Several forms of calcifying scleractinian corals provide important habitat complexity in the deep-sea and are consistently associated with a high biodiversity of fish and other invertebrates. How these corals may respond to the future predicted environmental conditions of ocean acidification is poorly understood, but any detrimental effects on these marine calcifiers will have wider impacts on the ecosystem. Colonies of Solenosmilia variabilis, a protected deep-sea coral commonly occurring throughout the New Zealand region, were collected during a cruise in March 2014 from the Louisville Seamount Chain. Over a 12-month period, samples were maintained in temperature controlled (∼3.5 °C) continuous flow-through tanks at a seawater pH that reflects the region’s current conditions (7.88) and an end-of-century scenario (7.65). Impacts on coral growth and the intensity of colour saturation (as a proxy for the coenenchyme tissue that covers the coral exoskeleton and links the coral polyps) were measured bimonthly. In addition, respiration rate was measured after a mid-term (six months) and long-term (12 months) exposure period. Growth rates were highly variable, ranging from 0.53 to 3.068 mm year−1 and showed no detectable difference between the treatment and control colonies. Respiration rates also varied independently of pH and ranged from 0.065 to 1.756 µmol O2 g protein−1 h−1. A significant change in colour was observed in the treatment group over time, indicating a loss of coenenchyme. This loss was greatest after 10 months at 5.28% and could indicate a reallocation of energy with physiological processes (e.g. growth and respiration) being maintained at the expense of coenenchyme production. This research illustrates important first steps to assessing and understanding the sensitivity of deep-sea corals to ocean acidification.
Here, we clarify the events described on a recent paper by Soares & Lucas in Marine Policy 93 (2018) that resulted in the establishment of large marine protected areas (MPAs) in Brazil. We describe crucial aspects of the planning process that were not addressed by the authors, particularly: (i) top-down changes on the original design that left the most diverse, unique and vulnerable ecosystems poorly protected; (ii) the permission of fishing activities within no-take areas; and (iii) shortfalls in using these MPAs for quantifying progress towards the Aichi Target 11. The spatial configuration of MPAs was modified by the government in a typical top-down scenario that received neither public nor scientific input. We call for a ban on fishing activities around the islands and on mining activities within all MPAs. We emphasize the need for reconciling qualitative aspects of Aichi Target 11 when establishing new MPAs as a strategy for enhancing conservation outcomes. The establishment of these large MPAs should not divert attention from actions needed for the protection of priority sites based on scientific evidence.
Theoretical studies of marine protected areas (MPAs) suggest that more mobile species should exhibit reduced local effects (defined as the ratio of the density inside vs. outside of the MPA). However, empirical studies have not supported the expected negative relationship between the local effect and mobility. We propose that differential, habitat‐dependent movement (i.e., a higher movement rate in the fishing grounds than in the MPA) might explain the disparity between theoretical expectations and empirical results. We evaluate this hypothesis by building two‐patch box and stepping‐stone models, and show that increasing disparity in the habitat‐specific movement rates shifts the relationship between the local effect and mobility from negative (the previous theoretical results) to neutral or positive (the empirical pattern). This shift from negative to positive occurs when differential movement offsets recruitment and mortality differences between the two habitats. Thus, local effects of MPAs might be caused by behavioral responses via differential movement rather than by, or in addition to, reductions in mortality. In addition, the benefits of MPAs, in terms of regional abundance and fishing yields, can be altered by the magnitude of differential movement. Thus, our study points to a need for empirical investigations that disentangle the interactions among mobility, differential movement, and protection.
