Marine biogenic habitats—habitats created by living organisms—provide essential ecosystem functions and services, such as physical structuring, nutrient cycling, biodiversity support, and increases in primary, secondary, and tertiary production. With the growing trend toward ecosystem approaches to marine conservation and fisheries management, there is greater emphasis on rigorously designed habitat monitoring programs. However, such programs are challenging to design for data‐limited habitats for which underlying ecosystem processes are poorly understood. To provide guidance in this area, we reviewed approaches to benthic assessments across well‐studied marine biogenic habitats and identified common themes related to indicator selection, sampling methods, and survey design. Biogenic habitat monitoring efforts largely focus on the characteristics, distribution, and ecological function of foundation species, but may target other habitat‐forming organisms, especially when community shifts are observed or expected, as well as proxies of habitat status, such as indicator species. Broad‐scale methods cover large spatial areas and are typically used to examine the spatial configuration of habitats, whereas fine‐scale methods tend to be laborious and thus restricted to small survey areas, but provide high‐resolution data. Recent, emerging methods enhance the capabilities of surveying large areas at high spatial resolution and improve data processing efficiency, bridging the gap between broad‐ and fine‐scale methods. Although sampling design selection may be limited by habitat characteristics and available resources, it is critically important to ensure appropriate matching of ecological, observational, and analytical scales. Drawing on these common themes, we propose a structured, iterative approach to designing monitoring programs for marine biogenic habitats that allows for rigorous data collection to inform management strategies, even when data and resource limitations are present. A practical application of this approach is illustrated using glass sponge reefs—a recently discovered and data‐limited habitat type—as a case study.
Habitat loss is accelerating a global extinction crisis. Conservation requires understanding links between species and habitats. Emerging research is revealing important associations between vegetated coastal wetlands and marine megafauna, such as cetaceans, sea turtles, and sharks. But these links have not been reviewed and the importance of these globally declining habitats is undervalued. Here, we identify associations for 102 marine megafauna species that utilize these habitats, increasing the number of species with associations based on current InternationalUnion for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) species assessments by 59% to 174, accounting for over 13% of all marine megafauna. We conclude that coastal wetlands require greater protection to support marine megafauna, and present a simple, effective framework to improve the inclusion of habitat associations within species assessments.
New Zealand's marine and coastal environments are of significant ecological, economic, cultural and social value. Yet a multitude of threats, disjointed legislation, and considerable knowledge gaps continue to limit the country's ability to effectively manage its marine ecosystems and resources. As such, it is important to identify the key research priorities that can best support progress towards more relevant and informed decision-making. Here we present the results of the New Zealand Marine Science Horizon Scan, which identified the ten highest priority research questions for the future of marine science in New Zealand across nine themes: 1) fisheries and aquaculture, 2) biosecurity, 3) climate change, 4) marine reserves and protected areas, 5) ecosystems and biodiversity, 6) policy and decision-making, 7) marine guardianship, 8) coastal and ocean processes, and 9) other anthropogenic factors. These key research priorities can be used to complement ongoing marine science activities, develop new and important areas of research, encourage opportunities for collaboration, and improve transparency around research and decision-making. Not only will answering these questions bridge existing knowledge gaps in marine science, but they can also be used to design research programmes that make the greatest contributions to the future of marine conservation, policy, and management in New Zealand.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) remain central to the conservation of marine biodiversity, but enhancing their resilience under climate change require that organizations managing them are able to adapt. Social factors like institutions can affect organizational capacities to adapt to climate change. Yet our knowledge about how different institutional designs for protected areas affect management adaptive capacity is limited. We address this gap by comparing how two models of MPA governance - centralized and collaborative (co-management) - influence the adaptive capacities of public organizations managing MPAs in East Africa. Social network analysis is used to examine external relations of MPA organizations which are interpreted through the lens of social capital theory to explain the acquisition of information and knowledge that support adaptive capacity. We find differences in the ways focal MPA organizations in the centralized and co-managed MPA systems are connected to their external partners. In the centralized system, the focal MPA organization operates in a less connected network rich in opportunities to bridge disconnected groups that can be a source of novel and diverse information. Conversely, the focal MPA organization in the co-managed system operates in a dense network of interconnected organizations that are likely to have similar information, therefore providing redundant information benefits. The composition of partners around focal MPA organizations which determines information quality is not affected by MPA governance context. We conclude that institutional context affects the relational dimensions of adaptive capacity, by giving greater or fewer opportunities for the development of either bridging or bonding social capital.
