Ocean ecosystems are in decline, yet we also have more ocean data, and more data portals, than ever before. To make effective decisions regarding ocean management, especially in the face of global environmental change, we need to make the best use possible of these data. Yet many data are not shared, are hard to find, and cannot be effectively accessed. We identify three classes of challenges to data sharing and use: uploading, aggregating, and navigating. While tremendous advances have occurred to improve ocean data operability and transparency, the effect has been largely incremental. We propose a suite of both technical and cultural solutions to overcome these challenges including the use of natural language processing, automatic data translation, ledger-based data identifiers, digital community currencies, data impact factors, and social networks as ways of breaking through these barriers. One way to harness these solutions could be a combinatorial machine that embodies both technological and social networking solutions to aggregate ocean data and to allow researchers to discover, navigate, and download data as well as to connect researchers and data users while providing an open-sourced backend for new data tools.
Boundary spanning – the practice of facilitating knowledge exchange to address complex sustainability challenges – has the potential to align research and policymaking and increase the uptake of research in decision making. But the goals, methods, and outcomes of boundary-spanning activities in the environment sector can be difficult to describe, missing an opportunity to share lessons learned and improve as a community of practice. This paper describes boundary-spanning activities to integrate research about environmental sustainability with federal ocean policy dialogues in the U.S. We describe the process of organizing, facilitating, and learning from a series of meetings in which five interdisciplinary researchers engaged with federal ocean policy audiences. While the longer-term impacts of the activities associated with these meetings are subtle and remain difficult to detect, more immediate outcomes are observable. These include new professional relationships among researchers and policy staff, reported relevance of the research to general policy discourse, and a narrative that frames the opportunity for policymakers to learn from past industrialization on land as they manage an emerging industrial revolution in the ocean. By presenting the process and outcomes of our boundary-spanning activities, we aim to stimulate timely debate within ocean policy, management, and research communities about the importance of multiple benefits provided by healthy and intact ocean ecosystems and how to protect them in the face of the expanding industrialization of the ocean.
Kelp farming is increasing along the temperate coastlines of the Americas and Europe. The economic, ecological, and social frameworks surrounding kelp farming in these new areas are in contrast with the conditions of progenitor kelp farming regions in China, Japan, and Korea.
Thus, identifying and addressing the environmental and social impacts of kelp farming in these regions is vital to ensuring the industry’s long-term sustainability. Here, a conceptual model of the human and natural systems supporting this nascent kelp aquaculture sector was developed using Maine, USA as a focal region. Potential negative impacts of kelp aquaculture were identified to be habitat degradation, overfishing of wild seeds, predation and competition with wild fish and genes, and transmission of diseases. Increased food security, improved restoration efforts, greater fisheries productivity, and alternative livelihoods development were determined to be potential positive impacts of kelp aquaculture. Changes in biodiversity and productivity resulting from either negative or positive impacts of kelp aquaculture were confirmed to have downstream effects on local fisheries and coastal communities. Recommendations to improve or protect the ecosystem services tangential to kelp farming include: define ecosystem and management boundaries, assess ecosystem services and environmental carrying capacity, pursue ecologically and socially considerate engineering, and protect the health and genetic diversity of wild kelp beds. Recommendations to ensure that kelp farming improves the well-being of all stakeholders include: increase horizontal expansion, expand and teach Best Management Practices, and develop climate change resiliency. Additionally, an integrated management strategy should be developed for wild and farmed kelp to ensure that kelp aquaculture is developed in the context of other sectors and goals.
