With our growing global population, over-consumption of natural resources and concomitant depletion, demands are placed on the scientific community to provide information, including suitable management of coastal ecosystems. However, the nature-society relationship is highly dynamic and complex and requires a framework which can accommodate options. In coastal systems, poor resource management is among the main causes of its degradation. As such, impacts arising from climate change, including sea-level rise, has forced an increase in the demand for sustainable coastal ecosystem science to inform management decisions. The realization of current and future sustainability objectives depends on the development and implementation of coherent strategies on managing dynamic ecosystems for retaining their ability to undergo disturbance, while maintaining their services, functions and control mechanisms. This paper provides a review of the basic assumptions, typical frameworks and methodologies that are adopted for (i) sustainability and sustainable management, (ii) ecosystem services and ecosystem management and (iii) coastal ecosystem management applications in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Finally, limitations for sustainable coastal ecosystem management are discussed and recommendations are made which can inform research in sustainability science.
In the last two decades, many new living cold-water coral (CWC) sites throughout the Mediterranean basin have been discovered and investigated. As part of oceanographic cruises, using ROVs and towed cameras, and trawl and longline surveys as well as records from fishermen, a belt of CWC communities has been identified along the Apulian continental margin (Central Mediterranean). The most investigated CWC communities are those of the Santa Maria di Leuca (SML) CWC province (northern Ionian Sea) and Bari Canyon (BC) (southern Adriatic Sea). These communities are mainly structured by the habitat-former species Madrepora oculata and, to a lesser extent, by Lophelia pertusa together with Dendrophyllia cornigera, solitary species, such as Desmophyllum dianthus, black coral, such as Leiopathes glaberrima, sponges (e.g., Pachastrella monilifera, Poecillastra compressa), serpulids, boring clams and colonies of bryozoans. CWC sites are biodiversity hot-spots, that act as “Essential Fish Habitats” for commercial species and through the spill-over effect might contribute to the renewal of stocks in neighbouring fishing grounds, providing ecosystems’ goods and services. Despite their particular features, CWC areas along the Apulian slope are impacted by different anthropogenic activities. Fishermen operate close and around these areas with the aim of obtaining greater catches and sizes of commercial species. Although there are many conservation proposals for CWC habitats and a Fisheries Restricted Area established for Santa Maria di Leuca CWC province, human pressure is still very strong, due to the lack of adequate conservation measures. An effective system of monitoring, control and surveillance will be fundamental to meet the conservation objectives and to reach the Good Environmental Status as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Genetic analyses of nuclear DNA (e.g., microsatellites) are a primary tool for investigating mating systems in reptiles, particularly marine turtles. Whereas studies over the past two decades have demonstrated that polyandry (i.e., females mating with multiple males) is common in marine turtles, polygyny (i.e., males mating with multiple females) has rarely been reported. In this study we investigated the mating structure of Critically Endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) at Bahía de Jiquilisco in El Salvador, one of the largest rookeries in the eastern Pacific Ocean. We collected genetic samples from 34 nesting females and hatchlings from 41 clutches during the 2015 nesting season, including one nest from each of 27 females and two nests from seven additional females. Using six highly polymorphic microsatellite loci, we reconstructed the paternal genotypes for 22 known male turtles and discovered that seven (31.8%) sired nests from multiple females, which represents the highest polygyny level reported to date for marine turtles and suggests that this is a common mating structure for this population. We also detected multiple paternity in four (11.8%) clutches from the 34 females analyzed, confirming polyandrous mating strategies are also employed. The high level of polygyny we documented suggests there may be a limited number of sexually mature males at Bahía de Jiquilisco; a scenario supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence. Our findings highlight key management uncertainties, including whether polygynous mating strategies can compensate for potential ongoing feminization and the low number of adult males found for this and possibly other marine turtle populations.
This paper develops and tests a conceptual environmental risk assessment and management framework to guide businesses and other stakeholders, including government, in defining and addressing potential environmental problems in ocean shipping and port operations. The framework aims to protect the natural environment and its ecosystem services while at the same time allowing society to obtain goods and benefits from the seas. As such it integrates three elements: firstly, the criteria required to achieve sustainable management that, secondly, underpin a problem structuring method which, thirdly, can be assessed using an ISO Bow-tie industry standard analysis tool. Ocean pollution from water and air-borne discharges are used to illustrate this framework; this uses an input from an exploratory research study with maritime practitioners which investigated the framework veracity and potential for use, highlighting its potential and shortcomings.
- Marine infrastructures are becoming ubiquitous as a result of the increasing exploitation of resources in the nearshore environment. These infrastructures are frequently linked with habitat degradation, pollution, and the establishment and spread of alien species. As marine infrastructures are perceived as threats to marine ecosystems, they are typically disregarded in conservation planning schemes.
- Here, the presence of invertebrates and fish was surveyed in infrastructure areas with prohibited public access, as well as in nearby rocky reef areas that had no infrastructure and were open to the public.
- It was found that species richness, Shannon diversity, and uniqueness of both fish and invertebrates were significantly higher in the infrastructure habitats than in the rocky reef habitats in most cases. Surprisingly, the findings show that the proportion of alien species was higher in the unprotected rocky reef habitats compared with that in the infrastructure habitats.