Loss of larger consumers from stressed ecosystems can lead to trophic release of mid‐level consumers that then impact foundation species, suppressing ecosystem function and resilience. For example, in coral reef ecosystems, outbreaks of coral predators like crown‐of‐thorns sea stars have been associated with fishing pressure and can dramatically impact the composition and persistence of corals. However, the ecological impacts, and consequences for management, of smaller, less obvious corallivores remain inadequately understood. We investigated whether reef state (coral vs. seaweed domination) influenced densities and size frequencies of the corallivorous gastropod Coralliophila violacea on its common host, the coral Porites cylindrica, within three pairs of small Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and adjacent fished areas in Fiji. C. violacea densities were 5–35 times greater, and their size frequencies more broadly distributed, within seaweed‐dominated fished areas than in adjacent MPAs dominated by corals. Tethering snails (4–9 mm in shell height) in place on their coral hosts indicated that suppression of snails in MPAs was due to predation, apparently by fishes. When tethered on the benthos (where they rarely occur), rather than on their host, mortality of larger snails (15.0–25.0 mm in shell height) was high in all areas, primarily due to hermit crabs killing them and occupying their shells. Because C. violacea is a sessile gastropod that feeds affixed to the base of corals and produces minimal visible damage, it has been considered a “prudent feeder” that minimally impacts its host coral. We assessed this over a 24‐d feeding period in the field. Feeding by individual C. violacea reduced P. cylindrica growth by ~18–43% depending on snail size. Our findings highlight the considerable, but underappreciated, negative impacts of this common corallivore on degraded reefs. As reefs degrade and corals are lost, remaining corals (often species of Porites) may gain the full attention of elevated densities of coral consumers. This will further damage the remaining foundation species, suppressing the resilience of corals and enhancing the resilience of degraded, seaweed‐dominated reefs.
With increasing depth, the ocean is less sampled for physical, chemical and biological variables. Using the Global Marine Environmental Datasets (GMED) and Ecological Marine Units (EMUs), we show that spatial variation in environmental variables decreases with depth. This is also the case over temporal scales because seasonal change, surface weather conditions, and biological activity are highest in shallow depths. A stratified sampling approach to ocean sampling is therefore proposed whereby deeper environments, both pelagic and benthic, would be sampled with relatively lower spatial and temporal resolutions. Sampling should combine measurements of physical and chemical parameters with biological species distributions, even though species identification is difficult to automate. Species distribution data are essential to infer ecosystem structure and function from environmental data. We conclude that a globally comprehensive, stratification-based ocean sampling program would be both scientifically justifiable and cost-effective.
Northward ocean heat transport (OHT) plays a key role in Arctic climate variability and change. Unforced climate model simulations suggest that at decadal and longer timescales, strengthened Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is correlated with increased OHT into the Arctic. Yet, greenhouse‐gas (GHG) forced simulations predict increased Arctic OHT while AMOC weakens. Here we partition OHT changes into contributions from ‘dynamic’ circulation changes and ‘thermodynamic’ temperature advection, as well as meridional overturning and gyre changes. We find that under decadal‐scale internal variability, strengthened AMOC converges heat in the subpolar gyre; anomalous heat is advected into the Arctic by both time‐mean circulations and strengthened gyre circulations. Under GHG forcing, weakened AMOC reduces subpolar gyre heat convergence; yet Arctic OHT increases as mean overturning and strengthened gyre circulations advect warmed surface waters. Thus, caution should be exercised when inferring Arctic OHT from AMOC, as the relationship between OHT and AMOC changes depends on whether they are internally generated or externally forced.
Global warming is markedly changing diverse coral reef ecosystems through an increasing frequency and magnitude of mass bleaching events1,2,3. How local impacts scale up across affected regions depends on numerous factors, including patchiness in coral mortality, metabolic effects of extreme temperatures on populations of reef-dwelling species4 and interactions between taxa. Here we use data from before and after the 2016 mass bleaching event to evaluate ecological changes in corals, algae, fishes and mobile invertebrates at 186 sites along the full latitudinal span of the Great Barrier Reef and western Coral Sea. One year after the bleaching event, reductions in live coral cover of up to 51% were observed on surveyed reefs that experienced extreme temperatures; however, regional patterns of coral mortality were patchy. Consistent declines in coral-feeding fishes were evident at the most heavily affected reefs, whereas few other short-term responses of reef fishes and invertebrates could be attributed directly to changes in coral cover. Nevertheless, substantial region-wide ecological changes occurred that were mostly independent of coral loss, and instead appeared to be linked directly to sea temperatures. Community-wide trophic restructuring was evident, with weakening of strong pre-existing latitudinal gradients in the diversity of fishes, invertebrates and their functional groups. In particular, fishes that scrape algae from reef surfaces, which are considered to be important for recovery after bleaching2, declined on northern reefs, whereas other herbivorous groups increased on southern reefs. The full impact of the 2016 bleaching event may not be realized until dead corals erode during the next decade5,6. However, our short-term observations suggest that the recovery processes, and the ultimate scale of impact, are affected by functional changes in communities, which in turn depend on the thermal affinities of local reef-associated fauna. Such changes will vary geographically, and may be particularly acute at locations where many fishes and invertebrates are close to their thermal distribution limits7.
