This study assessed the coral reef condition of two marine protected areas in the Caribbean: Guanahacabibes National Park, Cuba, and Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres-Punta Cancun-Punta Nizuc National Park, Mexico, in a two-year period. The analyzed indicators for corals were live coral cover, diameter and height of the colonies, ancient and recent mortalities and abundance of recruits, which were evaluated in quadrats of 1 m2. In addition, it was estimated the coverage by morphofunctional groups of macroalgae in 25 × 25 cm quadrats and the density of the Diadema antillarum urchin in 1 m2 quadrats. The results showed differences between countries at broad spatial scales (hundreds of kilometers). Reefs of both MPAs seem to be in different stages of changes, which have been associated with deterioration of Caribbean reefs, toward the dominance of more resistant, non-tridimensional coral species, causing a decrease of the reef complexity that may leads to the reefs to collapse. At scales of kilometers (within MPAs), a similar pattern was found in reefs of GNP-Cuba and different trends were observed in reefs of CNP-Mexico. The observed differences between CNP-Mexico sites appear to be associated with the current tourism use patterns.
Marine spatial planning is an important tool to achieve a more ecosystem-based governance approach to marine ecosystems. Marine ecosystems often transcend national jurisdictional boundaries, so the compatibility of national policies and legal structures are important prerequisites for transboundary marine spatial planning. This article explores marine spatial planning in the North Sea ecosystem and analyses whether national policies and legal structures in the Netherlands and Norway are compatible enough. Both countries have an extensive body of law regulating the different uses of the North Sea and have also developed integrated management approaches for ‘their’ respective parts of the North Sea. The article demonstrates that marine spatial planning in regional sea areas is complicated when national legal frameworks and governance structures and traditions are very different.
Taiwan has advantages in the development of offshore wind power, as it has abundant wind energy resources at the seas. The local government has developed a series of measures to promote the development of wind power generation industry. The development of offshore wind farm in Taiwan, however, has to solve the problems that offshore wind farms are overlapping with some traditional fishing grounds and are unable to reach consensus with relevant stakeholders. This paper starts from the great potential of offshore wind power in Taiwan and the active promotion of the government, and analyses the impact and possible opportunities brought by offshore wind farm development to local fisheries, from the perspective of Zhanghua Area, a key area of development of offshore wind farm in Taiwan. This paper proposes that the local government in Taiwan should use marine spatial planning as a tool, through the comprehensive participation of government, developers, fishermen and other bodies, seeking the coexistence and prosperity of offshore wind farm and fisheries. Avoidance, compensation, and feedback, as well as communication and collaboration will be an important strategy to solve the conflicts of multiple use of the sea and to promote the development of marine renewable energy.
- While marine environments are three-dimensional (3D) in nature, current approaches and tools for planning and prioritising actions in the ocean are predominantly two-dimensional. Here, we develop a novel 3D marine spatial conservation prioritisation approach, which explicitly accounts for the inherent vertical heterogeneity of the ocean. This enables both vertical and horizontal spatial prioritisation to be performed simultaneously. To our knowledge, this is the first endeavour to develop prioritisation of conservation actions in 3D.
- We applied the 3D spatial conservation prioritisation approach to the Mediterranean Sea as a case study. We first subdivided the Mediterranean Sea into 3D planning units by assigning them a z coordinate (representing depth). We further partitioned these 3D planning units vertically into three depth layers; this allowed us to quantify biodiversity (1,011 species and 19 geomorphic features) and the cost of conservation actions at different depths. We adapted the prioritisation software Marxan to identify 3D networks of sites where biodiversity conservation targets are achieved for the minimum cost.
- Using the 3D approach presented here, we identified networks of sites where conservation targets for all biodiversity features were achieved. Importantly, these networks included areas of the ocean where only particular depth layers along the water column were identified as priorities for conservation. The 3D approach also proved to be more cost efficient than the traditional 2D approach. Spatial priorities within the networks of sites selected were considerably different when comparing the 2D and 3D approaches.
- Prioritising in 3D allows conservation and marine spatial planners to target specific threats to specific conservation features, at specific depths in the ocean. This provides a platform to further integrate systematic conservation planning into the wider ongoing and future marine spatial planning and ocean zoning processes.
Ecosystem-based fishery management requires understanding of relationships between exploited fish and their predators, such as seabirds. We used exploratory regression analyses to model relationships between Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) in the diet of seabird chicks at nine nesting colonies in the Gulf of Maine, and four types of fishery- and survey-derived herring data. We found several strong relationships, which suggests spatial structuring in herring stocks and likely patterns of herring movements before they recruit into the fishery. Some types of herring data seldom used in stock assessments – notably acoustic surveys, fixed-gear landings, and weight-at-age – correlated as strongly with seabird data as more commonly used series, such as mobile-gear landings and modeled spawning stock biomass. Seabird chick diets collected at specific locations thus offer a promising means to assess the size, distribution, and abundance of juvenile herring across a broad area prior to recruitment, which is a major source of uncertainty in fisheries. Common terns showed the most potential as a bioindicator, correlating well and showing consistent spatial patterns with 11 of 13 fishery data series.
