Interactions between marine mammals and plastic debris have been the focus of studies for many years. Examples of interactions include entanglement in discarded fishing items or the presence of ingested debris in digestive tracts. Plastics, including microplastics, are a form of marine debris globally distributed in coastal areas, oceanic waters and deep seas. Cetaceans which strand along the coast present a unique opportunity to study interactions between animals with macro- and microplastics. A combination of novel techniques and a review of historical data was used to complete an extensive study of cetaceans interacting with marine debris within Irish waters. Of the 25 species of marine mammals reported in Irish waters, at least 19 species were reported stranded between 1990 and 2015 (n = 2934). Two hundred and forty-one of the stranded cetaceans presented signs of possible entanglement or interactions with fisheries. Of this number, 52.7% were positively identified as bycatch or as entangled in fisheries items, 26.6% were classified as mutilated and 20.7% could not be related to fisheries but showed signs of entanglement. In addition, 274 cetaceans were recorded as by-catch during observer programmes targeting albacore tuna. Post-mortem examinations were carried out on a total of 528 stranded and bycaught individuals and 45 (8.5%) had marine debris in their digestive tracts: 21 contained macrodebris, 21 contained microdebris and three had both macro- and microdebris. Forty percent of the ingested debris were fisheries related items. All 21 individuals investigated with the novel method for microplastics contained microplastics, composed of fibres (83.6%) and fragments (16.4%). Deep diving species presented more incidences of macrodebris ingestion but it was not possible to investigate this relationship to ecological habitat. More research on the plastic implications to higher trophic level organisms is required to understand the effects of these pollutants.
There is a growing need for instruments to control and reduce the impacts of the increasing number of tourists visiting protected natural areas. Among these economic instruments, the use of access fees can have positive effects on enhancing environmental sustainability by reducing the number of visitors. Access fees are also a source of financing the management costs of a protected area. Among the negative impacts of tourism, users of beaches perceive congestion as a factor in reducing the final value of the touristic experience. This article analyses the perception of locals of an access fee to enter the small Canary island of Lobos, a protected natural area with high quality beaches, whose quietness is endangered by an increasing number of visitors, clearly exceeding the current carrying capacity. We approached the problem using different tools: firstly, we looked at visitors’ opinions on the website TripAdvisor to identify whether congestion is perceived as a problem; secondly, we carried out an opinion survey using Likert-type scale questions to capture opinions about crowding and pricing; and finally, we used a discrete choice experiment to estimate the willingness to pay (WTP) for accessing the island and reducing congestion. The results reveal a high degree of perception of congestion and the potential of an entrance fee as an effective tool in reducing that congestion and thus generating resources to cover the maintenance costs of the protected area.
The development of seawater desalination plants to increase water reliability in coastal areas poses a threat to the health of near shore marine ecosystems and may affect the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs) that have been established to meet international conservation targets. This paper applies a multi-criteria analysis approach to quantify stakeholder groups’ priorities for seawater desalination plants that have been proposed in communities adjacent to a National Marine Sanctuary. All groups placed the highest importance on minimizing environmental impacts on protected areas and endangered species that could be affected by water intake and brine discharge emphasizing the need for integrated land and sea conservation. Minimizing socio-economic impacts on coastal communities was much less important. Stakeholders also weighted reducing pressure on water levels in rivers, streams, and aquifers as more important than increasing water for residential consumption, which may foster coastal growth rather than replacing water taken from other sources. The study further revealed differences in the importance of multiple management objectives among stakeholder groups, which highlights the need to elicit distinct priorities of all groups to understand concerns and potential conflicts of desalination with existing marine users. The analysis of consistency ratios revealed that around half of all surveyed stakeholders had high inconsistencies in their responses, which suggests either a lack of understanding of desalination, or reflects the complexity of establishing desalination plants in coastal areas adjacent to a marine protected area.
The Arctic faces high expectations of Blue Growth due to future projections of easier access and increased biological productivity. These expectations are, however, often based on global and regional climate change projections and largely ignore the complexity of social-ecological interactions taking place across different temporal and spatial scales. This paper illustrates how such cross-scale interactions at, and across, different dimensions (e.g., ecological, socioeconomic and governance) can affect the development of Arctic fisheries; and potentially create uncertainties for future Blue Growth projections. Two Arctic marine systems, The Barents Sea and the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO), are used as focus areas. The former hosts productive fisheries and is mostly covered by the EEZs of Norway and Russia, while the latter is still mainly covered by sea-ice and is a high seas area with no multilevel governance system in place. The examples show that, both systems are affected by a number of processes, beyond the environmental change, spanning a wide range of dimensions, as well as spatial and temporal scales. To address the complexity of the Arctic marine systems calls for an increase in holistic scientific understanding together with adaptive management practices. This is particularly important in the CAO, where no robust regional management structures are in place. Recognizing how cross-scale dynamics can cause uncertainties to the current fisheries projections and implementing well-functioning adaptive management structures across different Arctic sub-systems can play a key role in whether the Blue Growth potential in Arctic fisheries is realized or lost.