Many of the world's shark populations are in decline, indicating the need for improved conservation and management. Well managed and appropriately located marine parks and marine protected areas (MPAs) have potential to enhance shark conservation by restricting fisheries and protecting suitable habitat for threatened shark populations. Here, we used shark occurrence records collected by commercial fisheries to determine suitable habitat for pelagic sharks within the Australian continental Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and to quantify the amount of suitable habitat contained within existing MPAs. We developed generalised linear models using proportional occurrences of pelagic sharks for three families: Alopiidae (thresher), Carcharhinidae (requiem), and Lamnidae (mackerel) sharks. We also considered aggregated species from the Lamnidae and Carcharhinidae families (‘combined sharks’ in the models). Using a set of environmental predictors known to affect shark occurrence, including chlorophyll-a concentration, salinity, sea surface temperature, and turbidity, as well as geomorphological, geophysical, and sedimentary parameters, we found that models including sea surface temperature and turbidity were ranked highest in their ability to predict shark distributions. We used these results to predict geographic regions where habitat was most suitable for pelagic sharks within the Australian EEZ, and our results revealed that suitable habitat was limited in no-take zones within MPAs. For all shark groupings, suitable habitats were found mostly at locations exposed to fishing pressure, potentially increasing the vulnerability of the pelagic shark species considered. Our predictive models provide a foundation for future spatial planning and shark management, suggesting that strong fisheries management in addition to MPAs is necessary for pelagic shark conservation.
The current arrangements for the management of the marine resources of Bangladesh are not adequate for sustainable management. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) may be a tool to achieve sustainable management of marine resources. The Government of Bangladesh is planning for the development of MSP for sustainable management of the marine resources in the Bay of Bengal. However, a clear understanding of the current and required legal and institutional arrangements for the development of MSP in Bangladesh is essential for sustainable management of the marine resources. This article analyzes the current legal and institutional arrangements concerning the management of marine resources and explores potential inadequacies for the development of MSP for sustainable management. The article refers to the legal and institutional arrangements of other coastal states which have already developed MSP to find out the required arrangements for the development of MSP in Bangladesh.
The expansion of marine protected areas in pelagic areas has been crucial to achieve sufficient protection of the oceans. However, there is still some controversy about whether these protected areas actually cover the vital areas for some species. We investigate the summer distribution of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and its overlap with the Special Protection Area for seabirds (SPA), using the Gulf of Cadiz as a case study. This area holds the SPA named Marine Area of Gulf of Cádiz, covering 2314.2 km2. A dataset of nine years of vessel-based surveys between 2006 and 2017 was analysed, using Kernel Density Estimation to generate the core area polygons for each year. The area located off the Bay of Cádiz, southeast of the mouth of the Guadalquivir, has revealed as a very consistent key area for this species during summer. This area, covering 1082 Km2, regularly hosted populations that exceeded the threshold for area of international importance (IBA criteria) for the species. The current SPA covers less than 40% of this new key area. The limitation in the number of years of monitoring and seasonal differences in the dataset used to establish the boundaries of the current protected area may be at the base of these discrepancies. This study emphasizes the importance of synthesizing and collecting long-term information to define marine protected areas and to assess their efficiency over the time. Furthermore, our study highlights the urgent need to expand this marine protected area to protect effectively this critically threatened species.
Bigi Pan Multiple Use Management Area (MUMA, IUCN category VI) is a coastal protected area situated in the Northwest Suriname between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nickerie River. The area is characterized by wetlands with mangrove forests, contains high biodiversity, and is of socio-economic, ecological and ornithological importance. However, the MUMA is overexploited and subject to competition between various income generating activities, including uncontrolled fisheries and unregulated tourism combined. Insufficient capacity of government agencies for enforcement and policy implementation and lack of communication between relevant government agencies has further contributed to unsustainable practices that diverge from ‘wise use’ and conservation. This article analyses the case of Bigi Pan MUMA from the perspective of collaborative governance. It explores how local communities address the conflicts, user pressure, and implementation gaps that lead to unsustainable practices in Bigi Pan MUMA. In addition, it explores the potential of stakeholder engagement with the local community and key user groups to provide meaningful and regular opportunities to actively participate in decision-making structures and to deliberate on management actions. The conclusion finally presents arguments on how collaborative governance can become more effective by including local communities and by strengthening local decision-making and management.