The North American Marine Protected Area Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool was created to help marine protected area managers evaluate the implications of climate change for the habitats of their sites. This tool has three parts (a user guide, a set of blank worksheets, and a booklet containing sample completed worksheets) that are available as downloadable PDFs. The blank worksheets are in a dynamic PDF format so that users can easily fill, save and share their completed worksheets. The User Guide and sample worksheets provide the narrative explanation of how to use the tool, while the blank worksheets are the hands-on component. Together, they comprise a tool that can help marine protected area managers conduct a rapid vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy development process.
A challenge in implementing biodiversity conservation is in reconciling criteria for identifying significant areas and representative networks for biodiversity protection. Many international environmental initiatives include biological, ecological, economic, social and governance criteria to aid selection of areas for biodiversity conservation. Here we reviewed criteria used by 15 international initiatives, and what minimum set of biodiversity variables would be needed to support them. From a range of ecological and biological criteria, we identified eight criteria commonly used to identify areas for biodiversity conservation across these initiatives. Four criteria identified areas that (1) contained unique and rare habitats; (2) included fragile and sensitive habitats; (3) were important for ecological integrity; and (4) were representative of all habitats. Another four criteria were based on species' attributes, including (5) the presence of species of conservation concern; (6) the occurrence of restricted-range species; (7) species richness; and (8) importance for life history stages. Information required to inform these criteria include: habitat cover, species occurrence, species richness, species' geographic range and population abundance. This synthesized set of ecological and biological criteria, and their biodiversity variables will simplify the process to identify additional areas of high biodiversity significance, that in turn support achieving the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) targets to fill gaps in the representativeness of the global coverage of protected areas.
To meet collective obligations towards biodiversity conservation and monitoring, it is essential that the world's governments and non-governmental organisations as well as the research community tap all possible sources of data and information, including new, fast-growing sources such as citizen science (CS), in which volunteers participate in some or all aspects of environmental assessments. Through compilation of a database on CS and community-based monitoring (CBM, a subset of CS) programs, we assess where contributions from CS and CBM are significant and where opportunities for growth exist. We use the Essential Biodiversity Variable framework to describe the range of biodiversity data needed to track progress towards global biodiversity targets, and we assess strengths and gaps in geographical and taxonomic coverage. Our results show that existing CS and CBM data particularly provide large-scale data on species distribution and population abundance, species traits such as phenology, and ecosystem function variables such as primary and secondary productivity. Only birds, Lepidoptera and plants are monitored at scale. Most CS schemes are found in Europe, North America, South Africa, India, and Australia. We then explore what can be learned from successful CS/CBM programs that would facilitate the scaling up of current efforts, how existing strengths in data coverage can be better exploited, and the strategies that could maximise the synergies between CS/CBM and other approaches for monitoring biodiversity, in particular from remote sensing. More and better targeted funding will be needed, if CS/CBM programs are to contribute further to international biodiversity monitoring.
Coral reefs are in decline worldwide. While coral reef managers are limited in their ability to tackle global challenges, such as ocean warming, managing local threats can increase the resilience of coral reefs to these global threats. One such local threat is high sediment inputs to coastal waters due to terrestrial over-grazing. Increases in terrestrial sediment input into coral reefs are associated with increased coral mortality, reduced growth rates, and changes in species composition, as well as alterations to fish communities. We used general linear models to investigate the link between vegetation ground cover and tree biomass index, within a dry-forest ecosystem, to coral cover, fish communities and visibility in the case study site of Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands. We found a positive relationship between ground cover and coral cover below 10 m depth, and a negative relationship between tree biomass index and coral cover below 10 m. Greater ground cover is associated to sediment anchored through root systems, and higher surface complexity, slowing water flow, which would otherwise transport sediment. The negative relationship between tree biomass index and coral cover is unexpected, and may be a result of the deep roots associated with dry-forest trees, due to limited availability of water, which therefore do not anchor surface sediment, or contribute to surface complexity. Our analysis provides evidence that coral reef managers could improve reef health through engaging in terrestrial ecosystem protection, for example by taking steps to reduce grazing pressures, or in restoring degraded forest ecosystems.
Jellyfish and other pelagic gelatinous organisms (“gelata”) are increasingly perceived as an important component of marine food webs but remain poorly understood. Their importance as prey in the oceans is extremely difficult to quantify due in part to methodological challenges in verifying predation on gelatinous structures. Miniaturized animal-borne video data loggers now enable feeding events to be monitored from a predator's perspective. We gathered a substantial video dataset (over 350 hours of exploitable footage) from 106 individuals spanning four species of non-gelatinous-specialist predators (penguins), across regions of the southern oceans (areas south of 30°S). We documented nearly 200 cases of targeted attacks on carnivorous gelata by all four species, at all seven studied localities. Our findings emphasize that gelatinous organisms actually represent a widespread but currently under-represented trophic link across the southern oceans, even for endothermic predators, which have high energetic demands. The use of modern technological tools, such as animal-borne video data loggers, will help to correctly identify the ecological niche of gelata.