The European Atlas of the Seas is a web-based coastal and marine information system, originally aimed at the general public, but capable also of supporting non-specialist professionals in addressing environmental matters, human activities and management policies related to the sea. It is based on a combination of data (and metadata), which present a snapshot of both natural and socio-economic elements of coastal and marine regions in the European Union and its Outermost Regions. The first idea of a European Atlas of the Seas was set forward in 2007 with the launch of the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union. Early work on the Atlas was conducted by the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs of the European Commission, while further development of system architecture, data collection, map services and descriptive text was assigned in 2013 to the Joint Research Centre, with the aim to offer new services and features, as well as the interaction with other available information tools. The present European Atlas of the Seas consists of background data layers designed to be displayed as map backdrop, as well as a number of thematic data layers, classified under 8 main categories: geography, nature, tourism, security and safety, people and employment, transport and energy, governance and European policies, fisheries and aquaculture. These can be used to compose customized maps, as user-defined ad hoc indicators, and to probe them with tools such as product-to-product correlations, or time series visualisation. Non-specialist professional users can use such analysis and interpretation capabilities to couple data into ecological and socio-economic indicators for a wide range of applications. The thematic map collection provided a common baseline that can be used by Member States of the European Union in getting started with the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive requirements. As this is seen as a pre-requisite for Blue Growth, the European Atlas of the Seas will help the sustainable use of marine ecosystem services and resources.
Consideration of whether to completely remove an oil and gas production platform from the seafloor or to leave the submerged jacket as a reef is an imminent decision for California, as a number of offshore platforms in both state and federal waters are in the early stages of decommissioning. Laws require that a platform at the end of its production life be totally removed unless the submerged jacket section continues as a reef under state sponsorship. Consideration of the eventual fate of the populations of fishes and invertebrates beneath platforms has led to global reefing of the jacket portion of platforms instead of removal at the time of decommissioning. The construction and use of artificial reefs are centuries old and global in nature using a great variety of materials. The history that led to the reefing option for platforms begins in the mid-20th century in an effort for general artificial reefs to provide both fishing opportunities and increase fisheries production for a burgeoning U.S. population. The trend toward reefing platforms at end of their lives followed after the oil and gas industry installed thousands of standing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico where they had become popular fishing destinations. The National Fishing Enhancement Act and subsequent National Artificial Reef Plan laid the foundation for Rig-to-Reefs. Reefing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico is a well-established practice that is also applied globally. Deliberation of reefing decommissioned platforms and many years of scientific study beneath California platforms has culminated in a California State law that now allows consideration of the concept. This paper summarizes the history, practices, published science, and available information involved when considering the reefing option. It is hoped that this material will inform the public, policy makers, and regulators about their upcoming decisions.
To implement ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), there is a need to comprehensively examine fundamental components of fisheries ecosystems and ascertain the characteristics and strategies facilitating this more systematic approach. Coupled natural and human factors, inherent biological productivities, and systematic governance measures all influence living marine resource (LMR) and socioeconomic status within a given socio-ecological system (SES). Determining the relative prominence of these factors remains a challenge. Examining these facets to determine how much EBFM and wise LMR management occurs is timely and warranted given the many issues facing marine fisheries ecosystems. Here we characterize major United States (U.S.) marine fishery ecosystems by examining these facets and compiling a consistent, multidisciplinary view of these coupled SESs using commonly available, integrated data for each ecosystem. We then examine if major patterns and lessons emerge when comparing across SESs. This work also seeks to elucidate what are the determinants of successful LMR management. Although U.S.-centric, the breadth of the ecosystems explored here are likely globally applicable. Overall, we observed that inherent biological productivity was a major driver determining the level of fisheries biomass, landings, and LMR economic value for a given region, but that human interventions can offset basal production. We observed that good governance could overcome certain ecosystem limitations, and vice versa, especially as tradeoffs within regions have intensified over time. We also found that all U.S. regions are performing well in terms of certain aspects of LMR management, with unique successes and challenges observed in all regions. Although attributes of marine fisheries ecosystems differ among regions, there are commonalities that can be applied and transferred across them. These include having: clear stock status identified; relatively stable but attentive management interventions; clear tracking of broader ecosystem considerations; landings to biomass exploitation rates at typically < 0.1; areal landings at typically < 1 t km2year−1; ratios of landings relative to primary production at typically < 0.001; and explicit consideration of socio-economic factors directly in management. Integrated, cross-disciplinary perspectives and systematic comparative syntheses such as this one offer insight in determining regionally-specific and overarching approaches for successful LMR management.
