This study proposes and discusses a multi-scale spatial planning method implemented simultaneously at local and national level to prioritize ecosystem management actions across landscapes and seascapes. Mismatches in scale between the occurrence of biodiversity patterns and ecological processes, and the size and nature of the human footprint, and the different levels and scope of governance, are a significant challenge in conservation planning. These scale mismatches are further confounded by data resolution disparities across and amongst the different scales. To address this challenge, we developed a multi-resolution scale-linked marine spatial planning method. We tested this approach in the development of a Conservation Plan for a significant portion of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone, adjacent to the east coast province of KwaZulu-Natal (the SeaPlan project). The study’s dataset integrated the geographic distribution of 390 biodiversity elements (species, habitats, and oceanographic processes) and 38 human activities. A multi-resolution system of planning unit layers (PUL), with individual PUs ranging in resolution from 0.2 to 10 km, was designed to arrange and analyse these data. Spatial priorities for conservation were selected incrementally at different scales, contributing conservation targets from the fine-, medium- and large-scale analyses, and from the coast to the offshore. Compared to a basic single-resolution scale-unlinked plan, our multi-resolution scale-linked method selects 6% less conservation area to achieve the same targets. Compared to a multi-resolution scale-unlinked plan, our method requires only an additional 5% area. Overall, this method reflects the multi-scale nature of marine social-ecological systems more realistically, is relatively simple and replicable, and serves to better connect fine-scale and large-scale spatial management policies. We discuss the impacts of this study on protected area expansion planning processes in South Africa. This study showcases a methodological advance that has the potential to impact marine spatial planning practices and policies.
Analysis of the biological traits (BTA) that control how organisms interact with their environment has been used to identify environmental drivers or impacts across large‐scales and to explain the importance of biodiversity loss. However, BTA could also be used within risk assessment frameworks or conservation planning by understanding the groups of traits that predict the sensitivity of observed habitats or communities to specific human activities. Deriving sensitivity from biological traits should extend sensitivity predictions to a variety of habitats, especially those in which it would be difficult to conduct experiments due to for example depth, risk to gear and human life and at scales larger than the normal scale of experiments. We used BTA on video transect data collected from a relatively pristine region of the seafloor to determine scales of natural spatial variability, the degree to which predictions of sensitivity are affected by underlying community compositions and the ability of the BTA to provide predictions that differ between three different stressors (extraction, sedimentation and suspended sediments). Three methods were used to assess sensitivity (weighted abundance, abundance of highly sensitive species and number of highly sensitive species). Regardless of method and spatial patterns occurring across the sampled area, BTA was able to distinguish differences in sensitivity at a site to different stressors. BTA also successfully separated differences in community composition from differences in sensitivity to stressors. Conversely, the three methods varied widely in their ability to detect simulated impacts. Differences between the methods reflected underlying processes, suggesting that use of multiple methods would be more informative for spatial planning and allocating conservation priorities than use of a single method. Our results suggest that BTA could be used as a first step in strategic prioritisation of protected areas and as an underlying layer for spatial planning.
Small-sized plastic debris are an increasing global concern, particularly in environmental protected areas. Consequently, tourism-based economy of poor coastal regions is also impaired. Nevertheless, little interest has been shown about recycling approaches of such materials, mostly because of the natural degradation of polymers on these conditions. This research presents the report of the occurrence of plastic debris nearby Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, on the northeast Brazilian coast, aiming to provide a feasible method for recycling. We collected more than 80 samples from the sediment and classified them via FT-IR. Degraded polypropylene samples were selected for blending with virgin material using different concentration rates, and were mechanically tested. Tensile testing results suggest that 5% recycled material concentration mixture has suitable mechanical properties on the elastic regime for applications on new parts. Our findings show that particular interest should be addressed on the recovery of commodity plastic debris from environmental protected areas.
This review article makes six observations about the current body of research on the societal impacts of a changing Arctic. First, climate change and globalisation are the dominant drivers of societal impacts in the Arctic. Second, many contributions focus on the impacts in concrete sectors of society, often from an opportunities-and-risks perspective, which tends to blur the boundary to more policy-oriented work. Third, the mantra of the sustainable development of the Arctic or Arctic sustainability pervades considerations of Arctic societal impacts. Fourth, societal and environment change in the Arctic is increasingly analysed using the image of the Global Arctic, highlighting the inextricable linkages between Arctic and global processes and systems and thus the entangled fate of the North and the entire globe. Fifth, an increasing number of actors is seen as being involved in societal and environmental transformations in the Arctic, often conveyed through the (often ill-defined) stakeholder concept. Sixth, Arctic indigenous peoples are depicted as the group most vulnerable to the societal impacts of a changing Arctic, but are increasingly the subject of research in the form of rights-holders and active participants in governance, law, politics, and research. Challenges for future research include achieving greater clarity and reflexivity around key concepts, and de-essentialising the Arctic via the use of comparative methods on cases both within and beyond the Arctic.
Incidental catch of nontarget species (bycatch) is a major barrier to ecological and economic sustainability in marine capture fisheries. Key to mitigating bycatch is an understanding of the habitat requirements of target and nontarget species and the influence of heterogeneity and variability in the dynamic marine environment. While patterns of overlap among marine capture fisheries and habitats of a taxonomically diverse range of marine vertebrates have been reported, a mechanistic understanding of the real-time physical drivers of bycatch events is lacking. Moving from describing patterns toward understanding processes, we apply a Lagrangian analysis to a high-resolution ocean model output to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that drive fisheries interactions. We find that the likelihood of marine megafauna bycatch is intensified in attracting Lagrangian coherent structures associated with submesoscale and mesoscale filaments, fronts, and eddies. These results highlight how the real-time tracking of dynamic structures in the oceans can support fisheries sustainability and advance ecosystem-based management.
