Species surrogates, the use of particular species to index habitat condition or to represent ecological assemblages are commonly identified in many ecosystems, but are less tested, and therefore less employed in estuaries. Estuaries provide important ecosystem goods (e.g. harvestable species) and services (e.g. carbon processing, coastal armouring), but require protection from multiple human activities, meaning that finding surrogates for estuarine condition or faunal assemblages is a significant knowledge gap. In this study, we test the efficacy of the threatened estuary ray Hemitrygon fluviorum, as a suitable indicator of ecosystem condition and management umbrella surrogate species for conservation prioritisation and monitoring purposes within estuaries. We surveyed fish assemblages and ray presence at ten sites within each of 22 estuaries in southeast Queensland, Australia, using one hour deployments of baited video arrays. We then tested for correlations between ray presence, a series of environmental variables considered important to ecosystem management within estuaries (i.e. testing rays as indicator species), and the co-occurring fish species (i.e. testing rays as umbrella species). Estuary rays function as both umbrella species and ecological indicators of habitat status in subtropical Australian estuaries. As umbrellas, ray occurrence concords with elevated species richness. As ecological indicators, ray distribution concords with habitats of good water quality (especially low turbidity) and more natural vegetation remaining in the catchment. These results highlight the potential for other threatened aquatic vertebrates that are both readily detectable and that are reliable proxies for ecosystems status to be become useful management tools in estuaries. The protection of such large, threatened species in coastal seascapes allows managers to address multiple targets for conservation, especially; (1) protecting species of conservation concern; (2) maintaining diversity; and (3) protecting optimal habitats by better placing reserves.
A substantial fraction of marine plastic debris originates from land-based sources and rivers potentially act as a major transport pathway for all sizes of plastic debris. We analyzed a global compilation of data on plastic debris in the water column across a wide range of river sizes. Plastic debris loads, both microplastic (particles <5 mm) and macroplastic (particles >5 mm) are positively related to the mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) generated in the river catchments. This relationship is nonlinear where large rivers with population-rich catchments delivering a disproportionately higher fraction of MMPW into the sea. The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88–95% of the global load into the sea. Using MMPW as a predictor we calculate the global plastic debris inputs form rivers into the sea to range between 0.41 and 4 × 106 t/y. Due to the limited amount of data high uncertainties were expected and ultimately confirmed. The empirical analysis to quantify plastic loads in rivers can be extended easily by additional potential predictors other than MMPW, for example, hydrological conditions.
Shading substantially reduced the degree of bleaching in Acropora muricata, Pocillopora damicornis and Porites cylindrica in American Samoa. Experiments were conducted outdoors at two sites on Ofu and Tutuila Islands. An aquarium experiment was set up near some reef-flat pools in the National Park of American Samoa on Ofu Island, using different levels of shading (none, 50% and 75%) early in conditions of cumulative thermal stress corresponding to NOAA's Coral Reef Watch-Bleaching Alert System. We analyzed the effects of cumulative thermal stress regarding coral growth, as well as color changes (evaluated using a standardize reference card) as a proxy for decreases in symbiontdensity and chlorophyll a content (i.e. bleaching). Thermally stressed corals grew less than controls, but corals without shading experienced a more substantial decrease in growth compared to those under 50% or 75% shade. The analysis of coral color showed that both levels of shading were protective against bleaching in conditions of cumulative thermal stress for all species, but were particularly beneficial for the most sensitive ones: A. muricata and P. cylindrica. Heavier shading (75%) offered better protection than lighter shading (50%) in this experiment, possibly because of the intense light levels corals were subjected to. Although there were limits to the extent shading could mitigate the effects of cumulative heating, it was very effective to at least Degree Heating Week (DHW) 4 and continued to offer some protection until the end of the study (DHW 8). In Tutuila, a shaded/not-shaded platform experiment was carried out in a reef pool in which corals have shown repeated annual summer bleaching for several years. This experiment was designed to investigate if shading could attenuate bleaching in the field and also if there were negative consequences to shading removal. The only factor controlled was light intensity, and our main conclusion was that overall corals on the platform became darker than field colonies in response to shading, but adjusted back to the same color level as field colonies after shade removal. However, the latter results are preliminary and need to be confirmed by future studies under more controlled conditions. As bleaching becomes more frequent and regular due to global warming, we should consider proactively using shading to help mitigate the effects of thermal stress and prolong the survival of at least some coral communities, until solutions to address global climate change become effective.