1. Global warming and overexploitation both threaten the integrity and resilience of marine ecosystems. Many calls have been made to at least partially offset climate change impacts through local conservation management. However, a mechanistic understanding of the interactions of multiple stressors is generally lacking for habitat‐forming species; preventing the development of sound conservation strategies.
2. We examined the effectiveness of no‐take marine protected areas (MPAs) at enhancing structural complexity and resilience to climate change on populations of an overexploited and long‐lived octocoral. We used long‐term data over eight populations, subjected to varying levels of disturbances, and Integral Projection Models to understand how the interaction between overfishing and mass‐mortality events shapes the stochastic dynamics of the Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum.
3. MPAs largely reduced colony partial mortality (i.e. shrinkage), enhancing the structural complexity of coral populations. However, there were no significant differences in individual mortality or population growth rates between protected and exploited populations. In contrast, warming had detrimental consequences for the long‐term viability of red coral populations, driving steady declines and potential local extinctions due to sharp effects in survival rates. Stochastic demographic models revealed only a weak compensatory effect of MPAs on the impacts of warming.
4. Policy implications. Our results suggest that marine protected areas (MPAs) are an effective local conservation tool for enhancing the structural complexity of red coral populations. However, MPAs may not be enough to ensure red coral's persistence under future increases in thermal stress. Accordingly, conservation strategies aiming to ensure the persistence and functional role of red coral populations should include management actions at both local (well‐enforced MPAs) and global scales (reductions in greenhouse gas emissions). Finally, this study unravels the divergent demographic consequences that can arise from multiple stressors and highlights the key role of demography in better understanding and predicting the consequences of combined impacts for vulnerable ecosystems.
This chapter examines the multiple factors affecting the status of marine living resources in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (abnj), focusing on the gaps and deficiencies in the international law framework regulating these resources. The United Nations process to develop an international legally binding instrument (ilbi) for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in abnjrepresents a historic opportunity to lay the foundation for a more integrated and cross-sectoral system of oceans governance in abnj. This chapter explores the potential role of the ilbi in remediating gaps in the international law framework for marine living resources in abnj.
Instantaneous implementation of systematic conservation plans at regional scales is rare. More typically, planned actions are applied incrementally over periods of years or decades. During protracted implementation, the character of the connected ecological system will change as a function of external anthropogenic pressures, local metapopulation processes, and environmental fluctuations. For heavily exploited systems, habitat quality will deteriorate as the plan is implemented, potentially influencing the schedule of protected area implementation necessary to achieve conservation objectives. Understanding the best strategy to adopt for applying management within a connected environment is desirable, especially given limited conservation resources. Here, we model the sequential application of no‐take marine protected areas (MPAs) in the central Philippines within a metapopulation framework, using a range of network‐based decision rules. The model was based on selecting 33 sites for protection from 101 possible sites over a 35‐yr period. The graph‐theoretic network criteria to select sites for protection included PageRank, maximum degree, closeness centrality, betweenness centrality, minimum degree, random, and historical events. We also included a dynamic strategy called colonization–extinction rate that was updated every year based on the changing capacity of each site to produce and absorb larvae. Each rule was evaluated in the context of achieving the maximum metapopulation mean lifetime at the conclusion of the implementation phase. MPAs were designated through the alteration of the extinction risk parameter. The highest ranked criteria were PageRank while the actual implementation from historical records ranked lowest. Our results indicate that protecting the sites ranked highest with regard to larval supply is likely to yield the highest benefit for fish abundance and fish metapopulation persistence. Model results highlighted the benefits of including network processes in conservation planning.
Thousands of offshore oil and gas structures are approaching the end of their operating life globally, yet our understanding of the environmental effects of different decommissioning strategies is incomplete. Past focus on a narrow set of criteria has limited evaluation of decommissioning effects, restricting decommissioning options in most regions. We broadly review the environmental effects of decommissioning, analyse case studies, and outline analytical approaches that can advance our understanding of ecological dynamics on oil and gas structures. We find that ecosystem functions and services increase with the age of the structure and vary with geographical setting, such that decommissioning decisions need to take an ecosystem approach that considers their broader habitat and biodiversity values. Alignment of decommissioning assessment priorities among regulators and how they are evaluated, will reduce the likelihood of variable and sub-optimal decommissioning decisions. Ultimately, the range of allowable decommissioning options must be expanded to optimise the environmental outcomes of decommissioning across the broad range of ecosystems in which platforms are located.
