Institutional actors have a crucial role in adaptation to climate change, especially for highly vulnerable territories such as small tropical islands. Here, we emphasize their major role in the co-design of tailored coastal climate services (CCS) based on a case study of French Polynesia. In this perspective, we assessed climate change perceptions by public authorities and identified their needs with regard to climate-related science. This assessment included an analysis of the decision-making context, semi-structured interviews with practitioners representing 23 administrative divisions directly or indirectly involved in climate change issues, and a workshop dedicated to discussing needs in terms of CCS. Generally, respondents did not identify climate change as a major current issue in French Polynesia; they showed more concern for economic growth, pollution, land tenure, and land use planning. However, interviewees were concerned about future impacts of sea-level rise (SLR) and ocean warming and acidification, mentioning in particular their detrimental impacts on marine ecosystems, shoreline position, economy (especially agriculture and the blue economy), and freshwater resources. The interviewed practitioners showed particular interest in SLR projections for future decades up to a century, and for knowledge on expected impacts to critical infrastructure, coastal systems, and natural resources. Practitioners’ needs made it possible to co-define four CCS to be developed: (1) the design of sea-level-rise-compatible critical infrastructures (airports and ports); (2) adapting to the risk of destabilization of beaches and reef islands; (3) professional training on climate change impacts and adaptation, including an analysis of potentially emerging new jobs in the SLR context; and (4) the development of participatory approaches for observing climate change impacts. While the co-development of these CCS will require a multi-year engagement of stakeholders concerned with climate change adaptation, our results already shed light on specific needs for salient CCS in highly vulnerable tropical island territories.
The stony-coral-tissue-loss disease (SCTLD) has recently caused widespread loss of coral along the Florida reef tract. Yet little is known about where, when, and why this coral disease outbreak occurred. In the absence of a definitive pathogen, it is essential to characterize the ecology of the disease and document the spatio-temporal dynamics of the outbreak. Here, we investigate the epizootiology of the SCTLD at multiple spatial and temporal scales along the Florida reef tract from May 2014 to December 2017. We used spatial interpolation to characterize the disease hotspots, Ripley’s K analysis to examine contagion, a spatio-temporal model to assess rates of spread, and a Bayesian model to examine ecological and environmental covariates that may have influenced the occurrence and severity of the outbreak. Our results show that the disease affected reefs at the scale of hundreds of kilometers, with significant clusters of up to 140 km. The epizootic clearly followed a contagion model, suggesting that the disease was highly contagious. The rate of spread of the epizootic was linear and moved slightly faster to the north (∼100 m d–1) than to the south (∼92 m d–1). The difference in rate of spread between the north and south direction may indicate currents facilitated transmission. The analyzed dataset showed that the epizootic affected at least 19 coral species and that deep and diverse sites were at greater risk of the disease than shallow and low diversity sites.
During winter months, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) frequent the coastal waters of Virginia near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Located within the Bay is Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval military installation, and the Port of Virginia, the sixth busiest container port in the United States. These large seaports, combined with the presence of recreational boaters, commercial fishing vessels, and sport-fishing boats, result in a constant heavy flow of vessel traffic through the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and adjacent areas. From December 2015 to February 2017, 35 satellite tags were deployed on humpback whales to gain a better understanding on the occurrence, movements, site-fidelity, and overall behavior of this species within this high-traffic region. The tags transmitted data for an average of 13.7 days (range 2.7–43.8 days). Location data showed that at some point during tag deployment, nearly all whales occurred within, or in close proximity to, the shipping channels located in the study area. Approximately one quarter of all filtered and modeled locations occurred within the shipping channels. Hierarchical state-space modeling results suggest that humpback whales spend considerable time (82.0%) engaged in foraging behavior at or near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Of the 106 humpback whales photo-identified during this research, nine individuals (8.5%) had evidence of propeller strikes. One whale that had previously been tagged and tracked within shipping channels, was found dead on a local beach; a fatality resulting from a vessel strike. The findings from this study demonstrate that a substantial number of humpback whales frequent high-traffic areas near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, increasing the likelihood of injurious vessel interactions that can result in mortalities.
Severe coral bleaching events in the Gulf of Thailand and along the Andaman Sea coast of Thailand caused widespread coral mortality in 1998 and 2010. The consequent decrease in coral populations impacted the structure, health, and services of Thai coral reefs. However, most colonies in the offshore reef of Losin were still alive after the coral bleaching events. Therefore, this study was conducted by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources in order to help to establish a proposal for making it a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Surveys on coral diversity were conducted to produce a checklist of reef-building corals. Seventy-six coral species were found, with the most dominant species being Porites lutea and Acropora communities, such as A. intermedia, A. grandis, A. muricata, A. cytherea, and A. valenciennesi. This area is expected to be designated as a restricted MPA area, under the “Act on the Promotion of Marine and Coastal Resources Management B.E. 2558 (2015).” The high diversity of hard corals discovered in this study assists in promoting an Announcement of the Losin Marine and Coastal Resources Protected Areas following Ministerial Regulation.
