Establishing protected areas (PAs) ranks among the top priority actions to mitigate the global scale of modern biodiversity declines. However, the distribution of biodiversity is spatially asymmetric among regions and lineages, and the extent to which PAs offer effective protection for species and ecosystems remains uncertain. Penguins, regarded as prime bioindicator birds of the ecological health of their terrestrial and marine habitats, represent priority targets for such quantitative assessments. Of the world’s 18 penguin species, eleven are undergoing population declines, for which ten are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’. Here, we employ a global-scale dataset to quantify the extent to which their terrestrial breeding areas are currently protected by PAs. Using quantitative methods for spatial ecology, we compare the global distribution of penguin colonies, including range and population size analyses, with the distribution of terrestrial PAs classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and generate hotspot and endemism maps worldwide. Our assessment quantitatively reveals < 40% of the terrestrial range of eleven penguin species is currently protected, and that range size is the significant factor in determining PA protection. We also show that there are seven global hotspots of penguin biodiversity where four or five penguin species breed. We suggest that future penguin conservation initiatives should be implemented based on more comprehensive, quantitative assessments of the multi-dimensional interactions between areas and species to further the effectiveness of PA networks.
Canada is a signatory to United Nations conventions on sustainable development and has entrenched sustainability goals in legislation and policies relating to natural resource sectors including aquaculture. Monitoring and measuring progress towards sustainable development requires the development of sustainability indicators (SI) that, when measured, indicate movement towards or away from a stated policy objective, as well as providing the public with a measure of government accountability. This paper examined the SI used by the Canadian government to assess the social, economic and environmental sustainability of aquaculture production in Canada, whether they adequately measure policy outcomes, and whether national-level SI indicators are appropriate to assessing sustainability at the community-level. The analysis reveals that the Canadian government has made virtually no progress towards translating sustainable aquaculture policy aspirations into measurable SI that evaluate policy outcomes. The mismatch between national policy goals and on-the-ground consequences are highlighted in a community case study of finfish aquaculture in Port Mouton Bay (Nova Scotia). Aquaculture SI and sustainability narratives are discussed in relation to emergent governance arrangements (certification programs) and an international development initiative, Blue Growth, for the world's oceans.
Plastic pollution is an omnipresent problem that threatens marine animals through ingestion and entanglement. Marine mammals are no exception to this rule but their interaction with plastic remains understudied in the Mediterranean Sea. Here we highlight this problem by analyzing the stomach contents of 34 individuals from seven odontocete species stranded in Greece. Macroplastic (>5 mm) were found in the stomachs of nine individuals from four species (harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena, Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus, Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostrisand sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus) with the highest frequency of occurrence in sperm whales (60%). Gastric blockage from plastic was presumably lethal in three cases, with plastic bags being the most common finding (46%). Plastic ingestion is of particular conservation concern for the endangered Mediterranean sperm whales. A regular examination of stranded cetaceans with a standardised protocol is critical for allowing spatiotemporal comparisons within and across species.
The ocean capacity to store carbon is crucial, and currently absorbs about 25% CO2 supply to the atmosphere. The ability to store carbon has an economic value, but such estimates are not common for ocean environments, and not yet estimated for the Arctic Ocean. With the severe climatic changes in the Arctic Ocean, impacting sea ice and potentially the vertical carbon transport mechanisms, a projection of future changes in Arctic Ocean carbon storage is also of interest. In order to value present and evolving carbon storage in the changing Arctic marine environment we combine an ocean model with an economic analysis. Placing a value on these changes helps articulate the importance of the carbon storage service to society. The standing stock and fluxes of organic and inorganic carbon from the atmosphere, rivers, shelves and through the gateways linking to lower latitudes, and to the deep of the Arctic Ocean are investigated using the physically chemically biologically coupled SINMOD model. To obtain indications of the effect of climate change, trajectories of two IPCC climate scenarios RCP 4.5, and RCP 8.5 from the Max Planck Institute were used for the period 2006–2099. The results show an increase in the net carbon storage in the Arctic Ocean in this time period to be 1.0 and 2.3% in the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 scenarios, respectively. Most of this increase is caused by an increased atmospheric CO2 uptake until 2070. The continued increase in inorganic carbon storage between 2070 and 2099 results from increased horizontal influx from lower latitude marine regions. First estimates of carbon storage values in the Arctic Ocean are calculated using the social cost of carbon (SCC) and carbon market values as two outer bounds from 2019 to 2099, based on the simulated scenarios. We find the Arctic Ocean will over the time period studied increase its storage of carbon to a value of between €27.6 billion and €1 trillion. This paper clearly neglects a multitude of different negative consequences of climate change in the Arctic, but points to the fact that there are also some positive counterbalancing effects.
