There is a growing recognition for the need to understand how seawater carbonate chemistry over coral reef environments will change in a high-CO2 world to better assess the impacts of ocean acidification on these valuable ecosystems. Coral reefs modify overlying water column chemistry through biogeochemical processes such as net community organic carbon production (NCP) and calcification (NCC). However, the relative importance and influence of these processes on seawater carbonate chemistry vary across multiple functional scales (defined here as space, time, and benthic community composition), and have not been fully constrained. Here, we use Bermuda as a case study to assess (1) spatiotemporal variability in physical and chemical parameters along a depth gradient at a rim reef location, (2) the spatial variability of total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) over distinct benthic habitats to infer NCC:NCP ratios [< several km2; rim reef vs. seagrass and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) sediments] on diel timescales, and (3) compare how TA-DIC relationships and NCC:NCP vary as we expand functional scales from local habitats to the entire reef platform (10's of km2) on seasonal to interannual timescales. Our results demonstrate that TA-DIC relationships were strongly driven by local benthic metabolism and community composition over diel cycles. However, as the spatial scale expanded to the reef platform, the TA-DIC relationship reflected processes that were integrated over larger spatiotemporal scales, with effects of NCC becoming increasingly more important over NCP. This study demonstrates the importance of considering drivers across multiple functional scales to constrain carbonate chemistry variability over coral reefs.
The use of aquatic mammals as bait to enhance the harvest of fisheries species has garnered little attention by the scientific and conservation communities, often receiving only brief mention in reports focused on the human consumption or bycatch of aquatic mammals. A number of studies, however, highlight the negative impact of this practice on affected mammal populations. A systematic review of relevant literature published since 1970 yields new insight into the scope of the issue. Findings indicate that the practice of using aquatic mammals for bait has been and continues to be geographically widespread, has affected at least 42 species, and often involves deliberate killing for the express purpose of securing bait. The nature of the fisheries involved is diverse, encompassing a wide range of target species and gear types; however, shark fisheries that employ longlines appear to be the most widely engaged in using aquatic mammals as bait. This practice appears to be most common in Latin America and Asia. It is evident, based on our review, that there is little information on the impact of the direct take on most targeted mammal populations, commonly small cetaceans, and increased monitoring efforts are needed in many locales. In most instances, the ecology and population dynamics of the targeted fishery species is poorly understood and in some cases the species is classified as threatened, suggesting a fishery sustainability issue that cannot be fully addressed with a substitute for the aquatic mammal bait. It is essential that natural resource managers implement mitigation approaches that consider the socio-economic, cultural, political, and ecological circumstances leading to the use of aquatic mammal bait in each fishery.
Globally, tropical coral reefs are being degraded by human activities, and as a result, reef-building corals have declined while macroalgae have increased. Recent work has focused on measuring macroalgal abundance in response to anthropogenic stressors. To accurately evaluate the effects of human impacts, however, it is necessary to understand the effects of natural processes on reef condition. To better understand how coral reef communities are influenced by natural processes, we investigated how spatial and seasonal changes in environmental conditions (temperature and PAR) influence benthic community structure, and the composition and frequency of coral-algal interactions across eight distinct zones and over a 23-month period at Heron reef on the southern Great Barrier Reef. Hard coral cover and macroalgal density showed distinct spatio-temporal variations, both within and between zones. Broad hard coral cover was significantly higher at the reef slope sites compared to the lagoon and was not significantly influenced by season. The composition and biomass of macroalgae increased in spring and declined in summer, with maximum macroalgal abundance corresponding with average temperatures of between 22 and 24°C and average 24 h PAR of 300–500 μmol qanta m−2 s−1. Changes in macroalgal biomass further influenced the composition and frequency of coral-algal interactions, however the incidence of coral-algal contact was best explained by coral cover. The results presented here emphasize that natural levels of macroalgae and coral-algal interactions are context-specific, and vary not only with-in zones, but in somewhat predictable seasonal cycles. Further, these results emphasize that the frequency of coral-algal interactions is dependent on hard coral, not just macroalgal cover, and an increase in coral-algal interactions does not necessarily translate to degradation of coral reefs.