Feeding wild animals is a regular habit in ecotourism worldwide with poorly known consequences for ecosystem functioning. This study investigates how effective bread feeding is at attracting coral reef fish in the South Pacific, which feeding groups of fish are most attracted, and how natural foraging rates of an omnivorous and a grazing-detritivorous fish are affected. Data were collected at sites where fish are regularly fed bread by snorkellers and at comparison sites where bread was only provided for this study, within the Aitutaki lagoon (Cook Islands). The fish community was censused and foraging rates of two model species (Chaetodon auriga, Ctenochaetus striatus) were quantified one hour before, during, and an hour after feeding events. Twenty-five percent of the species present at all sites (piscivores-invertivores) were effectively attracted to bread. Overall, mean fish density was higher at tourism feeding sites than at the comparison sites. During bread feeding events, taxonomic richness decreased, compared to the hours prior and after feeding across all sites. As piscivore-invertivores were consistently attracted to bread, localized shifts in their dominance over other trophic groups may be expected if bread feeding persists, likely carrying consequences for ecosystem functioning. The effect of bread feeding events on natural foraging rates differed between the model species. C. auriga ceased foraging on natural foods to feed on bread. Although C. striatus never fed on bread, its foraging rate on epilithic algal matrices decreased during bread feeding events. This indirect non-lethal ecological consequence of bread feeding contributes a previously unanticipated example relevant to the “ecology of fear” in marine fish. Stakeholder interviews revealed that locals favor feeding to sustain tourist satisfaction, whereas tourists appreciate snorkeling regardless of feeding. This indicates an opportunity for restrictions on fish feeding with minimal drawbacks for tourism. Future research on fish metabolism and cascading effects on the reef benthos may reveal further impacts of feeding on coral reef communities.
The United Nations General Assembly has called for the adoption of conservation management measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) from significant adverse impacts outside of areas of national jurisdiction. In response, many regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) have implemented move-on rules triggered by encounter threshold levels for the biomass of VME indicator taxa retained as bycatch. However, due to uncertainty of the relationships between catch, catch efficiency and the in situ biomass of VME indicator taxa, move-on rules alone may not be enough to prevent significant adverse impacts on VMEs. Although spatial management measures present one possible solution to these concerns, a lack of empirical data on the distribution of VMEs within the high seas means spatial management is often informed by model predictions of the spatial distribution of VME indicator taxa. Given the uncertainty associated with predicted distributions, move-on rules can provide immediate responses when spatial management measures may not be providing the expected conservation benefits. Using bycatch data from 9,771 New Zealand bottom trawls within the South Pacific RFMO Convention Area, we illustrate a data-informed approach for selecting high move-on encounter thresholds that may suggest the predicted distributions of VME taxa used to underpin spatial management are highly inaccurate. The reasoning that high thresholds act as a safeguard against uncertainty in the performance of spatial management measures requires untested assumptions regarding the level of permissible bycatch before further management action is required, with the acceptance of those assumptions a management decision balancing the sensitivity of the move-on rule with uncertainty regarding the effectives of the spatial management measures. Additional work is required to support these management decisions, including the determination of taxa-specific catchability estimates, and the seafloor density/biomass of VME indicator taxa that represents a VME. Obtaining this information will allow for the identification of encounter thresholds that are more ecologically meaningful. In the interim, the choice of thresholds should be re-evaluated as more experience with their application is gathered.
