Strong decreases in greenhouse gas emissions are required to meet the reduction trajectory resolved within the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, even these decreases will not avert serious stress and damage to life on Earth, and additional steps are needed to boost the resilience of ecosystems, safeguard their wildlife, and protect their capacity to supply vital goods and services. We discuss how well-managed marine reserves may help marine ecosystems and people adapt to five prominent impacts of climate change: acidification, sea-level rise, intensification of storms, shifts in species distribution, and decreased productivity and oxygen availability, as well as their cumulative effects. We explore the role of managed ecosystems in mitigating climate change by promoting carbon sequestration and storage and by buffering against uncertainty in management, environmental fluctuations, directional change, and extreme events. We highlight both strengths and limitations and conclude that marine reserves are a viable low-tech, cost-effective adaptation strategy that would yield multiple cobenefits from local to global scales, improving the outlook for the environment and people into the future.
Although it seems obvious that with more data, the predictive capacity of ecological models should improve, a way to demonstrate this fundamental result has not been so obvious. In particular, when the standard models themselves are inadequate (von Bertalanffy, extended Ricker etc.) no additional data will improve performance. By using time series from the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science Continuous Plankton Recorder, we demonstrate that long-term observations reveal both the prevalence of nonlinear processes in species abundances and an improvement in out-of-sample predictability as the number of observations increase. The empirical results presented here quantitatively demonstrate the importance of long-term temporal data collection programs for improving ecosystem models and forecasts, and to better support environmental management actions.
While ecological links between ecosystems have been long recognised, management rarely crosses ecosystem boundaries. Coral reefs are susceptible to damage through terrestrial run-off, and failing to account for this within management threatens reef protection. In order to quantify the extent to that coral reef users are willing to support management actions to improve ecosystem quality, we conducted a choice experiment with SCUBA divers on the island of Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands. Specifically, we estimated their willingness to pay to reduce terrestrial overgrazing as a means to improve reef health. Willingness to pay was estimated using the multinomial, random parameter and latent class logit models. Willingness to pay for improvements to reef quality was positive for the majority of respondents. Estimates from the latent class model determined willingness to pay for reef improvements of between $31.17 - $413.18/year, dependent on class membership. This represents a significant source of funding for terrestrial conservation, and illustrates the potential for user fees to be applied across ecosystem boundaries. We argue that such across-ecosystem-boundary funding mechanisms are an important avenue for future investigation in many connected systems.
Although critical tools for protecting ocean habitats, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are sometimes challenged for social impacts and conflicts they may generate. Some conflicts have an economic base, which, once understood, can be used to resolve associated socioenvironmental problems. We addressed how the fish trade in an MPA that combines no-take zones and tourist or resident zones creates incentives for increased fisheries. We performed a value chain analysis following the fish supply and trade through interviews that assessed consumer demand and preference. The results showed a simple and closed value chain driven by tourism (70% of the consumption). Both tourists and local consumers preferred high trophic level species (predators), but the former preferred large pelagics (tuna and dolphinfish) and the latter preferred reef species (barracuda and snapper). Pelagic predators are caught with fresh sardines, which are sometimes located only in the no-take zone. Pelagic species are mainly served as fillet, and the leftover fish parts end up as waste, an issue that, if properly addressed, can help reduce fishing pressure. Whereas some of the target species may be sustainable (e.g., dolphinfish), others are more vulnerable (e.g., wahoo) and should not be intensively fished. We advise setting stricter limits to the number of tourists visiting MPAs, according to their own capacity and peculiarities, in order to avoid conflicts with conservations goals through incentives for increased resource use.
Over 5,000 marine protected areas (MPAs) exist around the world. Most are small (median size of ~2 km2) and designed primarily for the conservation of a single flagship species. Internationally, there is an increasing focus on ecologically representative conservation; however the contribution of these small MPAs to the protection of regional biodiversity is often unknown. This paper presents a benthic habitat mapping exercise and reports on measures of biodiversity in the Eastport MPA and the nearby area of Newman Sound in Eastern Canada. The Eastport MPA is a 2.1 km2 no-take reserve designated in 2005, based on a voluntary fishery closure implemented by the local community in 1997. The primary goal of the Eastport MPA is to protect and sustain the American lobster (Homarus americanus) population, supporting a local commercial fishery. Benthic habitats were characterized and mapped using multibeam echosounder data and seafloor videos. Three statistically distinct benthic habitats were identified within the boundaries of the MPA: “shallow rocky,” “sand and cobble,” and “sand.” The distribution of species is primarily driven by depth and substrate type. The shallow rocky habitat (48% of the study area) contains complex bedrock and boulder features with high macroalgal cover. These characteristics are associated with juvenile and adult American lobster habitat. However, comparison of the MPA habitats to the surrounding Newman Sound area indicate that this small MPA contributes little to the conservation of the regional marine biodiversity. We recommend that adaptive management mechanisms be used to review such MPAs and expand them to better protect ecosystems representative of their regions.
