Scientists often lament their lack of influence on environmental policy-making. Some proposed solutions, like teaching scientists to communicate more effectively, can be helpful, but are not necessarily sufficient. Instead, connecting science and policy may often require a separate kind of expert: full-time intermediaries who facilitate the complicated exchange of information among scientists, policy-makers, and other stakeholders. In this paper, we describe intermediary efforts by the Lenfest Ocean Program, a grant-making program that funds peer-reviewed research and connects scientists and decision-makers who can take action on an issue. We present case studies of intermediary work on three topics: first, sustainable methods of harvesting bull kelp in the US Pacific Northwest; second, the design of catch share programs in US fisheries; and third, management of forage fish. These case studies suggest that science–policy intermediaries can help scientists make meaningful contributions to public discourse.
Understanding the implications of different management strategies is necessary to identify best conservation trajectories for ecosystems exposed to anthropogenic stressors. For example, science-based risk assessments at large scales are needed to understand efficacy of different vector management approaches aimed at preventing biological invasions associated with commercial shipping. We conducted a landscape-scale analysis to examine the relative invasion risk of ballast water discharges among different shipping pathways (e.g., Transoceanic, Coastal or Domestic), ecosystems (e.g., freshwater, brackish and marine), and timescales (annual and per discharge event) under current and future management regimes. The arrival and survival potential of nonindigenous species (NIS) was estimated based on directional shipping networks and their associated propagule pressure, environmental similarity between donor-recipient ecosystems (based on salinity and temperature), and effects of current and future management strategies (i.e., ballast water exchange and treatment to meet proposed international biological discharge standards). Our findings show that current requirements for ballast water exchange effectively reduce invasion risk to freshwater ecosystems but are less protective of marine ecosystems because of greater environmental mismatch between source (oceanic) and recipient (freshwater) ecoregions. Future requirements for ballast water treatment are expected to reduce risk of zooplankton NIS introductions across ecosystem types but are expected to be less effective in reducing risk of phytoplankton NIS. This large-scale risk assessment across heterogeneous ecosystems represents a major step towards understanding the likelihood of invasion in relation to shipping networks, the relative efficacy of different invasion management regimes and seizing opportunities to reduce the ecological and economic implications of biological invasions.
Meta-analyses of field studies have shown that biomass, density, species richness, and size of organisms protected by no-take marine reserves generally increase over time. The magnitude and timing of changes in these response variables, however, vary greatly and depend upon the taxonomic groups protected, size and type of reserve, oceanographic regime, and time since the reserve was implemented. We conducted collaborative, fishery-independent surveys of fishes for seven years in and near newly created marine protected areas (MPAs) in central California, USA. Results showed that initially most MPAs contained more and larger fishes than associated reference sites, likely due to differences in habitat quality. The differences between MPAs and reference sites did not greatly change over the seven years of our study, indicating that reserve benefits will be slow to accumulate in California’s temperate eastern boundary current. Fishes in an older reserve that has been closed to fishing since 1973, however, were significantly more abundant and larger than those in associated reference sites. This indicates that reserve benefits are likely to accrue in the California Current ecosystem, but that 20 years or more may be needed to detect significant changes in response variables that are due to MPA implementation. Because of the high spatial and temporal variability of fish recruitment patterns, long-term monitoring is needed to identify positive responses of fishes to protection in the diverse set of habitats in a dynamic eastern boundary current. Qualitative estimates of response variables, such as would be obtained from an expert opinion process, are unlikely to provide an accurate description of MPA performance. Similarly, using one species or one MPA as an indicator is unlikely to provide sufficient resolution to accurately describe the performance of multiple MPAs.