The Shore to Statehouse project supported the creation of an open-source, replicable, undergraduate experiential course on marine debris. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the course allowed undergraduate students in Connecticut, USA, to collect marine debris locally, then create a policy report for state legislators. Here we share the results of the project including data on four accumulation surveys on the Long Island Sound, as well as the impact on student motivation, attitudes, and behavior levels. Results include finding over 1600 individual pieces of debris totaling 19.4 kg (42.8 lb). In addition, the students experienced statistically significant improvements in knowledge and behavior scores. This open-source course can be replicated, empowering students to remove debris, provide important information to local policy makers, and improve knowledge and behavior.
Recreational diving damages coral reefs despite heightened environmental awareness. However, divers prefer preserved coral reefs and therefore reef degradation presents an economic loss. Artificial reefs were suggested among a range of tools to mitigate and reduce divers' negative impact on coral reefs.
Coral reefs in Eilat (northern tip of the Red Sea) are among the most densely dived reefs in the world, with an estimated number of dives of up to 350,000 dives a year. At least 7 artificial reefs were deployed in the coastal waters of Eilat, however the divers' visitation on these reefs is not tracked regularly.
We found that more than one third of the total dives take place on artificial reefs in Eilat. The divers prefer to vary their diving sites and possess a desire to diversify and expand their diving experience. Thus, the divers are also willing to dive a on artificial reefs, and this is true for both novice and experienced divers. This indicates that artificial reefs can draw divers from natural reefs, thus reducing diving pressure and allowing more sustainable levels of diving on natural coral reefs. This leads us to a conclusion that artificial reefs may be useful in modern reef conservation approaches.
In various scientific disciplines resilience has become a key concept for theoretical frameworks and more practical goals. The growing interest resulted in multiple definitions of resilience. This paper highlights how and why resilience has become a meaningful concept guiding multiple disciplines to understand and govern social–ecological systems. Moreover, the concept of resilience can be operationalized in complex social–ecological systems that are inherent to change and unpredictable outcomes.
Mangrove forest ecosystems support aquatic species important to tropical fishing communities, but habitat degradation and over-fishing have caused coastal fishery stocks to decline. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are widely promoted as a management option to reverse this situation. Using swimming crabs as indicator species, this paper explores the ecological effectiveness of two community-led MPAs and one co-managed MPA in Ranong and Phang-nga Provinces in southern Thailand. Comparisons were made of two fisheries objectives: catch per unit effort (CPUE); and size frequency distribution of Portunus spp. and Scylla olivacea; and one conservation objective: catch composition on benthic aquatic species, between each managed area and an associated control site to look for effects of management. Eight replicates of each survey were undertaken in each site: four in the wet season, from May to July 2011; and four in the dry season, from February to March 2012.
Two of the MPAs, one a no-take zone and one a gear limitation zone, and both managed by local communities, showed a significant increase in CPUE of target species compared with their controls to the benefit of local fishers. There was little evidence of management impact on the composition of benthic aquatic species so community management is not achieving wider conservation in terms of increased biodiversity. The third MPA, a seasonal no-take zone, co-managed by local communities and local government, showed no significant effect on either CPUE of target species, or composition of benthic aquatic species when compared to its control. For size frequency distribution, a higher abundance of all size classes of Portunus pelagicus was observed in all MPAs compared to their control sites. The size distribution of animals suggests that the community-managed MPAs are supporting recruits and contributing to the fisheries by reducing the rates of growth overfishing. To conclude, the two community-led MPAs benefitted fishers but had no effect on marine biodiversity, while the co-managed MPA did not benefit fishers or marine biodiversity. However, all three MPAs showed increase crab abundance in each size class.