As habitat mapping is crucially important for developing effective management and restoration plans, the aim of this work was to produce a census of available map resources at the European scale focusing on: a) key marine habitats; b) degraded habitats; c) human activities and pressures acting on degraded habitats, and d) the restoration potential of degraded habitats. Almost half of the 580 map records were derived from grey literature and web resources but contained no georeferenced files for download, thus limiting further use of the data. Biogeographical heterogeneity was observed and varied between the type and quality of information provided. This variability was mainly related to differences in research efforts and stakeholder focus. Habitat degradation was assessed in only 28% of the map records and was mostly carried out in a qualitative manner. Less than half of the map records included assessments on the recovery/restoration potential of the degraded habitats, with passive restoration by removal of human activities being the most commonly recommended measure. The current work has identified several gaps and challenges both in the thematic and geographic coverage of the available map resources, as well as in the approaches implemented for the harmonized assessment of habitat degradation. These should guide future mapping initiatives in order to more comprehensively support and advise the marine habitat restoration agenda for better meeting the objectives set in relevant policy documents and legislative acts in Europe.
Purpose of Review
We summarize recent progress on autonomous observations of ocean carbonate chemistry and the development of a network of sensors capable of observing carbonate processes at multiple temporal and spatial scales.
The development of versatile pH sensors suitable for both deployment on autonomous vehicles and in compact, fixed ecosystem observatories has been a major development in the field. The initial large-scale deployment of profiling floats equipped with these new pH sensors in the Southern Ocean has demonstrated the feasibility of a global autonomous open-ocean carbonate observing system.
Our developing network of autonomous carbonate observations is currently targeted at surface ocean CO2 fluxes and compact ecosystem observatories. New integration of developed sensors on gliders and surface vehicles will increase our coastal and regional observational capability. Most autonomous platforms observe a single carbonate parameter, which leaves us reliant on the use of empirical relationships to constrain the rest of the carbonate system. Sensors now in development promise the ability to observe multiple carbonate system parameters from a range of vehicles in the near future.
Despite frequent calls for Integrated Management (IM) of coastal and marine activities, there is no consensus on the ‘recipe’ for successful adoption and implementation, and there has been insufficient evaluation of successes and failures of IM to date. The primary rationale for IM is to overcome four major deficiencies of sector-based management: a) management of diverse activities by different agencies using different approaches, b) management generally focused on a subset of primarily ecological objectives that do not properly articulate or evaluate social, cultural, economic and institutional objectives, c) no mechanisms to evaluate or advise on trade-offs among objectives of activities in relation to objectives and d) no mechanisms to evaluate the cumulative effects of all managed activities. To help overcome this gap in knowledge, here we draw on our collective experiences working in Australia and Canada to develop and articulate a framework to help guide the practical implementation and evaluation of IM, which we define as: ‘An approach that links (integrates) planning, decision-making and management arrangements across sectors in a unified framework, to enable a more comprehensive view of sustainability and the consideration of cumulative effects and trade-offs.’
We argue that IM will be most easily and effectively achieved by linking and modifying existing sector-based plans in an overarching IM initiative that has nine key features: 1) Recognition of need for IM, 2) A shared vision by stakeholders and decision-makers for IM, 3) Appropriate legal and institutional frameworks for coordinated decision-making, 4) Sufficient and effective processes for stakeholder engagement and participation, 5) A common and comprehensive set of operational objectives, 6) Explicit consideration of trade-offs and cumulative impacts, 7) Flexibility to adapt to changing conditions, 8) Processes for ongoing review and refinement, and 9) Effective resourcing, capacity, leadership and tools. Drawing on these features we then articulate a process for the implementation and evaluation of IM that recognises five phases: i) Preconditions and drivers of change, ii) Intentional design and institutional rearrangement, iii) Enablers and disablers iv) An implemented IM process, and v) Review of IM performance and modification. Combination of the nine features of IM with the five phases in IM development provides a framework for implementation and a lens for evaluation of IM processes. We suggest that this framework provides a guide to the appropriate design of practical IM, which will assist in overcoming the current management deficiencies and improve the sustainability of marine resources in the face of change.