Collisions with ships (ship strikes) are a pressing conservation concern for fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) along western North America. Fin whales exhibit strong diel patterns in dive behavior, remaining near the surface for most of the night, but how this behavior affects ship-strike risk is unknown. We combined diel patterns of surface use, habitat suitability predictions, and ship traffic data to evaluate spatial and temporal trends in ship-strike risk to fin whales of the California Current System (CCS). We tested a range of surface-use scenarios and found that both increased use of the upper water column and increased ship traffic contribute to elevated ship-strike risk at night. Lengthening nights elevate risk during winter throughout the CCS, though the Southern California Bight experienced consistently high risk both day and night year-round. Within designated shipping lanes, total annual nighttime strike risk was twice daytime risk. Avoidance probability models based on ship speed were used to compare the potential efficacy of speed restrictions at various scales. Speed reductions within lanes may be an efficient remediation, but they would address only a small fraction (13%) of overall ship-strike risk. Additional speed restrictions in the approaches to lanes would more effectively reduce overall risk.
Marine biodiversity is under extreme pressure from anthropogenic activity globally, leading to calls to protect at least 10% of the world’s oceans within marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures. Fulfilling such commitments, however, requires a detailed understanding of the distribution of potentially detrimental human activities, and their predicted impacts. One such approach that is being increasingly used to strengthen our understanding of human impacts is cumulative impact mapping; as it can help identify economic sectors with the greatest potential impact on species and ecosystems in order to prioritize conservation management strategies, providing clear direction for intervention. In this paper, we present the first local cumulative utilization impact mapping exercise for the Bioko-Corisco-Continental area of Equatorial Guinea’s Exclusive Economic Zone – situated in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most important and least studied marine regions in the Eastern Central Atlantic. This study examines the potential impact of ten direct anthropogenic activities on a suite of key marine megafauna species and reveals that the most suitable habitats for these species, located on the continental shelf, are subject to the highest threat scores. However, in some coastal areas, the persistence of highly suitable habitat subject to lower threat scores suggests that there are still several strategic areas that are less impacted by human activity that may be suitable sites for protected area expansion. Highlighting both the areas with potentially the highest impact, and those with lower impact levels, as well as particularly damaging activities can inform the direction of future conservation initiatives in the region.
The whale-watching industry in Juneau, Alaska relies primarily on the presence of North Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). To meet demands from the rapidly growing tourism industry, the number of whale-watching vessels in this region has tripled over the last 18 years. As a result, increased vessel presence could have negative effects on humpback whales, ranging from short-term behavioral disturbance to long-term impacts. The current humpback whale viewing regulations are outdated and may not be as effective as they were 18 years ago, when both the whale-watching industry and humpback whale population were smaller. The present study assessed how humpback whale movement and behavioral patterns were affected by (1) vessel presence and number of vessels present, and (2) time spent in the presence of vessels. The study also determined how humpback whale behavioral state transitions were affected by vessel presence. A total of 201 humpback whale focal follows were conducted during summer 2016 and 2017. Based on linear mixed effects models, whales in the presence (vs. absence) of vessels exhibited 38.9% higher deviation in linear movement (p = 0.001), 6.2% increase in swimming speed (p = 0.047) and a 6.7% decrease in inter-breath intervals (IBI) (p = 0.025). For each additional vessel present, deviation increased by 6.2% (p = 0.022) and IBI decreased by 3.4% (p = 0.001). As time spent in the presence of vessels increased, respiration rate increased (p = 0.011). Feeding and traveling humpback whales were likely to maintain their behavioral state regardless of vessel presence, while surface active humpback whales were likely to transition to traveling in the presence of vessels. These short-term changes in movement and behavior in response to whale-watching vessels could lead to cumulative, long-term consequences, negatively impacting the health and predictability of the resource on which the industry relies. Current formal vessel approach regulations and voluntary guidelines should be revisited to reduce vessel pressure and mitigate potential negative effects of this growing whale-watching industry.
In this paper, we aim to provide optimal parameters for micro-computed tomography scans of fish otoliths. We tested fifteen different combinations to sagittae. The images were scaled to Hounsfield units, and segmented in two distinct volumes-of-interest (external and internal). The strategy we applied, for identifying optimum scan settings for otoliths, included analyses of the sinogram, the distribution of the Hounsfield units and the signal-to-noise ratio. Based on these tests, the optimum sets of parameters for the acquisition of tomographic images of sagittal otoilths were 80 kV, 220 μA, and 0.5 mm aluminum filter. The method allowed 3D shape analysis, internal and external density distribution, layer-by-layer density segmentation, and a potential objective method to count growth rings in otoliths. It was possible to compare mean densities between species, and we observed a significant difference among them. In addition, there are ontogenic changes, which could be increasing or decreasing the density. In this study, we applied tomography for several otolith analysis, that could be of great interest for future studies in diverse areas that use otoliths as the basic structure of analysis, or represents a new research line called eco-densitometry of otoliths, where tomography could be applied to explore the density within an ecological perspective.