Science communication is seen as critical for the disciplines of ecology and conservation, where research products are often used to shape policy and decision making. Scientists are increasing their online media communication, via social media and news. Such media engagement has been thought to influence or predict traditional metrics of scholarship, such as citation rates. Here, we measure the association between citation rates and the Altmetric Attention Score—an indicator of the amount and reach of the attention an article has received—along with other forms of bibliometric performance (year published, journal impact factor, and article type). We found that Attention Score was positively correlated with citation rates. However, in recent years, we detected increasing media exposure did not relate to the equivalent citations as in earlier years; signalling a diminishing return on investment. Citations correlated with journal impact factors up to ∼13, but then plateaued, demonstrating that maximizing citations does not require publishing in the highest-impact journals. We conclude that ecology and conservation researchers can increase exposure of their research through social media engagement and, simultaneously, enhance their performance under traditional measures of scholarly activity.
Growing awareness of the role of marine spatial planning (MSP) in promoting sustainable development and ecosystem-based management highlights the need to use decision-support tools, and specifically ecological modelling tools, to consider the future impact of planning and management on the marine environment. However, how these tools can be incorporated into planning and their expected contribution is not always clear. Here, an Ecopath with Ecosim and Ecospace food-web model was used in a hypothetical planning process to examine the integration of food-web tools in specific stages of MSP. The model was used to examine spatial alternatives and management strategies for Orot Rabin coastal infrastructure facility in the Israeli Mediterranean coast, in an attempt to assess how such facilities might promote marine conservation. The results revealed the effect of different management protocols on the ecosystem, and provide the maximum allowable catch for sustaining the biomass of vulnerable fish species in the area, which can be used in MSP to address specific marine conservation goals. The model led to counterintuitive understandings regarding the management of the area. It demonstrated that intensive development under specific management strategies may promote conservation goals better than some management strategies directed towards ecological and recreational purposes. This study confirms the potential usefulness of food-web models for MSP; it specifies the stages and means by which planners can use models. Furthermore, it is suggested that tool's development should be planning-oriented and should include more applications to serve planners who aim to promote ecosystem-based management and marine conservation goals.
The impact of fisheries on marine megafauna is widely known but most studies have focused on commercial fisheries, overlooking the effect of local recreational fisheries. This is particularly important for marine turtles in near-shore habitats that overlap with recreational fisheries. We assessed the effect of recreational scallop fisheries on the distribution and behaviour of foraging marine turtles in the coastal waters of the upper Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Before and during the scallop season we quantified the density and overlap of marine turtles and vessels sighted, and satellite tracked four turtles to assess their distribution and behaviour. The relative distribution of marine turtles sighted during the scallop season overlapped with 48% of the area most frequently used by harvesters, and marine turtle activity hotspots shifted between seasons. In addition, during the scallop season the home range size of individual turtles appeared to decrease, and turtles displayed frequent changes in travel speed and directionality. We hypothesize that such changes are probably related to the distribution and movement of vessels and the abundant presence of people in the water. Our study highlights the importance of considering recreational fisheries and their local effect on marine megafauna for informing future adaptive management practices. However, further studies are needed to quantify the direct and indirect impacts of recreational fisheries and to assess the degree of risk of associated activities to marine turtle populations.
Very large marine protected areas are in danger of becoming 'paper parks'. This paper uses an interdisciplinary team to investigate the use of remote sensing technologies to provide sufficient evidence for effective fisheries management. It uses the intended marine protected area around Ascension Island as a case study. Satellite technology provides opportunities to detect the presence of fishing vessels but because of difficulties with data interpretation, it is unlikely to be a sole source of evidence for prosecutions. Developing drone technology and traditional over-flights by aerial surveillance may supplement satellite technology with 'eyewitness’ evidence. Well-crafted regulations will be able to make some use of this data, but the evidential requirements of criminal courts make prosecutions difficult to pursue. There is some scope to expand management opportunities through vesting the fishery in a public body and pursuing offenders through civil law, this approach having a different suite of remedies. Other opportunities lie in giving very large marine protected areas legal personality which has similar advantages and additional reputational benefits. Using remote sensing data in the civil court poses evidential problems. An alternative approach is to collate data around frequent infringers and, by negatively impacting on their reputation, restrict their ability to obtain insurance, finance, access to fisheries and market access. This is exemplified in port state measures by fisheries authorities and chain of custody requirements by labelling bodies. Data sharing raises challenges with intellectual propertyand coordination. The paper demonstrates that there are opportunities to make VLMPAs work more effectively.
The fabled Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route that were once the quests of early Western explorers are now increasingly sea ice–free, with routine vessel transits expected by midcentury. The potential impacts of this novel vessel traffic on endemic Arctic marine mammal (AMM) species are unknown despite their critical social and ecological roles in the ecosystem and widely recognized susceptibility to ice loss. We developed a vulnerability assessment of 80 subpopulations of seven AMM species to vessel traffic during the ice-free season. Vulnerability scores were based on the combined influence of spatially explicit exposure to the sea routes and a suite of sensitivity variables. More than half of AMM subpopulations (42/80) are exposed to open-water vessel transits in the Arctic sea routes. Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) were estimated to be most vulnerable to vessel impacts, given their high exposure and sensitivity, and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) were estimated to be the least vulnerable because of their low exposure and sensitivity. Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by two to three times higher vulnerability than more remote regions. These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory AMMs, and so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for conservation-informed planning. Some of the species and regions identified as least vulnerable were also characterized by high uncertainty, highlighting additional data and monitoring needs. Our quantification of the heterogeneity of risk across AMM species provides a necessary first step toward developing best practices for maritime industries poised to advance into this rapidly changing seascape.