This paper presents the results of a face-to-face survey of the attitudes of Polish fishermen towards Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP). Fishermen's self-assessed knowledge regarding MSP and their expectations were analysed. The conclusion reached shows that, despite similar access to information about MSP, Polish fishermen are less knowledgeable, more sceptical and more fearful of the MSP, than the other stakeholders involved. As a result, better education or more information on MSP would not suffice in making fishermen overcome their scepticism on the planning outcomes. In addition, the governing bodies of MSP should build trust and awareness, stimulate the stakeholders' interests in MSP, and convince the fishermen that MSP is friendly towards this specific sector. These findings did influence the MSP process in Poland, wherein MSP outreach was offered to the targeted groups of fishermen in the form of trust-building measures. A key lesson learned is that a capacity building process should be administered in such a way that the fishermen may easily distinguish it from other governance measures (e.g. under fishery or environment policy). An international component can play an important role in it. In conclusion, a number of observations are proposed with regard to future research on the attitudes of fishermen towards MSP. In particular, greater effort is necessary to better understand the motives of fishermen's scepticism towards the impact of MSP on their sector.
Understanding how species are distributed in the environment is increasingly important for natural resource management, particularly for keystone and habitat forming species, and those of conservation concern. Habitat suitability models are fundamental to developing this understanding; however their use in management continues to be limited due to often‐vague model objectives and inadequate evaluation methods. Along the Northeast Pacific coast, canopy kelps (Macrocystis pyrifera and Nereocystis luetkeana) provide biogenic habitat and considerable primary production to nearshore ecosystems. We investigated the distribution of these species by examining a series of increasingly complex habitat suitability models ranging from process‐based models based on species' ecology to complex Generalised Additive Models applied to purpose‐collected survey data. Seeking limits on model complexity, we explored the relationship between model complexity and forecast skill, measured using both cross‐validation and independent data evaluation. Our analysis confirmed the importance of predictors used in models of coastal kelp distributions developed elsewhere (i.e., depth, bottom type, bottom slope, and exposure); it also identified additional important factors including salinity, and interactions between exposure and salinity, and slope and tidal energy. Comparative results showed that cross‐validation can lead to over‐fitting, while independent data evaluation clearly identified the appropriate model complexity for generating habitat forecasts. Our results also illustrate that, depending on the evaluation data, predictions from simpler models can out‐perform those from more complex models. Collectively, the insights from evaluating multiple models with multiple data sets contribute to the holistic assessment of model forecast skill. The continued development of methods and metrics for evaluating model forecasts with independent data, and the explicit consideration of model objectives and assumptions, promise to increase the utility of model forecasts to decision makers.
The ‘Blue Economy’ is an increasingly popular term in modern marine and ocean governance. The concept seeks to marry ocean-based development opportunities with environmental stewardship and protection. Yet different actors are co-opting this term in competing, and often conflicting ways. Four conceptual interpretations of the Blue Economy are identified, through examination of dominant discourses within international Blue Economy policy documents and key ‘grey’ literature. The way the Blue Economy is enacted is also examined, through an analysis of the Blue Economy ‘in practice’, and the actors involved. Finally, the scope of the Blue Economy is explored, with a particular focus on which particular marine industries are included or excluded from different conceptualizations. This analysis reveals areas of both consensus and conflict. Areas of consensus reflect the growing trend towards commodification and valuation of nature, the designation and delimitation of spatial boundaries in the oceans and increasing securitization of the world's oceans. Areas of conflict exist most notably around a divergence in opinions over the legitimacy of individual sectors as components of the ‘Blue Economy’, in particular, carbon-intensive industries like oil and gas, and the emerging industry of deep seabed mining.