Global sustainability challenges, from maintaining biodiversity to providing clean air and water, are closely interconnected yet often separately studied and managed. Systems integration—holistic approaches to integrating various components of coupled human and natural systems—is critical to understand socioeconomic and environmental interconnections and to create sustainability solutions. Recent advances include the development and quantification of integrated frameworks that incorporate ecosystem services, environmental footprints, planetary boundaries, human-nature nexuses, and telecoupling. Although systems integration has led to fundamental discoveries and practical applications, further efforts are needed to incorporate more human and natural components simultaneously, quantify spillover systems and feedbacks, integrate multiple spatial and temporal scales, develop new tools, and translate findings into policy and practice. Such efforts can help address important knowledge gaps, link seemingly unconnected challenges, and inform policy and management decisions.
As the impact of anthropogenic activity and climate change continue to accelerate rates of degradation on Caribbean coral reefs, conservation and restoration faces greater challenges. At this stage, it is of particular importance in coral reefs to recognize and to understand the structural spatial patterns of benthic assemblages. We developed a field-based framework of a Caribbean reefscape benthic structure by using hermatypic corals as an indicator group of global biodiversity and bio-construction patterns in 11 reefs of the northern sector of the mesoamerican barrier reef system (nsMBRS). Four hundred and seventy four video-transects (50 m long by 0.4 m wide) were performed throughout a gradient of reef complexity from north to south (~400 km) to identify coral species, families and ensembles of corals. Composition and abundance of species, families and ensembles showed differences among reefs. In the northern zone, the reefs had shallow, partial reef developments with low diversities, dominated by Acropora palmata, Siderastrea spp., Pseudodiploria strigosa, and Agaricia tenuifolia. In the central and southern zones, reefs presented extensive developments, high habitat heterogeneity, and the greatest diversity and dominance of Orbicella annularis and Orbicella faveolata. These two species determined the structure and diversity of corals in the central and southern zones of the nsMBRS and their bio-construction in these zones is unique in the Caribbean. Their abundance and distribution depended on the reef habitat area, topographic complexity and species richness. Orbicella species complex were crucial for maintaining the biodiversity and bio-construction of the central and southern zones while A. palmata in the northern zones of the nsMBRS.
A commonly used landscape model to simulate wetland change – the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) – has rarely been explicitly assessed for its prediction accuracy. Here, we evaluated this model using recently proposed neutral models – including the random constraint match model (RCM) and growing cluster model (GrC), which consider the initial landscape conditions instead of starting with a blank or randomized initial map as traditional neutral models do. Thus, the SLAMM's performance, due to processes accounted for in the model, could be more accurately assessed. RCM allocates change randomly in space, while in the GrC, change allocation is prioritized at the locations with pairs of to-be-increased land type and to-be-reduced land type adjacent to each other. The metrics we applied to evaluate the SLAMM vs. the neutral models accounted for five main components in map comparison: (1) reference change simulated correctly as change (hits), (2) reference persistence simulated correctly as persistence (correct rejections), (3) reference change simulated incorrectly as change to the wrong category (wrong hits), (4) reference change simulated incorrectly as persistence (misses), and (5) reference persistence simulated incorrectly as change (false alarms). These methods improved the way that we currently evaluate land change models, where we either do not compare to a neutral model, or the neutral model does not have the same boundary conditions and constraints as the assessed dynamics models. The results showed that the SLAMM could simulate wetland change more accurately compared to the GrC and RCM at a 10-year time step for the lower Pascagoula River basin, Mississippi, with higher hits and correct rejections, and lower misses and false alarms. The magnitude of simulated changes using the SLAMM was 46% of reference changes. The number of wrong hits for the SLAMM was also lower than those for the neutral models after combining some land or water types into broader categories. After the aggregation, the SLAMM performance improved substantially. How the errors of this relatively short-term simulation propagate into longer-term predictions requires further investigation. This study also showed the importance of implementing elevation data with high vertical accuracy, and conducting local calibration when we apply the SLAMM.
