While invasive species often threaten biodiversity and human well-being, their potential to enhance functioning by offsetting the loss of native habitat has rarely been considered. We manipulated the abundance of the nonnative, habitat-forming seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla in large plots (25 m2) on southeastern US intertidal landscapes to assess impacts on multiple ecosystem functions underlying coastal ecosystem services. We document that in the absence of native habitat formers, this invasion has an overall positive, density-dependent impact across a diverse set of ecosystem processes (e.g., abundance and richness of nursery taxa, flow attenuation). Manipulation of invader abundance revealed both thresholds and saturations in the provisioning of ecosystem functions. Taken together, these findings call into question the focus of traditional invasion research and management that assumes negative effects of nonnatives, and emphasize the need to consider context-dependence and integrative measurements when assessing the impact of an invader, including density dependence, multifunctionality, and the status of native habitat formers. This work supports discussion of the idea that where native foundation species have been lost, invasive habitat formers may be considered as sources of valuable ecosystem functions.
Current marine oil spill detection and monitoring methods using high-resolution remote sensing imagery are quite limited. This study presented a new bottom-up and top-down visual saliency model. We used Landsat 8, GF-1, MAMS, HJ-1 oil spill imagery as dataset. A simplified, graph-based visual saliency model was used to extract bottom-up saliency. It could identify the regions with high visual saliency object in the ocean. A spectral similarity match model was used to obtain top-down saliency. It could distinguish oil regions and exclude the other salient interference by spectrums. The regions of interest containing oil spills were integrated using these complementary saliency detection steps. Then, the genetic neural network was used to complete the image classification. These steps increased the speed of analysis. For the test dataset, the average running time of the entire process to detect regions of interest was 204.56 s. During image segmentation, the oil spill was extracted using a genetic neural network. The classification results showed that the method had a low false-alarm rate (high accuracy of 91.42%) and was able to increase the speed of the detection process (fast runtime of 19.88 s). The test image dataset was composed of different types of features over large areas in complicated imaging conditions. The proposed model was proved to be robust in complex sea conditions.
Here, I explore the system-level consequences of learning and adaptation among fish and fishers. The fundamental idea is that the cost of acquiring the knowledge needed to resolve uncertainty is the principal driver of social and spatial organization. This cost limits agents’ actions and leads them to prefer relatively persistent associations with familiar agents and places. When all agents act in this way, the regularity and self-reinforcing nature of familiarity leads to the emergence of a self-organized system. Systems like this are characterized by diverse, place-based, and relatively durable groups, groups of groups, and rough hierarchical structure. This occurs in both the natural and human parts of the system. The costs of resolving uncertainty also determine the interactions of fish and fishers. The uncertainty of search leads fishers preferentially to target older fish and aggregations of fish. These are the repositories and mechanisms for the replication of the knowledge needed for self-organization. The loss of this information selectively, but unintentionally, disrupts the behavioral regularity that organizes the natural system, leading eventually to its disorganization. From this theoretical perspective, sustainable fishing requires conservation of the knowledge in DNA and memory because this is the fundamental basis for the self-organization of the natural system. Collective action is also subject to the costs of resolving uncertainty. In complex systems, these costs are minimized at the local level in the system, where the most direct, but not the only, feedback occurs. This implies the need for multiscale governance with an emphasis on collective learning through localized science and user participation. Finally, the complexity of ecosystem interactions argues for qualitative harvesting rules governing how, when, and where fishing takes place. These rules are most likely to generate a persistent signal and rapid learning, but only when combined with effective governance.
We synthesize impediments for evaluating effects to seabirds from open ocean hydrocarbon releases. Effects on seabirds from ship discharges, spills, and well blowouts often are poorly detected and monitored far from land. Regulatory regimes for ocean spills can result in monitoring efforts that are not entirely transparent. We illustrate how interdisciplinary technologies address defi- cits that hamper individual or population level assessments for seabirds, and we demonstrate where emerging technologies might be engaged to bridge gaps in oil spill monitoring. Although acute mortality from direct oil exposure poses the greatest risk to seabirds, other hazards from light-attraction, flaring, collisions, chronic pollution, and hydrocarbon inhalation around oil infrastructure also may induce bird mortality in the deep ocean.