The impacts of climate change, owing to their potentially vast reach and scale, embody a critical challenge for fisheries management organizations. We conduct a systematic literature review to present an overview of how the peer-reviewed academic literature recommends fisheries management frameworks should respond to the climate change-driven uncertainty, vulnerability and risk facing resource bases. Our review identifies 21 different potential management responses. Adaptive management was the most commonly identified strategy, with institutional capacity development and input/output controls also frequently cited. We contrast our findings with illustrative cases characterizing management practice and outcomes in RFMOs, and argue that the ability of RFMOs to implement the climate change mitigation strategies identified in our review is a function of an organization's decision-making rules. We argue that consensus-based decision-making policies limit adaptiveness, and that a ‘responsiveness gap’ exists between consensus and majority-based decision-making frameworks. This gap will become more evident, and increase in importance, as the impacts of climate change shift from potential to kinetic. Considering that decision-making rules in RFMOs are unlikely to change, we argue that increased analytical effort concentrated on institutional contexts and member state interest complexes may promote adaptive management, expediting the pace at which scientific recommendations and findings inform policy and practise in RFMOs.
Through systematic Reef Life Survey censuses of rocky reef fishes, invertebrates and macroalgae at eight marine reserves across northern New Zealand and the Kermadec Islands, we investigated whether a system of no-take marine reserves generates consistent biodiversity outcomes. Ecological responses of reef assemblages to protection from fishing, including potential trophic cascades, were assessed using a control-impact design for the six marine reserves studied with associated reference sites, and also by comparing observations at reserve sites with predictions from random forest models that assume reserve locations are fished. Reserve sites were characterised by higher abundance and biomass of large fishes than fished sites, most notably for snapper Chrysophrys auratus, with forty-fold higher observed biomass inside relative to out. In agreement with conceptual models, significant reserve effects not only reflected direct interactions between fishing and targeted species (higher large fish biomass; higher snapper and lobster abundance), but also second order interactions (lower urchin abundance), third order interactions (higher kelp cover), and fourth order interactions (lower understory algal cover). Unexpectedly, we also found: (i) a consistent trend for higher (~20%) Ecklonia cover across reserves relative to nearby fished sites regardless of lobster and urchin density, (ii) an inconsistent response of crustose coralline algae to urchin density, (iii) low cover of other understory algae in marine reserves with few urchins, and (iv) more variable fish and benthic invertebrate communities at reserve relative to fished locations. Overall, reef food webs showed complex but consistent responses to protection from fishing in well-enforced temperate New Zealand marine reserves. The small proportion of the northeastern New Zealand coastal zone located within marine reserves (~0.2%) encompassed a disproportionately large representation of the full range of fish and benthic invertebrate biodiversity within this region.
Marine litter and its accumulation on beaches is an issue of major current concern due to its significant environmental and economic impacts. Yet our understanding of spatio-temporal trends in beach litter and the drivers of these trends are currently limited by the availability of robust long term data sets. Here we present a unique data set collected systematically once a month, every month over a six year period for nine beaches along the North Coast of Cornwall, U.K. to investigate the key drivers of beach litter in the Bude, Padstow and Porthcothan areas. Overall, an average of 0.02 litter items m−2 per month were collected during the six year study, with Bude beaches (Summerleaze, Crooklets and Widemouth) the most impacted (0.03 ± 0.004 litter items m−2 per month). The amount of litter collected each month decreased by 18% and 71% respectively for Padstow (Polzeath, Trevone and Harlyn) and Bude areas over the 6 years, possibly related to the regular cleaning, however litter increased by 120% despite this monthly cleaning effort on the Padstow area beaches. Importantly, at all nine beaches the litter was dominated by small, fragmented plastic pieces and rope fibres, which account for 32% and 17% of all litter items collected, respectively. The weathered nature of these plastics indicates they have been in the marine environment for an extended period of time. So, whilst classifying the original source of these plastics is not possible, it can be concluded they are not the result of recent public littering. This data highlights both the extent of the marine litter problem and that current efforts to reduce littering by beach users will only tackle a fraction of this litter. Such information is vital for developing effective management strategies for beach and marine litter at both regional and global levels.
Marine debris poses considerable threat to biodiversity and ecosystems and has been identified as a stressor for a variety of marine life. Here we present results from the first study quantifying the amount and type of debris accumulation in Maui leeward waters and relate this to cetacean distribution to identify areas where marine debris may present a higher threat. Transect surveys were conducted within the 4-island region of Maui, Hawai'i from April 1, 2013 to April 15, 2016. Debris was found in all areas of the study region with higher concentrations observed where the Au'au, Kealaikahiki, and Alalakeiki channels converge. The degree of overlap between debris and cetaceans varied among species but was largest for humpback whales, which account for the largest portion of reported entanglements in the 4-island region of Maui. Identifying areas of high debris-cetacean density overlap can facilitate species management and debris removal efforts.
The global ocean is at a crossroads with pressure coming from many sides. Climate change, overfishing, pollution, shipping, coastal development: there is no shortage of threats facing the marine environment. Recently, an increasing number of philanthropists and aid agencies have risen to the challenge to support solutions that are within reach. Given the urgency, how can funders and advocates understand the most pressing threats and promising solutions and therefore prioritize where to make an impact? Our Shared Seas: A 2017 Overview of Ocean Threats and Conservation Funding was commissioned by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation to provide a guide to the primary ocean threats, trends, and solutions to help funders, advocates and governments make better, faster, and more informed decisions. The message that emerges from this synthesis is clear: when managed well, ocean resources have the potential to simultaneously support thriving ecosystems, sustainable development, and increased fishing profits. But human impacts are swiftly pushing the ocean to its brink. There are many issues of interest in this guide. For our foundation, three topics in particular strike us as essential for the future health of our ocean: tackling overfishing caused by illegal, unregulated and unreported activities; mitigating and addressing the effects of climate change on the ocean; and improving our scientific capacity to understand and manage all of these compounding pressures.