Multidisciplinary, integrated ocean observing programs provide critical data for monitoring the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) samples along the US West Coast and is one of the world’s longest-running and most comprehensive time series, with hydrographic and biological data collected since 1949. The pairing of ecological and physical measurements across this long time series informs our understanding of how the California Current marine ecosystem responds to climate variability. By providing a baseline to monitor change, the CalCOFI time series serves as a Keeling Curve for the California Current. However, challenges remain in connecting the data collected from long-term monitoring programs with the needs of stakeholders concerned with climate change adaptation (i.e., resource managers, policy makers, and the public), including for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. We use the CalCOFI program as a case study to ask: how can long-term ocean observing programs inform ecosystem based management efforts and create data flows that meet the needs of stakeholders working on climate change adaptation? Addressing this question and identifying solutions requires working across sectors and recognizing stakeholder needs. Lessons learned from CalCOFI can inform other regional monitoring programs around the world, including those done at a smaller scale in developing countries.
The implications of plastic pollution, including microplastics, on marine ecosystems and species are increasingly seen as an environmental disaster. Yet few reports focus on filter-feeding megafauna in regions heavily impacted by plastic pollution, such as Indonesia in the Coral Triangle, a global marine biodiversity hotspot. Here, we evaluate plastic abundance and characterize debris from feeding grounds for manta rays Mobula alfredi and whale sharks Rhincodon typus in three coastal locations in Indonesia: Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area, Komodo National Park, and Pantai Bentar, East Java. A 200 μm plankton net was used to sample the top 0.5 m of the water column (‘trawl survey’) and floating plastics were assessed along ∼440 m long transects (‘visual survey’) during the Indonesian north-west (wet) and south-east (dry) monsoon seasons during 2016–2018. Microplastics were identified visually, measured and categorized from trawl samples, and larger floating plastics were counted and categorized visually from boats. Plastic abundance ranged widely from 0.04 to 0.90 pieces m–3 (trawl survey) and 210 to 40,844 pieces km–2 (visual survey). Results from linear models showed significant seasonal and location differences in estimated plastic abundance for trawl and visual surveys in Nusa Penida and Komodo. Plastic abundance was up to ∼ 44 times higher in the wet than the dry season, with the largest seasonal effect observed in Nusa Penida. Overall, small pieces < 5 mm (≥ 78%), films and fragments (> 50% combined) were the most prevalent plastics. Theoretical plastic ingestion rates were calculated using estimated filtration volumes of manta rays and whale sharks and the mean plastic abundance in their feeding grounds. Upper plastic ingestion estimates for manta rays were ∼63 and 25 pieces h–1 for Nusa Penida and Komodo locations, respectively, and ∼137 pieces h–1 for whale sharks in Java. Analysis of manta ray egested material confirmed plastic ingestion, the consequences of which might include exposure to toxic plastic additives and adhered persistent organic pollutants. Communicating this information to communities who stand to benefit from healthy megafauna populations might help local governments as they work toward reducing plastics in the marine environment.
There has been wide interest in Marine Heatwaves and their ecological consequences in recent years. Most analyses have focused on remotely sensed sea surface temperature data due to the temporal and spatial coverage it provides in order to establish the presence and duration of Heatwaves. Using hydrographic data from a variety of sources, we show that an advective Marine Heatwave was initiated by an event in late December of 2016 south of New England, with temperature anomalies measuring up to 6°C and salinity anomalies exceeding 1 PSU. Similar features were observed off of New Jersey in February 2017, and are associated with the Shelfbreak Front migrating from its normal position to mid-shelf or further onshore. Shelf water of 34 PSU was observed just north of Cape Hatteras at the 30 m isobath and across the continental shelf in late April 2017. These observations reveal that the 2017 Marine Heatwave was associated with a strong positive salinity anomaly, that its total duration was approximately 4 months, and its advective path extended roughly 850 km along the length of the continental shelf in the Middle Atlantic Bight. The southward advective velocity implied by the arrival north of Cape Hatteras is consistent with previous estimates of alongshelf velocity for the region. The origin of this Marine Heatwave is likely related to cross-shelf advection driven by the presence of a Warm Core Ring adjacent to the shelfbreak south of New England.