Biological invasions threaten biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, requiring substantial conservation and management efforts. To examine how the conservation planning literature addresses biological invasions and if planning in the marine environment could benefit from experiences in the freshwater and terrestrial systems, we conducted a global systematic review. Out of 1,149 scientific articles mentioning both “conservation planning” and “alien” or any of its alternative terms, 70 articles met our selection criteria. Most of the studies were related to the terrestrial environment, while only 10% focused on the marine environment. The main conservation targets were species (mostly vertebrates) rather than habitats or ecosystems. Apart from being mentioned, alien species were considered of concern for conservation in only 46% of the cases, while mitigation measures were proposed in only 13% of the cases. The vast majority of the studies (73%) ignored alien species in conservation planning even if their negative impacts were recognized. In 20% of the studies, highly invaded areas were avoided in the planning, while in 6% of the cases such areas were prioritized for conservation. In the latter case, two opposing approaches led to the selection of invaded areas: either alien and native biodiversity were treated equally in setting conservation targets, i.e., alien species were also considered as ecological features requiring protection, or more commonly invaded sites were prioritized for the implementation of management actions to control or eradicate invasive alien species. When the “avoid” approach was followed, in most of the cases highly impacted areas were either excluded or invasive alien species were included in the estimation of a cost function to be minimized. Most of the studies that followed a “protect” or “avoid” approach dealt with terrestrial or freshwater features but in most cases the followed approach could be transferred to the marine environment. Gaps and needs for further research are discussed and we propose an 11-step framework to account for biological invasions into the systematic conservation planning design.
Marine macrophytes are the foundation of algal forests and seagrass meadows–some of the most productive and diverse coastal marine ecosystems on the planet. These ecosystems provide nursery grounds and food for fish and invertebrates, coastline protection from erosion, carbon sequestration, and nutrient fixation. For marine macrophytes, temperature is generally the most important range limiting factor, and ocean warming is considered the most severe threat among global climate change factors. Ocean warming induced losses of dominant macrophytes along their equatorial range edges, as well as range extensions into polar regions, are predicted and already documented. While adaptive evolution based on genetic change is considered too slow to keep pace with the increasing rate of anthropogenic environmental changes, rapid adaptation may come about through a set of non-genetic mechanisms involving the functional composition of the associated microbiome, as well as epigenetic modification of the genome and its regulatory effect on gene expression and the activity of transposable elements. While research in terrestrial plants demonstrates that the integration of non-genetic mechanisms provide a more holistic picture of a species' evolutionary potential, research in marine systems is lagging behind. Here, we aim to review the potential of marine macrophytes to acclimatize and adapt to major climate change effects via intraspecific variation at the genetic, epigenetic, and microbiome levels. All three levels create phenotypic variation that may either enhance fitness within individuals (plasticity) or be subject to selection and ultimately, adaptation. We review three of the most important phenotypic variations in a climate change context, including physiological variation, variation in propagation success, and in herbivore resistance. Integrating different levels of plasticity, and adaptability into ecological models will allow to obtain a more holistic understanding of trait variation and a realistic assessment of the future performance and distribution of marine macrophytes. Such multi-disciplinary approach that integrates various levels of intraspecific variation, and their effect on phenotypic and physiological variation, is of crucial importance for the effective management and conservation of seagrasses and macroalgae under climate change.
The release of hydrocarbons and chemical dispersant in marine environments may disrupt benthic ecosystems, including artificial reefs, formed by historic steel shipwrecks, and their associated organisms. Experiments were performed to determine the impacts of crude oil, dispersed crude oil, and dispersant on the community structure and function of microorganisms in seawater (SW) and biofilms formed on carbon steel, a common ship hull construction material. Steel corrosion was also monitored to illustrate how oil spills may impact preservation of steel shipwrecks. Microcosms were filled with seawater (SW) and incubated at 4°C. Carbon steel disks (CSDs) were placed in each tank, and tanks were amended with crude oil and/or dispersant or no treatment. SW and CSD biofilms were sampled biweekly for genetic analysis using Illumina sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicons. Predicted and sequenced bacterial metagenomes were analyzed to examine impacts of oil and dispersant on metabolic function. Gammaproteobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria, and Flavobacteriia dominated SW and biofilms. Bacterial community structure differed significantly between treatments for SW and biofilms. OTUs affiliated with known (Pseudomonas) and potential (Marinomonas) hydrocarbon-degraders were roughly twice as abundant in biofilms treated with oil and dispersed oil, and steel corrosion of CSDs in these treatments was higher compared to control and dispersant treatments. OTUs affiliated with the Rhodobacteraceae family (biofilm formers and potential oil degraders) were less abundant in the dispersant treatment compared to other treatments in biofilm and SW samples, but OTUs affiliated with the Pseudoalteromonas genus (biofilm formers and proposed hydrocarbon degraders) were more abundant in dispersant-treated biofilms. Overall, functional gene analyses revealed a decrease in genes (predicted using PICRUSt and observed in sequenced metagenomes) associated with hydrocarbon degradation in dispersant-treated biofilms. This study indicates that exposure to oil and dispersant could disrupt the composition and metabolic function of biofilms colonizing metal hulls, as well as corrosion processes, potentially compromising shipwrecks as ecological and historical resources.