The changing Arctic sea-ice cover is likely to impact the trans-border exchange of sea ice between the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Arctic nations, affecting the risk of ice-rafted contamination. We apply the Lagrangian Ice Tracking System (LITS) to identify sea-ice formation events and track sea ice to its melt locations. Most ice (52%) melts within 100 km of where it is formed; ca. 21% escapes from its EEZ. Thus, most contaminants will be released within an ice parcel's originating EEZ, while material carried by over 1 00,000 km2 of ice—an area larger than France and Germany combined—will be released to other nations' waters. Between the periods 1988–1999 and 2000–2014, sea-ice formation increased by ∼17% (roughly 6 million km2 vs. 5 million km2 annually). Melting peaks earlier; freeze-up begins later; and the central Arctic Ocean is more prominent in both formation and melt in the later period. The total area of ice transported between EEZs increased, while transit times decreased: for example, Russian ice reached melt locations in other nations' EEZs an average of 46% faster while North American ice reached destinations in Eurasian waters an average of 37% faster. Increased trans-border exchange is mainly a result of increased speed (∼14% per decade), allowing first-year ice to escape the summer melt front, even as the front extends further north. Increased trans-border exchange over shorter times is bringing the EEZs of the Arctic nations closer together, which should be taken into account in policy development—including establishment of marine-protected areas.
Plain Language Summary
We use data from satellite images to identify the formation, drift tracks, and melt locations of sea ice in the Arctic. Most ice melts locally: only about 21% is exported from the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which it is formed. That export is nonetheless about 1,000,000 km2 each year. As the ice cover has thinned and the summer sea ice has retreated in a warming Arctic, formation and melt locations have moved further north, ice drifts have accelerated, and the area of ice formation and melt has increased. We looked at ice formation and transport between the EEZs of the Arctic nations, and broke the record into two periods: 1988–1999 and 2000–2014. As the Arctic warms, more ice is transported between EEZs and it is arriving at the receiving EEZ faster, than in the past. Between the two study periods: Sea ice velocity increased by about 14%/decade; Russian ice reached melt locations in other nations' EEZs 46% faster; and North American ice reached Eurasian destinations 37% faster. Exchanges of ice have increased as a result. For example, export of ice from Russia to Norway increased by 11% and export from Alaska to Russia by 16%.
A good understanding of social factors that lead to marine ecological change is important to developing sustainable global fisheries. We used balanced panel models and conducted cross-national time-series analyses (1970–2010) of 122 nations to examine how economic prosperity and population growth affected the sustainability of marine ecosystems. We used catches in economic exclusive zone (EEZ); mean trophic level of fishery landings (MTL); primary production required to sustain catches (expressed as percentage of local primary production [%PPR]); and an index of ecosystem overfishing (i.e., the loss in secondary production index [L index]) as indicators of ecological change in marine ecosystems. The EEZ catch, %PPR, and L index declined gradually after gross domestic product (GDP) per capita reached $15,000, $14,000, and $19,000, respectively, and MTL increased steadily once GDP per capita exceeded $20,000. These relationships suggest that economic growth and biodiversity conservation are compatible goals. However, increasing human populations would degrade marine ecosystems. Specifically, a doubling of human population caused an increase in the %PPR of 17.1% and in the L index of 0.0254 and a decline in the MTL of 0.176. A 1% increase in human population resulted in a 0.744% increase in EEZ catch. These results highlight the importance of considering social and economic factors in developing sustainable fisheries management policy.
Integrating spatial heterogeneity into assessments of salt marsh biogeochemistry is becoming increasingly important because disturbances that reduce plant productivity and soil drainage may contribute to an expansion of shallow ponds. These permanently inundated and sometimes prominent landscape features can exist for decades, yet little is known about pond biogeochemistry or their role in marsh ecosystem functioning. We characterized three ponds in a temperate salt marsh (MA, USA) over alternating periods of tidal isolation and flushing, during summer and fall, by evaluating the composition of plant communities and organic matter pools and measuring surface water oxygen, temperature, and conductivity. The ponds were located in the high marsh and had similar depths, temperatures, and salinities. Despite this, they had different levels of suspended particulate, dissolved, and sediment organic matter and abundances of phytoplankton, macroalgae, and Ruppia maritima. Differences in plant communities were reflected in pond metabolism rates, which ranged from autotrophic to heterotrophic. Integrating ponds into landcover-based estimates of marsh metabolism resulted in slower rates of net production (−8.1 ± 0.3 to −15.7 ± 0.9%) and respiration (−2.9 ± 0.5 to −10.0 ± 0.4%), compared to rates based on emergent grasses alone. Seasonality had a greater effect on pond water chemistry, organic matter pools, and algal abundances than tidal connectivity. Alternating stretches of tidal isolation and flushing did not affect pond salinities or algal communities, suggesting that exchange between ponds and nearby creeks was limited. Overall, we found that ponds are heterogeneous habitats and future expansion could reduce landscape connectivity and the ability of marshes to capture and store carbon.