Growing human populations are driving the development of coastal infrastructuresuch as port facilities. Here, we used passive acoustic telemetry to examine the effects of a jetty and artificial light on the rates of predation of flatback turtle(Natator depressus) hatchlings as they disperse through nearshore waters. When released near a jetty, around 70% of the tagged hatchlings were predated before they could transit the nearshore, irrespective of the presence or absence of artificial light. Only 3 to 23% of hatchlings encountered predators at a second study site nearby where there was no jetty and a similar amount of nesting activity. Evidence for predation was provided by rapid tag detachment due to prey handling by a predator or the extensive movement of the tags within the receiver array suggesting that the tag (and hatchling) was inside the stomach of a predator. We found that 70% of the fish predators that consumed tags used the jetty as a refuge during the day and expanded their range along nearshore waters at night, predating on hatchlings in areas adjacent to the jetty with the highest nesting density. Sampling of potential predators including lutjanid reef fishes under the jetty revealed the presence of turtle hatchlings in their gut contents. By providing daytime refuges for predators, nearshore structures such as jetties have the potential to concentrate predators and they may pose a significant threat to populations of vulnerable species. Such effects must be taken into consideration when assessing the environmental impactsassociated with these structures.
Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) are characterized by prominent biological features susceptible to anthropogenic disturbances. Following international guidelines, the identification and protection of VMEs require a detailed documentation regarding both the community structure and the fishing footprintin the area. This combined information is lacking for the majority of the Mediterranean mesophotic rocky reefs that, similarly to deep-seabottoms, are known to host valuable animal forests.
A deep coralligenous site exploited by artisanal fishermen in the NW Mediterranean Sea is here used as a model to assess the vulnerability of animal forests at mesophotic depths and evaluate the sustainability of artisanal fishing practices, particularly lobster trammel net. The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) footage is used to document the biodiversity and health status of the megabenthic communities, while discard data are employed to quantify the entanglement risk, discard rates of fragile species and threats to sea floor integrity.
A multidisciplinary approach is proposed for the assessment of the vulnerability criteria of an EU Special Area of Conservation, leading to specific managementmeasures, including the delineation of fishing restrictions.
We used high-resolution fisheries-dependent data and a quantitative modeling approach to examine resilience of a commercial reef fish fleet after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH) emergency closures in 2010. Our results indicate that the fleet was largely resilient to the closures, although there were spatially-varying differences in attrition, and concomitant management changes and emergency payouts that likely influenced resilience. Five percent of previously active vessels exited the fleet after DWH (compared to the background annual attrition rate of ˜20%). The predicted probability of exiting after DWH was lower for vessels with a pre-closure history of high catch-per-unit-effort, low snapper revenue variability, or low grouper revenue. There was ˜80% overlap in pre- to post-DWH effort distribution, although vessels that exited concentrated effort in the north-central and eastern Gulf of Mexico. The Vessels of Opportunity program and other emergency compensation likely ameliorated some of the negative economic impactsfrom DWH, allowing more vessels to remain in the fleet than may have otherwise. Implementation of gear restrictions and individual fishing quotas leading up to DWH may have also ‘primed’ the fleet for resilience by removing marginal fishers. This work is novel in its use of high-resolution spatial data, coupled with trip logbooks, to construct quantitative models identifying drivers of fisher resilience after significant and sudden perturbations to fishery resources in the Gulf of Mexico. This work also highlights the need to better understand fisher response to disturbance for long-term fishery sustainability and management.