Globally, the production of marine bivalves has been steadily increasing over the past several decades. As the effects of human population growth are magnified, bivalves help provide food security as a source of inexpensive protein. However, as climate change alters sea surface temperatures (SST), the physiology, and thus the survival, growth, and distribution of bivalves are being altered. Challenges with managing bivalves may become more pronounced, as the uncertainty associated with climate change makes it difficult to predict future production levels. Modeling techniques, applied to both climate change and bivalve bioenergetics, can be used to predict and explore the impacts of changing ocean temperatures on bivalve physiology, and concomitantly on aquaculture production. This study coupled a previously established high resolution climate model and two dynamic energy budget models to explore the future growth and distribution of two economically and ecologically important species, the eastern oyster (Crassotrea virginica), and the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) along the Atlantic coast of Canada. SST was extracted from the climate model and used as a forcing variable in the bioenergetic models. This approach was applied across three discreet time periods: the past (1986–1990), the present (2016–2020), and the future (2046–2050), thus permitting a comparison of bivalve performance under different temporal scenarios. Results show that the future growth is variable both spatially and interspecifically. Modeling outcomes suggest that warming ocean temperatures will cause an increase in growth rates of both species as a result of their ectothermic nature. However, as the thermal tolerance of C. virginica is higher than M. edulis, oysters will generally outperform mussels. The predicted effects of temperature on bivalve physiology also provided insight into vulnerabilities (e.g., mortality) under future SST scenarios. Such information is useful for adapting future management strategies for both farmed and wild shellfish. Although this study focused on a geographically specific area, the approach of coupling bioenergetic and climate models is valid for species and environments across the globe.
The topic of Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) for climate geoengineering is becoming increasingly salient following the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report and the Paris Agreement. GGR is thought of as a separate category to mitigation techniques such as low-carbon supply or demand reduction, yet multiple social, ethical and acceptability concerns cut across categories. We propose moving beyond classifying climate strategies as a set of discrete categories (which may implicitly homogenize diverse technologies), toward a prioritization of questions of scale of both technology and decision-making in the examination of social and ethical risks. This is not just a theoretical issue: important questions for policy, governance and finance are raised, for instance over the future inclusion of GGR in carbon markets. We argue that the conclusions drawn about how best to categorize, govern and incentivize any strategy will depend on the framing used, because different framings could lead to very different policy recommendations being drawn. Because of this, a robust approach to developing, governing and financing GGR should pay attention first to urgent concerns regarding democracy, justice and acceptability.
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted 20 targets, known as the Aichi Targets, to benchmark progress towards protecting biodiversity. These targets include Target 11 relating to Marine Protected Area coverage and the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the accepted international database for tracking national commitments to this target. However, measuring national progress towards conservation targets relies on sound data. This paper highlights the large-scale misrepresentation, by up to two orders of magnitude, of national marine protected area coverage from two Pacific Island nations in multiple online databases and subsequent reports, including conclusions regarding achievements of Aichi 11 commitments. It recommends that for the target driven approach to have value, users of the WDPA data should carefully consider its caveats before using their raw data and that countries should strive for a greater degree of accountability. Lastly it also concludes that protected area coverage may not be the best approach to environmental sustainability and that the remaining 19 targets should be considered to a greater extent.
Although, the involvement of artisanal fishing communities in conservation and management is now commonplace, their participation rarely goes beyond providing local and traditional knowledge to visiting scientists and managers. Communities are often excluded from ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and decision-making, even though these measures can have tremendous impacts on their livelihoods. For the past 17 years, we have designed, tested, and implemented a community-based monitoring model in three key marine ecosystems in Mexico: the kelp forests of Pacific Baja California, the rocky reefs of the Gulf of California, and the coral reefs of the Mesoamerican Reef System. This model is intended to engage local fishers in data collection by fulfilling two principal objectives: (1) to achieve science-based conservation and management decisions and (2) to improve livelihoods through access to knowledge and temporary employment. To achieve these goals, over 400 artisanal fishers and community members have participated in a nationwide marine reserve program. Of these, 222 fishers, including 30 women, have been trained to conduct an underwater visual census using SCUBA gear, and, to date, over 12,000 transects have been completed. Independent scientists periodically evaluate the training process and standards, and the data contribute to international monitoring efforts. This successful model is now being adopted by both civil society and government for use in different parts of Mexico and neighbouring countries. Empowering community members to collect scientific data creates responsibility, pride, and a deeper understanding of the ecosystem in which they live and work, providing both social and ecological benefits to the community and marine ecosystem.