Protected areas are a fundamental mechanism for conserving global biodiversity. Given limited conservation funds and shortfalls in funding for existing protected area management needs, a critical question is: should countries and states spend new funds on purchasing more land or managing existing protected areas to an acceptable standard? We used a non-spatial dynamic landscape model to compare the relative importance of expansion of protected areas versus improved protected area management in diverse contexts. We provide guidance on how to allocate funding across these two actions, and the order in which these actions should be prioritized. We discover that, in contrast with spending patterns, which focus on expansion rather than management, management is often the better first investment. The relative priority of expansion and management is determined by observable factors: the relative costs of the two actions and rates of degradation in protected and unprotected areas. Importantly, regardless of these factors, the final recommended action is always to split the budget across expansion and management such that there is adequate money for management. This highlights that, while our existing protected areas are an important asset, increased investment in management is essential to maximize their potential to protect biodiversity.
Increasing emissions of CO2 and the resultant ocean acidification (OA) will have large implications for the marine ecosystems sustained by habitat-forming species and their related ecosystem services (ES), with potentially significant impacts on human well-being. Here, we provide an assessment of the direct and indirect impacts of OA on ES. The changes in the functioning of coralligenous reefs and Posidonia oceanica meadows promoted by OA were investigated by i) synthesizing current knowledge into conceptual models. The models were then used to, ii) assessing the impacts of exposure of the selected taxa at the acidification level associated with two CO2 emission scenarios and iii) using the conceptual model outputs to project the cascading impacts from individuals to functions to ES.
The results highlight that the combination of the direct and indirect effects of acidification will alter many functions of both coralligenous and P.oceanica systems, triggering habitat modifications and the loss of highly valuable ES.
While the exact timing of the expected changes will depend on the severity of the emission scenarios, significant and hardly reversible changes can be expected as quickly as a few decades under the business-as-usual scenario, and many ecosystem services are at risk even under much more conservative scenarios.
Oceans constitute over 70% of the earth's surface, and the marine environment and ecosystems are central to many global challenges. Not only are the oceans an important source of food and other resources, but they also play a important roles in the earth's climate and provide crucial ecosystem services. To monitor the environment and ensure sustainable exploitation of marine resources, extensive data collection and analysis efforts form the backbone of management programmes on global, regional, or national levels. Technological advances in sensor technology, autonomous platforms, and information and communications technology now allow marine scientists to collect data in larger volumes than ever before. But our capacity for data analysis has not progressed comparably, and the growing discrepancy is becoming a major bottleneck for effective use of the available data, as well as an obstacle to scaling up data collection further. Recent years have seen rapid advances in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and in particular, so-called deep learning systems are now able to solve complex tasks that previously required human expertise. This technology is directly applicable to many important data analysis problems and it will provide tools that are needed to solve many complex challenges in marine science and resource management. Here we give a brief review of recent developments in deep learning, and highlight the many opportunities and challenges for effective adoption of this technology across the marine sciences.
Scientists, industry and regulators are seeking to understand the influence of oil and gas infrastructure in our oceans to mitigate its impacts and maximise environmental benefits. This project equipped a standard work-class ROV with a light-weight stereo-video camera system to collect high definition imagery of fish and habitats formed by marine growth associated with Woodside Energy's Goodwyn Alpha Platform jacket (GWA) 138 km offshore of Dampier, north-west Australia. ROV video surveys were rapidly performed by industry on four faces of the GWA jacket, from the surface to the seabed at 130 m, yielding 1 h and 14 min of imagery. The stereo-video cameras continued to film during standard ROV operations collecting a further 150 h of HD imagery, used to build a comprehensive fish species list. A total of 8676 individual fish from at least 57 species and 20 families, with an estimated combined mass of 8719 kg, were recorded from the vertical transects of four faces of the jacket. An additional 43 fish species from 21 families were recorded via rapid assessment of a subset of the additional, standard ROV operations imagery. The jacket was characterised by abundant Caranx sexfasciatus (bigeye trevally), Pseudanthias spp. (basslets), Heniochus diphreutes(schooling bannerfish), Labridae sp. (wrasse) and Acanthurus spp. (surgeonfish). Several fish important to the demersal scalefish fishery in the region were observed, including: Lutjanus argentimaculatus (mangrove jack), Lutjanus erythropterus(crimson snapper), Lutjanus malabaricus (saddletail snapper), Lutjanus russellii(Moses' snapper). Eleven broad marine growth types were observed with encrusting/enveloping species (brown algae, filamentous mat, coralline algae, calcite) and hard corals (Tubastrea sp.) present in the greatest coverage. Both marine growth and fish assemblages changed markedly with depth. The addition of a lightweight stereo-video system to an industrial ROV and the allocation of short amounts of time for rapid vertical surveys provided important information on the ecology of an oil and gas platform jacket. Future industrial ROV campaigns should consider utilising this approach to gather scientific information that may have value in the context of decommissioning comparative assessments and, more generally, improves our understanding of the impact of oil and gas infrastructure in our oceans.
In the United States, implementation of strong legislative mandates and investments in scientific programmes have supported sustainable fisheries management for seafood production, marine ecosystems, and maritime communities and economies. Changing climate and ocean conditions present new and growing challenges that affect the ability to manage fisheries. To better prepare for and respond to these challenges, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has called for increasing the production, delivery, and use of climate and environmental information to fulfil its living marine resource stewardship mandates. Addressing these challenges and more formally including climate-informed decision-making in the fisheries management process requires strengthening and adapting the current fisheries management framework. We focus on two impacts of a changing climate, shifting species distributions and changing productivity, which can have significant implications for effective fisheries management. We identify six key steps of a climate-informed science-to-management system: detecting changes, understanding mechanisms of changes, evaluating risks and priorities, conducting assessments, communicating advice, and making management decisions. For each step, we identify challenges and provide recommendations to address those challenges and increase the capacity to develop and apply climate-related science to support sustainable fisheries management in a changing world.