Our human-dominant world can be viewed as being built up in two parts, social and ecological systems, each consisting of multi-level organizations that interact in a complex manner. However, there are knowledge gaps among those interactions. In this paper, we focus on studies filling two types of gaps in the socioecological system, some of which are case studies in the East Asia region and others are discussed in a more general context. First, we address the gaps between different levels of organizations in ecological systems, namely, (1) the importance of plant trait plasticity in bridging evolution and ecology, (2) linking primary producer diversity and the dynamics of blue carbon in coastal ecosystems in the Asia–Pacific region, and (3) research direction of climate change biology to fill the gaps across evolution, community, and ecosystem. Also included is (4) the gap between ecological monitoring programs and theories, which also addresses the potential of citizen science. Second, we illustrate the gaps between ecological and social systems through ongoing development of an ecosystem management framework, i.e., ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction. Finally, we summarize the benefits of filling the gaps for ecologists and society.
Since the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA3) was published in May 2014, new observations along multiple lines of evidence have strengthened the conclusion that Earth’s climate is changing at a pace and in a pattern not explainable by natural influences. While this report focuses especially on observed and projected future changes for the United States, it is important to understand those changes in the global context.
Systematic conservation planning has become a standard approach globally, but prioritization of conservation efforts hardly considers species traits in decision making. This can be important for species persistence and thus adequacy of the conservation plan. Here, we developed and validated a novel approach of incorporating trophic information into a systematic conservation planning framework. We demonstrate the benefits of this approach using fish data from Europe's second largest river, the Danube. Our results show that adding trophic information leads to a different spatial configuration of priority areas at no additional cost. This can enhance identification of priority refugia for species in the lower position of the trophic web while simultaneously identifying areas that represent a more diverse species pool. Our methodological approach to incorporating species traits into systematic conservation planning is generally applicable, irrespective of realm, geographical area, and species composition and can potentially lead to more adequate conservation plans.
Nutrient limitation of oceanic primary production exerts a fundamental control on marine food webs and the flux of carbon into the deep ocean1. The extensive boundaries of the oligotrophic sub-tropical gyres collectively define the most extreme transition in ocean productivity, but little is known about nutrient limitation in these zones1,2,3,4. Here we present the results of full-factorial nutrient amendment experiments conducted at the eastern boundary of the South Atlantic gyre. We find extensive regions in which the addition of nitrogen or iron individually resulted in no significant phytoplankton growth over 48 hours. However, the addition of both nitrogen and iron increased concentrations of chlorophyll a by up to approximately 40-fold, led to diatom proliferation, and reduced community diversity. Once nitrogen–iron co-limitation had been alleviated, the addition of cobalt or cobalt-containing vitamin B12 could further enhance chlorophyll a yields by up to threefold. Our results suggest that nitrogen–iron co-limitation is pervasive in the ocean, with other micronutrients also approaching co-deficiency. Such multi-nutrient limitations potentially increase phytoplankton community diversity.
The Larkin lectures are held every two years at the University of British Columbia in recognition of Dr. Peter Larkin's contributions to fisheries science. The lecture I presented in November 2015 coincided with an announcement that the Institute of Fisheries that Peter Larkin founded in the 1960s would be restructured as the “Institute for Oceans and Fisheries” with an emphasis on fisheries and oceans issues important to British Columbia as well as the rest of the world. I decided to look back at research issues that Peter Larkin thought would be important for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in the future and see what has happened as a way of identifying the complexity that the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries in particular and the science community in general will face. I chose five themes from Peter Larkin's talks: 1 understanding marine survival, 2 ocean carrying capacity, 3 aquaculture, 4 climate, Pacific salmon and climate change and 5 informing the public, and then added my opinion about research priorities for the future. Peter Larkin recognized the future relevance of these examples, but he probably could not have imagined how these and related issues will challenge his renamed institute and the rest of the research community over the next 50 years.
Reconciling food security, economic development and biodiversity conservation is a key challenge, especially in the face of the demographic transition characterizing many countries in the world. Fisheries and marine ecosystems constitute a difficult application of this bio-economic challenge. Many experts and scientists advocate an ecosystem approach to manage marine socio-ecosystems for their sustainability and resilience. However, the ways by which to operationalize ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) remain poorly specified. We propose a specific methodological framework—viability modelling—to do so. We show how viability modelling can be applied using four contrasted case-studies: two small-scale fisheries in South America and Pacific and two larger-scale fisheries in Europe and Australia. The four fisheries are analysed using the same modelling framework, structured around a set of common methods, indicators and scenarios. The calibrated models are dynamic, multispecies and multifleet and account for various sources of uncertainty. A multicriteria evaluation is used to assess the scenarios’ outcomes over a long time horizon with different constraints based on ecological, social and economic reference points. Results show to what extent the bio-economic and ecosystem risks associated with the adoption of status quo strategies are relatively high and challenge the implementation of EBFM. In contrast, strategies called ecoviability or co-viability strategies, that aim at satisfying the viability constraints, reduce significantly these ecological and economic risks and promote EBFM. The gains associated with those ecoviability strategies, however, decrease with the intensity of regulations imposed on these fisheries.