Background: Commercial shipping is identified as a major source of anthropogenic underwater noise in several ecologically sensitive areas. Any development project likely to increase marine traffic can thus be required to assess environmental impacts of underwater noise. Therefore, project holders are increasingly engaging in underwater noise modeling relying on ships' underwater noise source levels published in the literature. However, a lack of apparent consensus emerges from the scientific literature as discrepancies up to 30 dB are reported for ships' broadband source levels belonging to the same vessel class and operating under similar conditions. We present a statistical meta-analysis of individual ships' broadband source levels available in the literature so far to identify which factors likely explain these discrepancies.
Methods: We collated ships' source levels from the published literature to construct our dataset. A Generalized Linear Mixed Model was applied to the dataset to statistically assess the contribution of intrinsic (i.e., related to ships' static and dynamic attributes) and extrinsic factors (i.e., related to both the protocol for hydroacoustic data acquisition and the noise data reduction procedure) to the reported broadband source levels.
Results: Amongst intrinsic factors, ships' speed-over-ground (15.39 dB ×log10[v1 knot], p−value < 0.001)(15.39 dB ×log10[v1 knot], p−value < 0.001), ships' width (12.03 dB ×log10[b1 m];p−value < 0.001)(12.03 dB ×log10[b1 m];p−value < 0.001), and ships' class (−6.07 to 2.08 dB; p-value ∈ [< 0.001 to 0.036]) have shown the strongest correlations with broadband source levels. The hydrophone-to-source closest point of approach (−4.83dB×[CPA1nmi];p−value<0.001)(−4.83 dB ×[CPA1 nmi];p−value < 0.001) and the correction for surface-image reflections (21.73 dB; p-value = 0.002) contribute the most to explain the reported ships' broadband source levels' variability amongst extrinsic factors.
Conclusions: Our meta-analysis confirms a consensus that speed regulation can effectively reduce instantaneous ships' source levels. Neglecting Lloyd's mirror effects through the abuse of non-corrected spreading laws for propagation loss directly leads to a generalized under-estimation of the ships' source levels retrieved from the literature. This could eventually be addressed by a wider adoption of standardized methods of hydrophone-based sound recordings and of data processing to homogenize results and facilitate their interpretation to conduct environmental impact assessment.
Marine heatwaves (MHWs), or prolonged periods of anomalously warm sea water temperature, have been increasing in duration and intensity globally for decades. However, there are many coastal, oceanic, polar, and sub-surface regions where our ability to detect MHWs is uncertain due to limited high quality data. Here, we investigate the effect that short time series length, missing data, or linear long-term temperature trends may have on the detection of MHWs. We show that MHWs detected in time series as short as 10 years did not have durations or intensities appreciably different from events detected in a standard 30 year long time series. We also show that the output of our MHW algorithm for time series missing less than 25% data did not differ appreciably from a complete time series, and that the level of allowable missing data could cautiously be increased to 50% when gaps were filled by linear interpolation. Finally, linear long-term trends of 0.10°C/decade or greater added to a time series caused larger changes (increases) to the count and duration of detected MHWs than shortening a time series to 10 years or missing more than 25% of the data. The long-term trend in a time series has the largest effect on the detection of MHWs and has the largest range in added uncertainty in the results. Time series length has less of an effect on MHW detection than missing data, but adds a larger range of uncertainty to the results. We provide suggestions for best practices to improve the accuracy of MHW detection with sub-optimal time series and show how the accuracy of these corrections may change regionally.