By 2050 it is expected that food, clean drinking water and sustainable energy has to be produced for a world population of close to 10 billion people. Our seas and oceans represent 71% of earth's surface, yet its space and resources today are not sustainably utilised to their full extent. The importance of the use of the marine environment is within the EU widely acknowledged and reflected in such agendas as the EU Blue Growth strategy, the Food 2030 agenda and the Food from our Oceans vision. In order to substantiate the vision to increasingly feed the world population from our oceans, a foresight exercise was implemented to construct an agenda of the science needed in the realm of fisheries, aquaculture and seafood. This resulted in a research agenda that is logically argued and based on an analysis made by stakeholders and experts which led to the identification of priorities having a scientific analytical basis as well as a societal reference. The process and the results of this foresight exercise are presented and are put in the wider context of Europe's research agenda towards 2050. In order to bring about the required Blue Revolution, substantial effort should be rendered to the science and innovation needed to support this development.
In those countries where wind plays a major role in the energy mix (EU, China and USA) actions have been carried out to develop offshore wind energy, albeit to varying degrees. These actions range from studying offshore wind to the development of laws and planning related to the construction of wind farms. Europe currently leads the way in offshore wind energy (with 84% of global installations), having achieved technical and commercial maturity, including the first floating wind farm to generate electricity, together with an emerging zero-subsidy culture. The Chinese wind industry has seen rapid development since 2005, however, well established laws, the use of a one-stop-shop system in the licencing process, and the establishment of higher feed-in tariffs (FITs), could all boost the Chinese offshore wind industry further. The possible future role of the USA in the offshore wind industry is now in the hands of its decision makers. A more streamlined licencing process, together with a long-term vision enshrined within stable economic incentives, could help to boost the offshore wind industry in the USA.
As the Earth's temperature continues to rise, coral bleaching events become more frequent. Some of the most affected reef ecosystems are located in poorly‐monitored waters, and thus, the extent of the damage is unknown. We propose the use of Marine Heatwaves (MHWs) as a new approach for detecting coral reef zones susceptible to bleaching, using the Red Sea as a model system. Red Sea corals are exceptionally heat‐resistant, yet bleaching events have increased in frequency. By applying a strict definition of MHWs on >30‐year satellite‐derived sea surface temperature observations (1985–2015), we provide an atlas of MHW hotspots over the Red Sea coral reef zones, which includes all MHWs that caused major coral bleaching. We found that: 1) if tuned to a specific set of conditions, MHWs identify all areas where coral bleaching has previously been reported; 2) those conditions extended farther and occurred more often than bleaching was reported; and 3) an emergent pattern of extreme warming events is evident in the northern Red Sea (since 1998), a region until now thought to be a thermal refuge for corals. We argue that bleaching in the Red Sea may be vastly underrepresented. Additionally, although northern Red Sea corals exhibit remarkably high thermal resistance, the rapidly rising incidence of MHWs of high intensity indicates this region may not remain a thermal refuge much longer. As our regionally‐tuned MHW algorithm was capable of isolating all extreme warming events that have led to documented coral bleaching in the Red Sea, we propose that this approach could be used to reveal bleaching‐prone regions in other data‐limited tropical regions. It may thus prove a highly valuable tool for policy‐makers to optimise the sustainable management of coastal economic zones.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) provide multiple conservation benefits, thus raising the question of how good and consistent they are at their roles. Here, we quantified three components, namely, diversity, biomass, and other relevant variables, in numerous protected and unprotected areas across four marine ecoregions in south-western Europe. We created a “global conservation status index” (CSIglobal) as the sum of CSIdiversity, CSIbiomass, and CSIrelevant. We then tested whether CSI and its three components varied as a function of protection and marine ecoregion. MPA efficiency, defined as the effect size of protection on CSIglobal, was unreliable and varied with geography. CSIbiomass and CSIrelevant contributed to the unreliability of MPA efficiency, while CSIdiversity was reliable. CSIbiomass showed the major efficiency in protected areas (60%). Biomass of threatened species was the single largest variable that contributed to MPA efficiency. Our easy-to-use approach can identify high- and low-efficient MPAs and help to clarify their actual roles.
The “Joint Roadmap to Accelerate Marine Spatial Planning Processes Worldwide”, adopted by IOC-UNESCO and the European Commission (DG-MARE) in 2017, highlights the growing commitment of policy and decision-makers in developing transboundary collaboration relevant to Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a mechanism for promoting sustainable sea use. While collaboration across borders represents positive progress towards global environmental stewardship and international cooperation, transboundary MSP can present challenges and obstacles as it can be a complex process involving different parties and stakeholders across multiple levels of governance. In this article, we examine the different enabling factors and good practices that emerge from two different DG-MARE-funded knowledge exchange projects on transboundary MSP, whose findings led to the development of the Joint Roadmap: the Baltic SCOPE Project, and the Study on International Best Practices for Cross-Border MSP. Recognising that MSP processes are specific to their respective contexts, we aim to provide guidance and support towards the development of effective collaboration in future transboundary MSP initiatives by offering inspiration in the approaches and tools used elsewhere. We hope this will enable others to reflect on the benefits of adopting a strategic approach to transboundary collaboration designed to align marine plans across different jurisdictions.