This chapter situates the maritime and shipping sector within the dynamic and integrated physical-social-ecological ocean system and the broad and evolving framework of ocean governance, management, and sustainability. While shipping operations occupy a prominent and historic role in the maritime world, ships no longer rule the waves alone. The ocean and coastal margins of the world are indeed vast and extensive, but they are increasingly crowded, competitive, and conflicted. And now we are expanding and intensifying traditional ocean industries and adding new exploitive activities to the mix, all in the pursuit of a “blue economy,” whether reasonable or not, sustainable or otherwise. Our uses and abuses of the ocean to date have seriously compromised the very foundations of the ocean and coastal system and led to growing marine environmental degradation and the consequent costs of an underperforming ocean economy, loss of essential ecosystem goods and services (which largely sustain the former), increased use conflicts, and challenging legal questions.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are important management tools shown to protect marine organisms, restore biomass, and increase fisheries yields. While MPAs have been successful in meeting these goals for many relatively sedentary species, highly mobile organisms may get few benefits from this type of spatial protection due to their frequent movement outside the protected area. The use of a large MPA can compensate for extensive movement, but testing this empirically is challenging, as it requires both large areas and sufficient time series to draw conclusions. To overcome this limitation, MPA models have been used to identify designs and predict potential outcomes, but these simulations are highly sensitive to the assumptions describing the organism’s movements. Due to recent improvements in computational simulations, it is now possible to include very complex movement assumptions in MPA models (e.g. Individual Based Model). These have renewed interest in MPA simulations, which implicitly assume that increasing the detail in fish movement overcomes the sensitivity to the movement assumptions. Nevertheless, a systematic comparison of the designs and outcomes obtained under different movement assumptions has not been done. In this paper, we use an individual based model, interconnected to population and fishing fleet models, to explore the value of increasing the detail of the movement assumptions using four scenarios of increasing behavioral complexity: a) random, diffusive movement, b) aggregations, c) aggregations that respond to environmental forcing (e.g. sea surface temperature), and d) aggregations that respond to environmental forcing and are transported by currents. We then compare these models to determine how the assumptions affect MPA design, and therefore the effective protection of the stocks. Our results show that the optimal MPA size to maximize fisheries benefits increases as movement complexity increases from ~10% for the diffusive assumption to ~30% when full environment forcing was used. We also found that in cases of limited understanding of the movement dynamics of a species, simplified assumptions can be used to provide a guide for the minimum MPA size needed to effectively protect the stock. However, using oversimplified assumptions can produce suboptimal designs and lead to a density underestimation of ca. 30%; therefore, the main value of detailed movement dynamics is to provide more reliable MPA design and predicted outcomes. Large MPAs can be effective in recovering overfished stocks, protect pelagic fish and provide significant increases in fisheries yields. Our models provide a means to empirically test this spatial management tool, which theoretical evidence consistently suggests as an effective alternative to managing highly mobile pelagic stocks.
Human-driven global change is causing ongoing declines in biodiversity worldwide. In order to address these declines, decision-makers need accurate assessments of the status of and pressures on biodiversity. However, these are heavily constrained by incomplete and uneven spatial, temporal and taxonomic coverage. For instance, data from regions such as Europe and North America are currently used overwhelmingly for large-scale biodiversity assessments due to lesser availability of suitable data from other, more biodiversity-rich, regions. These data-poor regions are often those experiencing the strongest threats to biodiversity, however. There is therefore an urgent need to fill the existing gaps in global biodiversity monitoring. Here, we review current knowledge on best practice in capacity building for biodiversity monitoring and provide an overview of existing means to improve biodiversity data collection considering the different types of biodiversity monitoring data. Our review comprises insights from work in Africa, South America, Polar Regions and Europe; in government-funded, volunteer and citizen-based monitoring in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. The key steps to effectively building capacity in biodiversity monitoring are: identifying monitoring questions and aims; identifying the key components, functions, and processes to monitor; identifying the most suitable monitoring methods for these elements, carrying out monitoring activities; managing the resultant data; and interpreting monitoring data. Additionally, biodiversity monitoring should use multiple approaches including extensive and intensive monitoring through volunteers and professional scientists but also harnessing new technologies. Finally, we call on the scientific community to share biodiversity monitoring data, knowledge and tools to ensure the accessibility, interoperability, and reporting of biodiversity data at a global scale.