Protected areas (PAs) are a frequently used conservation strategy, yet their socioeconomic impacts on local communities remain contentious. A shift toward increased participation by local communities in PA governance seeks to deliver benefits for human well‐being and biodiversity. Although participation is considered critical to the success of PAs, few researchers have investigated individuals’ decisions to participate and what this means for how local people experience the costs and benefits of conservation. We explored who participates in PA governance associations and why; the perceived benefits and costs to participation; and how costs and benefits are distributed within and between communities. Methods included 3 focus groups, 37 interviews, and 217 questionnaire surveys conducted in 3 communities and other stakeholders (e.g., employees of a nongovernmental organization and government officials) in PA governance in Madagascar. Our study design was grounded in the theory of planned behavior (TPB), the most commonly applied behavior model in social psychology. Participation in PA governance was limited by miscommunication and lack of knowledge about who could get involved and how. Respondents perceived limited benefits and high costs and uneven distribution of these within and between communities. Men, poorer households, and people in remote villages reported the highest costs. Our findings illustrate challenges related to comanagement of PAs: understanding the heterogeneous nature of communities; ensuring all households are represented in governance participation; understanding differences in the meaning of forest protection; and targeting interventions to reach households most in need to avoid elite capture.
The Brandt's Cormorant of the California Current is a “boom-or-bust” species like its congeners in other eastern boundary, upwelling driven ecosystems, and like many of the prey upon which they depend. These birds produce many recruits when fish availability is high, leading to rapidly increasing populations, but few recruits, and may even exhibit die-offs, when the opposite is true. Unlike cormorants in the Peru and Benguela currents, however, Brandt's Cormorant population changes have yet to be correlated with those of its prey. Herein, using multi-decadal time series of cormorant colony size, diet, prey availability and mortality, in the context of changes in breeding site and fishery management, we provide insight into why central California colonies near San Francisco — a major portion of this species' global population — expanded from principally one offshore island in the 1960–70s to include a large mainland component by the 1990s. Involved were increases and decreases, respectively, of northern anchovy, a coastal forage species, and young-of-the year rockfish, more prevalent offshore. With protection of breeding sites and a shift towards ecosystem-based fisheries management by the 1990s, variations of the central California Brandt's Cormorant population are now driven naturally by forage fish availability, and perhaps inter- and intraspecific competition for prey and space when population sizes are high. This species, owing to its “boom-or-bust” natural history and the relative ease of assessing breeding population size and diet, may be ideal for monitoring the state of the central California Current food web.
The drastic land cover change and its impacts in the Yellow Sea have long been significant issues in terms of coastal vulnerabilities, but holistic data analysis is limited. The present study first reports 40 years long geographical changes of the Yellow Sea coasts including all three neighboring countries of China, North Korea, and South Korea. We delineated tidal flats by analysis of Landsat series satellite imageries (662 scenes) between 1981 and 2016. A total area of the Yellow Sea tidal flats has been considerably reducing for the past 36 years, from ∼10,500 km2 (1980s) to ∼6700 km2(2010s), say ∼1% annual loss. A majority loss of tidal flats was mainly due to the grand reclamations that conducted in almost entire coast of the Yellow Sea, particularly concentrated in the 1990s-2000s. Coastal reclaimed area during the past four decades reached ∼9700 km2, including ongoing and planned projects, which corresponds to over half the area of precedent natural tidal flats of the Yellow Sea. The potential carbon stocks in the eight representative regions with large scale reclamation indicated significant loss in carbon sink capacity in the South Korea's coast (∼99%), while evidenced a lesser loss from the China's coast (∼31%). It was noteworthy that the progradation of tidal flats after the reclamation in China's coast significantly reduced the loss of carbon sequestration. According to the ecosystem services valuation for the Yellow Sea, a total loss was estimated as ∼8 billion USD yr−1 with relatively high proportional loss (up to 25%) of climate regulating services (viz., carbon sequestration). Overall, huge losses in ecosystem services being provided by the Yellow Sea natural tidal flats need immediate action to prevent or at least alleviate accelerating ecological deteriorations. Finally, future conservative policy direction on coastal wetlands management has been proposed towards enhancement of marine ecosystem services.