- These counterintuitive findings suggest that marine infrastructures that limit unauthorized access to the surrounding territory may contribute to conservation if they are acknowledged and managed, according to their potential to provide a habitat for marine species. This suggests that these areas should be considered by planners as opportunities to enhance the connectivity of populations and to supplement marine protected areas in heavily impacted marine environments.
Conservation of marine megafauna is nested within an intricate tapestry of multiple ocean resource uses which are, in turn, embedded in a dynamic and complex ecological ocean system that varies and shifts across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Marine megafauna conservation is often further complicated by contemporaneous, and sometimes competing, social, economic, and ecological factors and related management objectives. Advances in emerging technologies and applications, such as remotely-sensed oceanographic data, animal-based telemetry, novel computational analyses, innovations in structured decision making, and stakeholder engagement and policy are supporting complex systems and complexity-aware approaches to megafauna conservation and research. Here we discuss several applications that focus on megafauna fisheries bycatch and exemplify how complex systems and complexity-aware approaches that inherently acknowledge and account for the complexity of ocean systems can advance megafauna conservation and research. Emerging technologies, applications and approaches that embrace, rather than ignore, complexity can drive innovation and success in megafauna conservation and research.
There are numerous reasons to conduct scientific research within protected areas, but research activities may also negatively impact organisms and habitats, and thus conflict with a protected area’s conservation goals. We developed a quantitative ecological decision-support framework that estimates these potential impacts so managers can weigh costs and benefits of proposed research projects and make informed permitting decisions. The framework generates quantitative estimates of the ecological impacts of the project and the cumulative impacts of the proposed project and all other projects in the protected area, and then compares the estimated cumulative impacts of all projects with policy-based acceptable impact thresholds. We use a series of simplified equations (models) to assess the impacts of proposed research to: a) the population of any targeted species, b) the major ecological assemblages that make up the community, and c) the physical habitat that supports protected area biota. These models consider both targeted and incidental impacts to the ecosystem and include consideration of the vulnerability of targeted species, assemblages, and habitats, based on their recovery time and ecological role. We parameterized the models for a wide variety of potential research activities that regularly occur in the study area using a combination of literature review and expert judgment with a precautionary approach to uncertainty. We also conducted sensitivity analyses to examine the relationships between model input parameters and estimated impacts to understand the dominant drivers of the ecological impact estimates. Although the decision-support framework was designed for and adopted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for permitting scientific studies in the state-wide network of marine protected areas (MPAs), the framework can readily be adapted for terrestrial and freshwater protected areas.
Coral reefs provide ecosystem goods and services for millions of people in the tropics, but reef conditions are declining worldwide. Effective solutions to the crisis facing coral reefs depend in part on understanding the context under which different types of conservation benefits can be maximized. Our global analysis of nearly 1,800 tropical reefs reveals how the intensity of human impacts in the surrounding seascape, measured as a function of human population size and accessibility to reefs (“gravity”), diminishes the effectiveness of marine reserves at sustaining reef fish biomass and the presence of top predators, even where compliance with reserve rules is high. Critically, fish biomass in high-compliance marine reserves located where human impacts were intensive tended to be less than a quarter that of reserves where human impacts were low. Similarly, the probability of encountering top predators on reefs with high human impacts was close to zero, even in high-compliance marine reserves. However, we find that the relative difference between openly fished sites and reserves (what we refer to as conservation gains) are highest for fish biomass (excluding predators) where human impacts are moderate and for top predators where human impacts are low. Our results illustrate critical ecological trade-offs in meeting key conservation objectives: reserves placed where there are moderate-to-high human impacts can provide substantial conservation gains for fish biomass, yet they are unlikely to support key ecosystem functions like higher-order predation, which is more prevalent in reserve locations with low human impacts.
This paper focuses on destructive fishing practices in coastal Tanzania. I argue that the dominant conservation narrative that increased capacity and ‘political will’ for enforcement of marine protected areas (MPAs) reflects a form of spatial fetishization, in that it overemphasizes the influence of space over social behaviour. I contend that Tanzanian MPAs offer bandage solutions to underlying structural problems that are contingent upon the inconsistent availability of social and financial resources for monitoring activities. I suggest that a paradigm shift is necessary, involving the de-territorialization of marine conservation discourse in Tanzania, and a movement towards addressing the underlying social, political and economic conditions that influence marine resource use.
We report a mortality event of Red Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius) that occurred from October to November 2016 on the north coast of British Columbia, Canada. All individuals were severely underweight and showing signs of physiological stress. The guts of all carcasses contained ingested plastics (100%, n = 9). Distribution modelling from pelagic bird surveys (1990–2010) indicated that Red Phalaropes are not typically found in the study area during fall months. Ocean conditions during fall 2016 were unusually warm, coinciding with reduced upwelling in the study area. eBird records since 1980 indicated Red Phalaropes are observed closer to shore during periods associated with reduced upwelling. These results suggest that distribution shifts of Red Phalaropes closer to shore, where plastic debris occurs in higher concentrations, may lead phalaropes to feed on plastic debris while in a weakened state, resulting in a combination of two adverse circumstances.