The role of rivers as a major transport pathway for all sizes of plastic debris into the ocean is widely recognized. Global modelling studies ranked the Changjiang River as the largest contributor of plastic waste to the marine environment, but these estimates were based on insufficient empirical data. To better understand the role of rivers in delivering terrestrial plastic debris to the ocean, the spatial and temporal patterns of microplastics (MP) in the Changjiang Estuary (CE) and the East China Sea (ECS) were studied based on surface water samples in February, May, and July 2017. A total of 3225 MP (60–5000 μm) were identified by Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry. MP abundance in July was higher than in February and May due to higher river discharge. Density stratification in CE significantly influenced the surface MP abundances. A temporal accumulation zone within the river-sea interface for plastics was indicated by stations with apparently higher abundances in the river plume. Fibers were the most common MP (>80%) over three months. Small MP (<1000 μm) composed 75.0% of the total plastics on average. The average mass of MP was 0.000033 g/particle, which was two orders of magnitude lower than the empirical mass in literature. Without considering tidal effects, we estimate 16–20 trillion MP particles, weighing 537.6–905.9 tons, entered the sea through the surface water layer of the Changjiang River in 2017. These findings of this study provide reliable information on MP waste in a large river, which should be considered in further studies for estimating the riverine plastic loads.
Adaptive management of marine protected areas (MPAs) requires developing methods to evaluate whether monitoring data indicate that they are performing as expected. Modeling the expected responses of targeted species to a MPA network, with a clear timeline for those expectations, can aid in the development of a monitoring program that efficiently evaluates expectations over appropriate time frames. Here we describe the expected trajectories in abundance and biomass following MPA implementation for populations of 19 nearshore fishery species in California. To capture the process of filling in the age structure truncated by fishing, we used age‐structured population models with stochastic larval recruitment to predict responses to MPA implementation. We implemented both demographically open (high larval immigration) and closed (high self‐recruitment) populations to model the range of possible trajectories as they depend on recruitment dynamics. From these simulations, we quantified the time scales over which anticipated increases in abundance and biomass inside MPAs would become statistically detectable. Predicted population biomass responses range from little change, for species with low fishing rates, to increasing by a factor of nearly seven, for species with high fishing rates before MPA establishment. Increases in biomass following MPA implementation are usually greater in both magnitude and statistical detectability than increases in abundance. For most species, increases in abundance would not begin to become detectable for at least ten years after implementation. Overall, these results inform potential indicator metrics (biomass), potential indicator species (those with a high fishing:natural mortality ratio), and time frame (>10 years) for MPA monitoring assessment as part of the adaptive management process.
Animals that select the best available habitats are most likely to succeed in degraded environments, but ecological change can create evolutionarily unfamiliar habitats that may be under‐ or over‐utilized by native fauna. In temperate coastal waters, eutrophication and grazing have driven a global decline in native seaweeds and facilitated the establishment of non‐native seaweeds that provide novel macrophyte habitat. We tested whether a non‐native kelp canopy (wakame Undaria pinnatifida) functions as a viable habitat or ecological trap for several endemic reef fishes on urchin‐grazed reefs in southern Australia. We assessed the willingness of fish to utilize native vs. wakame kelp canopy via a laboratory habitat choice experiment and by recording natural recruitment to specially constructed boulder reefs with manipulated kelp canopy. We also compared fish communities on natural reefs using a before‐after‐control‐impact survey of wakame patches, and to assess the quality of wakame habitat for resident fish, compared fitness metrics for fish collected from habitats with native vs. wakame kelp canopy. Endemic fishes did not distinguish between the native or wakame canopy but preferred both to barren reef habitats. On urchin‐grazed natural reefs, fish occurred in higher abundance and diversity where seasonal wakame canopy was present. Fitness metrics in fish collected from wakame patches were comparable to those in fish from adjacent native kelp patches. These findings indicate that the non‐native canopy provides a viable habitat for endemic fish and may play a role in sustaining native fauna populations in this degraded ecosystem. More broadly, we recommend that managers consider the role of non‐native habitats within the context of environmental change, as endemic fauna may benefit from non‐native habitat‐formers in areas where their native counterparts cannot persist.
