in the absence of UV-B will significantly alter bacterial composition by, among other things, greatly reducing the relative abundance of Desulfobacterales, known to be important oil hydrocarbon degraders. Along with changes in bacterial composition, we identified concomitant shifts in the composition of oil hydrocarbons in the sediment and an increase in oxidative stress effects on our indicator species. Interestingly, our study identifies UV-B as a critical component in the interaction between these factors, as its presence alleviates harmful effects caused by the combination of reduced pH and oil pollution. The model system used here shows that the interactive effect of reduced pH and oil contamination can adversely affect the structure and functioning of sediment benthic communities, with the potential to exacerbate the toxicity of oil hydrocarbons in marine ecosystems.
Certain stony corals can alternate between a calcifying colonial form and noncalcifying solitary polyps, supporting the hypothesis that corals have survived through geologic timescale periods of unfavorable calcification conditions. However, the mechanisms enabling this biological plasticity are yet to be identified. Here we show that incubation of two coral species (Pocillopora damicornis and Oculina patagonica) under reduced pH conditions (pH 7.2) simulating past ocean acidification induce tissue-specific apoptosis that leads to the dissociation of polyps from coenosarcs. This in turn leads to the breakdown of the coenosarc and, as a consequence, to loss of coloniality. Our data show that apoptosis is initiated in the polyps and that once dissociation between polyp and coenosarc terminates, apoptosis subsides. After reexposure of the resulting solitary polyps to normal pH (pH 8.2), both coral species regenerated coenosarc tissues and resumed calcification. These results indicate that regulation of coloniality is under the control of the polyp, the basic modular unit of the colony. A mechanistic explanation for several key evolutionarily important phenomena that occurred throughout coral evolution is proposed, including mechanisms that permitted species to survive the third tier of mass extinctions.
The genetic enhancement of wild animals and plants for characteristics that benefit human populations has been practiced for thousands of years, resulting in impressive improvements in commercially valuable species. Despite these benefits, genetic manipulations are rarely considered for noncommercial purposes, such as conservation and restoration initiatives. Over the last century, humans have driven global climate change through industrialization and the release of increasing amounts of CO2, resulting in shifts in ocean temperature, ocean chemistry, and sea level, as well as increasing frequency of storms, all of which can profoundly impact marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are highly diverse ecosystems that have suffered massive declines in health and abundance as a result of these and other direct anthropogenic disturbances. There is great concern that the high rates, magnitudes, and complexity of environmental change are overwhelming the intrinsic capacity of corals to adapt and survive. Although it is important to address the root causes of changing climate, it is also prudent to explore the potential to augment the capacity of reef organisms to tolerate stress and to facilitate recovery after disturbances. Here, we review the risks and benefits of the improvement of natural and commercial stocks in noncoral reef systems and advocate a series of experiments to determine the feasibility of developing coral stocks with enhanced stress tolerance through the acceleration of naturally occurring processes, an approach known as (human)-assisted evolution, while at the same time initiating a public dialogue on the risks and benefits of this approach.
A rare opportunity to test hypotheses about potential fishery benefits of large-scale closures was initiated in July 2004 when an additional 28.4% of the 348,000 km2 Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region of Queensland, Australia was closed to all fishing. Advice to the Australian and Queensland governments that supported this initiative predicted these additional closures would generate minimal (10%) initial reductions in both catch and landed value within the GBR area with recovery of catches becoming apparent after three years. To test these predictions, commercial fisheries data from the GBR area and from the two adjacent (non-GBR) areas of Queensland were compared for the periods immediately prior to, and after the closures were implemented.
The observed means for total annual catch and value within the GBR declined from pre-closure (2000-2003) levels of 12,780t and $160 million, to initial post-closure (2005-2008) levels of 8,143t and $102 million; decreases of 35% and 36% respectively. Because the reference areas in the non-GBR had minimal changes in catch and value, the beyond-BACI analyses estimated initial net-reductions within the GBR of 35% for both total catch and value. There was no evidence of recovery in total catch levels or any comparative improvement in catch-rates within the GBR nine years after implementation. These results are not consistent with the advice to governments that the closures would have minimal initial impacts and rapidly generate benefits to fisheries in the GBR through increased juvenile recruitment and adult 'spillovers'. Instead, the absence of evidence of recovery in catches or catch-rates to date currently support an alternative hypothesis that where there is already effective fisheries management, the closing of areas to all fishing will generate reductions in overall catches similar to the percentage of the fished area that is closed.
Whenever satisfied anglers are an important objective of recreational fisheries management, understanding how trip outcomes influence satisfaction reports is critical. While anglers, generally, prefer high catch rates and large fish, the relative importance of these catch outcomes for catch satisfaction has not been established across species and angler types. We examined relationships between angler specialization, trip outcomes (both catch and non-catch characteristics such as crowding), and catch satisfaction across six freshwater fish species in northern Germany. As expected, catch satisfaction was primarily determined by catch rate and fish size in all fish species; however, the relative importance of these two outcomes varied considerably across species and among angler types that differed by commitment to fishing. We found a diminishing marginal return of satisfaction for increasing catch rate for all but small-bodied cyprinid species, while increasing size of largest retained fish monotonically increased catch satisfaction in all species we examined. Non-catch outcomes (e.g., the number of other anglers seen while fishing) also had a significant negative influence on catch satisfaction, suggesting that non-catch factors are important in establishing expectations and for contextual evaluation of catch outcomes. We also determined that diversified trips made anglers more satisfied and that all else being equal, specialized anglers increased catch satisfaction from travel and fishing time. The results highlight the importance for managers to consider their particular mix of anglers as well as the fish species present when setting regulations aimed at increasing angler satisfaction.
Documenting the diversity of marine life is challenging because many species are cryptic, small, and rare, and belong to poorly known groups. New sequencing technologies, especially when combined with standardized sampling, promise to make comprehensive biodiversity assessments and monitoring feasible on a large scale. We used this approach to characterize patterns of diversity on oyster reefs across a range of geographic scales comprising a temperate location [Virginia (VA)] and a subtropical location [Florida (FL)]. Eukaryotic organisms that colonized multilayered settlement surfaces (autonomous reef monitoring structures) over a 6-mo period were identified by cytochrome c oxidase subunit I barcoding (>2-mm mobile organisms) and metabarcoding (sessile and smaller mobile organisms). In a total area of ∼15.64 m2 and volume of ∼0.09 m3, 2,179 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were recorded from 983,056 sequences. However, only 10.9% could be matched to reference barcodes in public databases, with only 8.2% matching barcodes with both genus and species names. Taxonomic coverage was broad, particularly for animals (22 phyla recorded), but 35.6% of OTUs detected via metabarcoding could not be confidently assigned to a taxonomic group. The smallest size fraction (500 to 106 μm) was the most diverse (more than two-thirds of OTUs). There was little taxonomic overlap between VA and FL, and samples separated by ∼2 m were significantly more similar than samples separated by ∼100 m. Ground-truthing with independent assessments of taxonomic composition indicated that both presence–absence information and relative abundance information are captured by metabarcoding data, suggesting considerable potential for ecological studies and environmental monitoring.