For mitigation of the effects of pollution, the media, policy makers and, in turn, the scientific community and industry each provide contributions through development of a sense of urgency, and with guidelines and solutions. For non-indigenous species (NIS) that can frequently have negative impacts on the native biota, this is often conveyed in an emotive way to the general public, who are typically keen to help and to get personally involved. This might be through organization of cleaning campaigns, influence on the media, or collaboration with scientists, to inform them of the local presence and abundance of NIS. Alternatively, they might proactively develop technological solutions themselves. To assess the current state of affairs, we reviewed the presence and effects of NIS in the Mediterranean Sea. As so often, any well-planned and successful activity is directly linked to financing, or a lack thereof, and this leads to sometimes untargeted and sporadic measures that are developed within a project or over a limited timeframe, without any sustainability measures. Therefore, we also assessed the activities and strategies that have been financed in this area of NIS mitigation. Based on this review of the presence and impact of NIS, and previous and ongoing activities, we propose a new paradigm to mitigate such pollution: the 8Rs model (i.e., Recognize, Reduce, Replace, Reuse, Recycle, Recover/Restore, Remove, and Regulate). This model extends from the more traditional 3Rs model (i.e., Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) that is often used and promoted for innovative waste management strategies. Importantly, the 8Rs model can be applied sequentially, for either prevention of NIS introduction, or preparation of mitigation measures. The 8Rs model was constructed based on Mediterranean NIS, although we believe it can be applied to other sources of pollution and other geographic areas. Importantly, the 8Rs model represents a general framework to organize and categorize future pollution mitigation strategies. This approach is essential for development of any action plan to influence the administrative and financial decision makers who essentially enable these activities, and therefore who have important roles in the guarantee of sustainability of these actions, and the creation of innovative societies.
Anthropogenic noise is a known threat to marine mammals. Decades of research have shown that harbor porpoises are particularly sensitive to anthropogenic noise, and geographic displacement is a common impact from noise exposure. Small, localized populations may be particularly vulnerable to impacts associated with displacement, as animals that are excluded from their primary habitat may have reduced foraging success and survival, or be exposed to increased threats of predation or bycatch. Seal bombs are underwater explosives used in purse seine fisheries to deter marine mammals during fishery operations. Pinnipeds are believed to be the primary target for seal bomb use, however there may be indirect impacts on harbor porpoises. Active purse seine fishing using seal bombs in the greater Monterey Bay area may, at times, span the entire range of the Monterey Bay harbor porpoise stock, which may lead to negative impacts for this population. In this contribution, we review anthropogenic noise as a threat to harbor porpoises, with a focus on the potential for impacts from seal bomb noise exposure in the Monterey Bay region.
Local availability of yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, is a key economic, dietary and cultural concern for Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) communities and insular fisheries. Consequently, interactions of inshore vs. offshore fisheries and connectivity to yellowfin elsewhere in the Pacific remain important scientific management questions. Local fisheries target adult tuna during the summer months, but subsequent tuna movements, presumably away from the islands after reproduction ceases, remain undocumented. From 2014 to 2016, we partnered with local fishermen to catch and release nineteen yellowfin tuna (41–91 kg, estimated whole weight) off Kaua'i, with popup satellite archival tags programmed for 9–12-month missions. Although data collection periods did not exceed 59 days mainly because of tag hardware failures and predator interactions, short tracks revealed diverse patterns: local residency for some individuals, and rapid, long-distance (>800 km) dispersals in multiple directions for others. Adult yellowfin tuna frequenting the MHI have more complex movements than previously assumed. Despite being a nursery area, whether the assemblage is entirely produced and retained in the region is not resolved. However, attaining 1-year migration records requires tag performance that was not achieved by the deployed tags. It remains a prerequisite for greater understanding of yellowfin in the Main Hawaiian Islands and Central North Pacific, including assessment of their spatial connectivity, impacts of climate change, and shifting ecosystems.
Evaluating how wildlife conservation laws are implemented is critical for safeguarding biodiversity. Two agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (FWS and NMFS; Services collectively), are responsible for implementing the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), which requires federal protection for threatened and endangered species. FWS and NMFS’ comparable role for terrestrial and marine taxa, respectively, provides the opportunity to examine how implementation of the same law varies between agencies. We analyzed how the Services implement a core component of the ESA, section 7 consultations, by objectively assessing the contents of >120 consultations on sea turtle species against the requirements in the Services’ consultation handbook, supplemented with in-person observations from Service biologists. Our results showed that NMFS consultations were 1.40 times as likely to have higher completeness scores than FWS consultations given the standard in the handbook. Consultations tiered from an FWS programmatic consultation inherited higher quality scores of generally more thorough programmatic consultations, indicating that programmatic consultations could increase the quality of consultations while improving efficiency. Both agencies commonly neglected to account for the effects of previous consultations and the potential for compounded effects on species. From these results, we recommend actions that can improve quality of consultation, including the use of a single database to track and integrate previously authorized harm in new analyses and the careful but more widespread use of programmatic consultations. Our study reveals several critical shortfalls in the current process of conducting ESA section 7 consultations that the Services could address to better safeguard North America’s most imperiled species.