Increasing numbers of visitors in marine environments have resulted in a growing importance of social impact understanding such as crowding. This study examines perceived crowding of divers and whale watching tourists in the Azores. Reported encounters and encounter norms for both whale watching boats and divers were studied and minimum acceptable conditions for both activities determined. Perceived crowding was not correlated to specialization of users and only impacted the overall satisfaction of divers. The satisfaction of whale watchers was not altered through perceived crowding. Environmental impacts were not perceived differently by participants reporting different levels of crowding. The five different case study islands showed different levels of crowding. Management interventions to contribute to sustainable and satisfactory marine wildlife experiences include spatial zoning, achieving higher compliance with existing regulations, improved educational and awareness programs and limiting the number of divers at some dive sites.
Governance has long been identified as a crucial part of solving environmental problems. Effective governance supports and encourages adaptive capacity to maintain or improve the conditions of socio-ecological systems. As coastal zones are among the most vulnerable systems to climate change impacts (e.g. sea-level rise), the adaptive capacity of coastal communities to climate change threats will be critical. Human populations will respond both directly and indirectly to these threats and impacts; for instance by adapting resource use and practices (e.g. changing fish targets). In this paper, we apply definitions of resilience, adaptive capacity and vulnerability to the coastal zone socio-ecological system. We focus on organizations and management aspects of governance in coastal Australia. Our approach combines a literature review that highlights key organizational drivers that supports adaptive capacity with interview data from senior resource managers from organizations from across Australia to test the validity of such drivers. The key drivers related to organizational and management issues that are required to build and strengthen the adaptive capacity of Australian coastal communities are: (a) Leadership; (b) Clear responsibilities and flexible organizational framework; (c) Effective integration of knowledge and insights; (d) Learning approach to natural resource management; and (e) Human capacity and coordinated participation in decision-making. Our study showed that natural resource management organizations are clearly concerned about future changes and uncertainties and recognize the need for cooperation and good organizational drivers. However, integration of knowledge and long-term planning to deal with predicted changes in climate is largely lacking; and mismatches between management, organizational and ecosystem boundaries and processes also exist.
Integrated coastal management (ICM) has been introduced and promoted globally for nearly half a century. About 12% of China’s coastline has now come under the ICM governance framework to address the environmental and management challenges. To test the effectiveness of ICM in China, three coastal cities that adopted the ICM framework were selected as case studies. The ICM indicators in terms of governance, environment and socioeconomic aspects were designed for quantitatively evaluating the ICM performance over a 9-year period from 2004 to 2012.The results showed that ICM performance based on governance, coastal environment and socioeconomic aspects in the three improved, indicating that the ICM approach can be effective in promoting the overall sustainability of China’s coastal cities.
Despite potentially considerable advantages over traditional sampling techniques, image-derived indices of habitat complexity have rarely been used to predict patterns in marine biodiversity. Advantages include increased speed and coverage of sampling, avoidance of destructive sampling, and substantially reduced processing time compared to traditional taxonomic approaches, thus providing a starting point for more detailed analysis if warranted. In this study, we test the idea that the mean information gain (MIG) and mean mutual information (MMI), two indices of image heterogeneity that we derived from photographs of marine benthic assemblages, represent good preliminary predictors of biodiversity patterns for 133 benthic invertebrate and algal taxa on jetty pylons in Gulf St Vincent, South Australia. Both MIG and MMI were spatially structured, with evidence of among-site differences that were also evident in the benthic data. When combined with information on the spatial structure within the dataset (site and depth), MIG and MMI explained ∼35% of deviance in invertebrate species richness, ∼43% in Shannon's evenness and up to 50% of dissimilarity in species composition. This explanatory power is of a similar magnitude to many other, less readily available, surrogate measures of biodiversity. These results corroborate the idea that indices of image heterogeneity can provide useful and cost-effective complements to traditional methods used for describing (or predicting) marine epibiota biodiversity patterns. This approach can be applied to many case studies for which photographic data are available, and has the potential to result in substantial time and cost savings.