Seagrasses comprise a substantive North American and Caribbean Sea blue carbon sink. Yet fine-scale estimates of seagrass carbon stocks, fluxes from anthropogenic disturbances, and potential gains in sedimentary carbon from seagrass restoration are lacking for most of the Western Hemisphere. To begin to fill this knowledge gap in the subtropics and tropics, we quantified organic carbon (Corg) stocks, losses, and gains from restorations at 8 previously-disturbed seagrass sites around the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) (n = 128 cores). Mean natural seagrass Corg stocks were 25.7 ± 6.7 Mg Corg ha− 1 around the GoM, while mean Corg stocks at adjacent barren sites that had previously hosted seagrass were 17.8 Mg Corg ha− 1. Restored seagrass beds contained a mean of 38.7 ± 13.1 Mg Corg ha− 1. Mean Corg losses differed by anthropogenic impact type, but averaged 20.98 ± 7.14 Mg Corg ha− 1. Corggains from seagrass restoration averaged 20.96 ± 8.59 Mg ha− 1. These results, when combined with the similarity between natural and restored Corg content, highlight the potential of seagrass restoration for mitigating seagrass Corg losses from prior impact events. Our GoM basin-wide estimates of natural Corg totaled ~ 36.4 Tg for the 947,327 ha for the USA-GoM. Including Mexico, the total basin contained an estimated 37.2–37.5 Tg Corg. Regional US-GoM losses totaled 21.69 Tg Corg. Corg losses differed significantly among anthropogenic impacts. Yet, seagrass restoration appears to be an important climate change mitigation strategy that could be implemented elsewhere throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Increasing marine vessel traffic, and oil and gas exploration and development throughout the North Pacific basin brings increasing risks of oil spills. Recognizing the serious challenges presented to response authorities, this Special Issue was organized by the North Pacific Marine Science Organization to provide an introduction to the current state of scientific understanding regarding the environmental effects of oil spills. Because interactions of spilled oils with biota and their habitats are complex, the most serious environmental damages from these spills are not necessarily those of greatest immediate concern by the public. Our overarching goal for this Special Issue is to provide an efficient introduction to the most important ways that oil spills can harm biota, habitats, and ecosystems through invited, targeted mini-reviews augmented by original research articles. We provide a brief background on the challenges posed by large oil spills to response authorities, summarize findings from the articles published in this Special Issue, and highlight some key research needs.
Marine mammals are inherently vulnerable to oil spills. We developed a conceptual framework to evaluate the impacts of potential oil exposure on marine mammals and applied it to 21 species inhabiting coastal British Columbia (BC), Canada. Oil spill vulnerability was determined by examining both the likelihood of species-specific (individual) oil exposure and the consequent likelihood of population-level effects. Oil exposure pathways, ecology, and physiological characteristics were first used to assign species—specific vulnerability rankings. Baleen whales were found to be highly vulnerable due to blowhole breathing, surface filter feeding, and invertebrate prey. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were ranked as highly vulnerable due to their time spent at the ocean surface, dense pelage, and benthic feeding techniques. Species-specific vulnerabilities were considered to estimate the likelihood of population-level effects occurring after oil exposure. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations were deemed at highest risk due to small population sizes, complex social structure, long lives, slow reproductive turnover, and dietary specialization. Finally, we related the species–specific and population-level vulnerabilities. In BC, vulnerability was deemed highest for Northern and Southern Resident killer whales and sea otters, followed by Bigg’s killer whales and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Our findings challenge the typical “indicator species” approach routinely used and underscore the need to examine marine mammals at a species and population level for risk-based oil spill predictions. This conceptual framework can be combined with spill probabilities and volumes to develop more robust risk assessments and may be applied elsewhere to identify vulnerability themes for marine mammals.