The accumulation of plastic wastes in the marine environment represents a steadily increasing global environmental threat. The replacement of conventional plastics with bio-based biodegradable materials may contribute to alleviating the problem in the long run. This work studies the disintegration behaviour of three bio-based plastic materials, namely Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), Polybutylene sebacate (PBSe), Polybutylene sebacate-co-terephthalate (PBSeT), in three different coastal zone marine environments under natural conditions. The three studied environments were: 1) the seashore zone which is periodically covered by the seawater due to waves or tide, called eulittoral or intertidal zone; 2) the water column zone of small depth (about 10 m), called pelagic zone; and 3) the interface zone between the water column and the seabed sediment at small depth (about 20 m), called sublittoral or benthic zone. The experiments took place in the Aegean Sea at the SW coast of Salamis Island. The results showed that disintegration, as an indicative measure of biodegradation, occurs in all three tested environments, even though the rate depends on the material, the habitat, and the prevailing during the testing period environmental conditions. The degrees of disintegration of all materials in the three environments exhibited significant differences: Benthic > Intertidal > Pelagic. The observed disintegration can be attributed to biodegradation since the negative reference Low-density Polyethylene (LLDPE) material did not disintegrate.
The vulnerability of private coastal properties is a global issue which has arisen largely because of a lack of understanding of coastal processes. In some countries where government authorities have a long history of funding private property protection works the sustainability and ethics of policies have been questioned together with debate over public rights and the rights of property owners. In Australia, where coast protection is a responsibility of state governments there is a variation in policies and legislation relating to planning approvals for coast protection works in front of private properties. This paper examines the different Australian policies and uses examples from practice to illustrate these differences. The paper notes a wide variation in the ratio of public versus private funding which does not always match the relative proportion of benefit gained from protection works. The paper concludes that there is a complex pattern of individual state-based coastal policies, legislation and guidelines related to protection of private coastal properties. These have an underlying principle that protection works must be fully assessed in the context of effects on the adjacent coast and neighbouring properties. In reality, this requires a detailed understanding of coastal processes, particularly sediment movement, within broad sections of the coast referred to as sediment cells. Such an integrated approach has been introduced to some state-based Australian coastal legislation and strategies.
Plastic pollution in the marine environment is a pervasive and increasing threat to global biodiversity. Prioritising management actions that target marine plastic pollution require spatial information on the dispersal and settlement of plastics from both local and external sources. However, there is a mismatch between the scale of most plastic dispersal studies (regional, national and global) and the scale relevant to management action (local). We use a fine-resolution hydrodynamic model to predict the potential exposure of coastal habitats and species (mangroves, coral reefs and marine turtles) to plastic pollution at the local scale of a management region (the 1,700 km2 Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia). We assessed the potential exposure of mangroves, coral reefs and marine turtles to plastics during the two dominant wind conditions of the region; the trade wind and monsoon wind seasons. We found that in the trade wind season (April to September) all habitats and species had lower exposure than during the monsoon wind season (October to March). In both wind seasons we found a small proportion of coral reef habitat and large area of turtle habitat were in high potential exposure categories. Unlike coral reefs or marine turtles, mangroves had consistent hotspots of high exposure across wind seasons. Local scale management requires data at fine resolution to capture the variability that occurs at this scale. The outputs of our study can inform the development of conservation resources and local scale management action.