The rapid growth of the use and disposal of plastic materials has proved to be a challenge for solid waste management systems with impacts on our environment and ocean. While recycling and the circular economy have been touted as potential solutions, upward of half of the plastic waste intended for recycling has been exported to hundreds of countries around the world. China, which has imported a cumulative 45% of plastic waste since 1992, recently implemented a new policy banning the importation of most plastic waste, begging the question of where the plastic waste will go now. We use commodity trade data for mass and value, region, and income level to illustrate that higher-income countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation have been exporting plastic waste (70% in 2016) to lower-income countries in the East Asia and Pacific for decades. An estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced with the new Chinese policy by 2030. As 89% of historical exports consist of polymer groups often used in single-use plastic food packaging (polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate), bold global ideas and actions for reducing quantities of nonrecyclable materials, redesigning products, and funding domestic plastic waste management are needed.
Imaging spectrometry of non-oceanic aquatic ecosystems has been in development since the late 1980s when the first airborne hyperspectral sensors were deployed over lakes. Most water quality management applications were, however, developed using multispectral mid-spatial resolution satellites or coarse spatial resolution ocean colour satellites till now. This situation is about to change with a suite of upcoming imaging spectrometers being deployed from experimental satellites or from the International Space Station. We review the science of developing applications for inland and coastal aquatic ecosystems that often are a mixture of optically shallow and optically deep waters, with gradients of clear to turbid and oligotrophic to hypertrophic productive waters and with varying bottom visibility with and without macrophytes, macro-algae, benthic micro-algae or corals. As the spaceborne, airborne and in situ optical sensors become increasingly available and appropriate for aquatic ecosystem detection, monitoring and assessment, the science-based applications will need to be further developed to an operational level. The Earth Observation-derived information products will range from more accurate estimates of turbidity and transparency measures, chlorophyll, suspended matter and coloured dissolved organic matter concentration, to more sophisticated products such as particle size distributions, phytoplankton functional types or distinguishing sources of suspended and coloured dissolved matter, estimating water depth and mapping types of heterogeneous substrates. We provide an overview of past science, current state of the art and future directions so that early career scientists as well as aquatic ecosystem managers and associated industry groups may be prepared for the imminent deluge of imaging spectrometry data.
We develop a model for four sustainability paradigms (weak sustainability, a-growth, de-growth, strong sustainability) within a single framework that accounts for responsibility for nature and future generations and for intra- and inter-generational equality. The model is applied in three case studies: the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Sea with the aim to identify feasible sustainability solutions for shared seas under alternative sources of environmental pressure and cooperation strategies. The Baltic Sea is analyzed as an example of pollution from agriculture, the Adriatic Sea as an example of over-exploitation of fish in fishery, and the Black Sea as an example of pollution from industry. Empirical results show that different cooperation strategies are feasible in each case and that they yield different results in different context. Also welfare implications vary between different cooperation strategies. The main policy implication of the analysis is two-fold. Environmental conservation must be preferred to environmental innovation, where both intra- and inter-generational equity concerns are unessential. The choice of a different sustainability approaches must be combined with the feasibility of the differently required management institutions, while considerations of the sectoral sources of environmental pressure are essential.
Plastic pollution has become the new millennium's tragedy of the commons. This is particularly true with the marine debris plastic pollution issue, which has seen significant global interest recently. There is long-standing acknowledgment of the difficulty in managing the commons, with regulations, economic and market based instruments and community-based solutions all having a role to play. We review the global plastic pollution issue in the context of governance and policy, providing examples of successes, opportunities and levers for change. We discuss the role of regulation, public perception and social license to operate (SLO) in managing waste that enters the ocean. We argue that while plastic pollution is a tragedy, there are many opportunities for reduction, management, and changes to the global community's relationship with plastic.
Measurements of the status and trends of key indicators for the ocean and marine life are required to inform policy and management in the context of growing human uses of marine resources, coastal development, and climate change. Two synergistic efforts identify specific priority variables for monitoring: Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) through the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) from the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) (see Data Sheet 1 in Supplementary Materials for a glossary of acronyms). Both systems support reporting against internationally agreed conventions and treaties. GOOS, established under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), plays a leading role in coordinating global monitoring of the ocean and in the definition of EOVs. GEO BON is a global biodiversity observation network that coordinates observations to enhance management of the world's biodiversity and promote both the awareness and accounting of ecosystem services. Convergence and agreement between these two efforts are required to streamline existing and new marine observation programs to advance scientific knowledge effectively and to support the sustainable use and management of ocean spaces and resources. In this context, the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), a thematic component of GEO BON, is collaborating with GOOS, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), and the Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR) project to ensure that EBVs and EOVs are complementary, representing alternative uses of a common set of scientific measurements. This work is informed by the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM), an intergovernmental body of technical experts that helps international coordination on best practices for observing, data management and services, combined with capacity development expertise. Characterizing biodiversity and understanding its drivers will require incorporation of observations from traditional and molecular taxonomy, animal tagging and tracking efforts, ocean biogeochemistry, and ocean observatory initiatives including the deep ocean and seafloor. The partnership between large-scale ocean observing and product distribution initiatives (MBON, OBIS, JCOMM, and GOOS) is an expedited, effective way to support international policy-level assessments (e.g., the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES), along with the implementation of international development goals (e.g., the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals).