With globally accelerating rates of environmental disturbance, coastal marine ecosystems are increasingly prone to non-linear regime shifts that result in a loss of ecosystem function and services. A lack of early-detection methods, and an over reliance on limits-based approaches means that these tipping points manifest as surprises. Consequently, marine ecosystems are notoriously difficult to manage, and scientists, managers, and policy makers are paralyzed in a spiral of ecosystem degradation. This paralysis is caused by the inherent need to quantify the risk and uncertainty that surrounds every decision. While progress toward forecasting tipping points is ongoing and important, an interim approach is desperately needed to enable scientists to make recommendations that are credible and defensible in the face of deep uncertainty. We discuss how current tools for developing risk assessments and scenario planning, coupled with expert opinions, can be adapted to bridge gaps in quantitative data, enabling scientists and managers to prepare for many plausible futures. We argue that these tools are currently underutilized in a marine cumulative effects context but offer a way to inform decisions in the interim while predictive models and early warning signals remain imperfect. This approach will require redefining the way we think about managing for ecological surprise to include actions that not only limit drivers of tipping points but increase socio-ecological resilience to yield satisfactory outcomes under multiple possible futures that are inherently uncertain.
Developing and implementing effective legislation to combat plastic litter in the marine environment has proven a significant challenge. This is in large part due to an incomplete understanding of the sources and transport pathways of plastic litter and is manifested in Europe’s current disjointed legislation that governs the aquatic environment. In this article, the authors present the perspective that marine plastic pollution in European waters cannot be mitigated without increased regional integration between the dominant legislative structures and must provide specific considerations for the role rivers and land-based activities play in the accumulation of plastic litter in the marine environment.
Shallow water coral reefs and deep sea coral communities are sensitive to current and future environmental stresses, such as changes in sea surface temperatures (SST), salinity, carbonate chemistry, and acidity. Over the last half-century, some reef communities have been disappearing at an alarming pace. This study focuses on the Gulf of Mexico, where the majority of shallow coral reefs are reported to be in poor or fair condition. We analyze the RCP8.5 ensemble of the Community Earth System Model v1.2 to identify monthly-to-decadal trends in Gulf of Mexico SST. Secondly, we examine projected changes in ocean pH, carbonate saturation state, and salinity in the same coupled model simulations. We find that the joint impacts of predicted higher temperatures and changes in ocean acidification will severely degrade Gulf of Mexico reef systems by the end of the twenty-first century. SSTs are likely to warm by 2.5–3°C; while corals do show signs of an ability to adapt toward higher temperatures, current coral species and reef systems are likely to suffer major bleaching events in coming years. We contextualize future changes with ancient reefs from paleoclimate analogs, periods of Earth's past that were also exceptionally warm, specifically rapid “hyperthermal” events. Ancient analog events are often associated with extinctions, reef collapse, and significant ecological changes, yet reef communities managed to survive these events on evolutionary timescales. Finally, we review research which discusses the adaptive potential of the Gulf of Mexico's coral reefs, meccas of biodiversity and oceanic health. We assert that the only guaranteed solution for long-term conservation and recovery is substantial, rapid reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Humpback whales rely on acoustic communication to mediate social interactions. The distance to which these social signals propagate from the signaller defines its communication space, and therefore communication network (number of potential receivers). As humpback whales migrate along populated coastlines, they are likely to encounter noise from vessel traffic which will mask their social signals. Since no empirical data exist on baleen whale hearing, the consequences of this are usually assumed, being the modelled reduction in their communication space. Here, the communication space and network of migrating humpback whales was compared in increasing wind-dominated and vessel-dominated noise. Behavioural data on their social interactions were then used to inform these models. In typical wind noise, a signaller's communication space was estimated to extend to 4 km, which agreed with the maximum separation distance between groups that socially interacted. An increase in vessel noise reduced the modelled communication area, along with a significant reduction in group social interactions, probably due to a reduction in their communication network. However, signal masking did not fully explain this change in social behaviour, implying there was also an additional effect of the physical presence of the vessel on signaller and receiver behaviour. Though these observed changes in communication space and social behaviour were likely to be short term and localized, an increase in vessel activity due to tourism and coastal population growth may cause more sustained changes along the humpback whale migration paths.