Ocean-derived, airborne microbes play important roles in Earth’s climate system and human health, yet little is known about factors controlling their transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere. Here, we study microbiomes of isolated sea spray aerosol (SSA) collected in a unique ocean–atmosphere facility and demonstrate taxon-specific aerosolization of bacteria and viruses. These trends are conserved within taxonomic orders and classes, and temporal variation in aerosolization is similarly shared by related taxa. We observe enhanced transfer into SSA of Actinobacteria, certain Gammaproteobacteria, and lipid-enveloped viruses; conversely, Flavobacteriia, some Alphaproteobacteria, and Caudovirales are generally under-represented in SSA. Viruses do not transfer to SSA as efficiently as bacteria. The enrichment of mycolic acid-coated Corynebacteriales and lipid-enveloped viruses (inferred from genomic comparisons) suggests that hydrophobic properties increase transport to the sea surface and SSA. Our results identify taxa relevant to atmospheric processes and a framework to further elucidate aerosolization mechanisms influencing microbial and viral transport pathways.
The role of Marine Protected Areas on distinct life stages of Mediterranean reef fish species (classified on the basis of their economic value and mobility categories) was assessed in a network of marine reserves in SE Spain. Only abundance and biomass of adult of both commercial and demersal species were positively affected by protection. Gradients across reserve boundaries (as a clue to the occurrence of spillover) were observed for fish abundance but not for biomass, indicating a protected fish assemblage with a predominance of small-sized individuals. Also, post-larvae of commercial species were negatively related to protected zones. Active selection of settlement preferred habitats, larval accumulation favoured by the geomorphological configuration of the coast or mixed effects has been proposed as possible explanations. Juveniles showed high spatial variability resulting in a lack of response to fishing protection measures. We highlight the need of including early life stages and overall suitable habitats for them when designing MPA networks due to the crucial importance of these stages to successful fulfillment of MPA objectives.
Shark-diving tourism provides important economic benefits to the Maldives. We examine the link between shark conservation actions and economic returns from diving tourism. A combined travel cost and contingent behaviour approach is used to estimate the dive trip demand under different management scenarios. Our results show that increasing shark populations could increase dive-trip demand by 15%, raising dive tourists’ welfare by US$58 million annually. This could result in annual economic benefits for the dive-tourism industry of >US$6 million. Conversely, in scenarios where shark populations decline, where dive tourists observe illegal fishing, or if dive operators lack engagement in shark conservation, dive trip demand could decrease by up to 56%. This decline causes economic losses of more than US$24 million annually to the dive tourism industry. These results highlight the dependence of the shark-diving industry on the creation and enforcement of appropriate management regimes for shark conservation.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) form the cornerstone of marine conservation. Identifying which factors contribute to their success or failure is crucial considering the international conservation targets for 2020 and the limited funds generally available for marine conservation. We identified common factors of success and/or failure of MPA effectiveness using peer-reviewed publications and first-hand expert knowledge for 27 case studies around the world. We found that stakeholder engagement was considered to be the most important factor affecting MPA success, and equally, its absence, was the most important factor influencing failure. Conversely, while some factors were identified as critical for success, their absence was not considered a driver of failure, and vice versa. This mismatch provided the impetus for considering these factors more critically. Bearing in mind that most MPAs have multiple objectives, including non-biological, this highlights the need for the development and adoption of standardized effectiveness metrics, besides biological considerations, to measure factors contributing to the success or failure of MPAs to reach their objectives. Considering our conclusions, we suggest the development of specific protocols for the assessment of stakeholder engagement, the role of leadership, the capacity of enforcement and compliance with MPAs objectives. Moreover, factors defining the success and failure of MPAs should be assessed not only by technical experts and the relevant authorities, but also by other stakeholder groups whose compliance is critical for the successful functioning of an MPA. These factors should be considered along with appropriate ecological, social, and economic data and then incorporated into adaptive management to improve MPA effectiveness.
We reviewed 148 assessments of animal source food (ASF) production for livestock, aquaculture, and capture fisheries that measured four metrics of environmental impact (energy use, greenhouse‐gas emissions, release of nutrients, and acidifying compounds) and standardized these per unit of protein production. We also examined additional literature on freshwater demand, pesticide use, and antibiotic use. There are up to 100‐fold differences in impacts between specific products and, in some cases, for the same product, depending on the production method being used. The lowest impact production methods were small pelagic fisheries and mollusk aquaculture, whereas the highest impact production methods were beef production and catfish aquaculture. Many production methods have not been evaluated, limiting our analysis to the range of studies that have been published. Regulatory restrictions on ASF production methods, as well as consumer guidance, should consider the relative environmental impact of these systems, since, currently, there appears to be little relationship between regulatory restrictions and impact in most developed countries.