Knowledge of people's understanding of environmental problems is vital for the effective implementation of the ecosystem approach to marine management. This is especially relevant when conservation goals are aimed at ecosystems in the deep-sea that are remote to the consciousness of most people. This study explores public perceptions of the deep-sea environment among the Scottish and Norwegian public. It further analyses the relationships between respondents' pro-environmental concerns toward the marine environment and personal characteristics using a multiple indicators multiple causes model. The results show that public knowledge of the deep-sea environment is low for Scottish and moderate for Norwegians. Awareness of cold-water corals was high for the Lofoten case study area amongst the Norwegian public and low for the Mingulay reef complex in the Scottish case. These differences might arise because Norway is known to host the world's largest cold-water corals in the Lofoten area; a fact that has been well-publicized. We find that most people think changes in the deep-sea have at least some effect on them. On average, the public perceive the deep-sea condition to be at most “fairly good” but are dissatisfied with the management of it with approximately only one third or less thinking it is well-managed. Generally, the public perception from both countries show ecocentric attitudes toward the marine environment implying that they recognize the value of ecosystem services, the current ecological crisis and the need for sustainable management.
Most Atlantic salmon mariculture operations use open sea cages for the grow out phase. The ultimate fate and effects of the effluents and the possibilities of disease transfer between fish farms are major concerns for farmers, governance and the general public alike. Numerical model systems applied to studying and managing effluents and disease transfer in mariculture must realistically resolve the hydrodynamics in the vicinity of the fish farms. In the present study, the effects of the aquaculture structures on the current patterns were introduced in the ocean model system SINMOD. The drag parameters for the ocean model were determined by comparing the simulation results from the ANSYS Fluent ® software suite and SINMOD in an idealized channel setting with uniform currents. The model was run for a number of realistic scenarios in high horizontal resolution (∼30 m) with sea cages influencing the flow field. Comparisons between extensive current measurements and the simulation results showed that the model system reproduced the current local current field well. By running simulation scenarios with and without the effects of the sea cages on the flow field, it was possible to assess the importance of such effects for numerical dispersal models and aquaculture environment interactions simulations and hence for assessment of environmental impacts.
Coral reefs are biologically diverse and structurally complex ecosystems, which have been severally affected by human actions. Consequently, there is a need for rapid ecological assessment of coral reefs, but current approaches require time consuming manual analysis, either during a dive survey or on images collected during a survey. Reef structural complexity is essential for ecological function but is challenging to measure and often relegated to simple metrics such as rugosity. Recent advances in computer vision and machine learning offer the potential to alleviate some of these limitations. We developed an approach to automatically classify 3D reconstructions of reef sections and assessed the accuracy of this approach. 3D reconstructions of reef sections were generated using commercial Structure-from-Motion software with images extracted from video surveys. To generate a 3D classified map, locations on the 3D reconstruction were mapped back into the original images to extract multiple views of the location. Several approaches were tested to merge information from multiple views of a point into a single classification, all of which used convolutional neural networks to classify or extract features from the images, but differ in the strategy employed for merging information. Approaches to merging information entailed voting, probability averaging, and a learned neural-network layer. All approaches performed similarly achieving overall classification accuracies of ~96% and >90% accuracy on most classes. With this high classification accuracy, these approaches are suitable for many ecological applications.
Globally, groupers (Epinephelidae) that form fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) are highly vulnerable to overfishing and often require site-specific approaches to management. Over 5-years (2009–2013), we conducted underwater visual censuses (UVC) at a well-known spawning site at Njari Island, Gizo, Western Province, Solomon Islands, that supports aggregations of squaretail coralgrouper (Plectropomus areolatus), camouflage grouper (Epinephelus polyphekadion) and brown-marbled grouper (E. fuscoguttatus). Findings show that while there were species-specific variations in the duration and timing of the spawning season, aggregation densities peaked from March to June, representing the main spawning season for all three species. For P. areolatus, gonad analysis from samples taken from 2008 to 2011 confirmed reproductive activity in support of density trends observed through UVC. Over the 5-year UVC monitoring period, FSA densities declined for P. areolatus and E. polyphekadion. Conversely, following the first year of monitoring, E. fuscoguttatus densities increased. These inter-specific differences may reflect variable responses to fishing as shown elsewhere, or for example, differences in recruitment success. In response to known declines in FSAs of these species, in 2018 the Solomon Islands government placed a nationwide ban on these species’ harvest and sale between October and January. As this study shows, this ban does not encompass the peak aggregation period at Njari and will offer limited protection to other FSAs of these species that are known to vary in reproductive seasonality across the Solomon Islands. A more biologically meaningful and practical management strategy would be to implement a nationwide ban on the harvest and sale of these groupers each month between full and new moons when these FSAs form consistently throughout the country. Since effective management of FSAs typically requires a combined approach, spatial management that protects both spawning sites and reproductive migratory corridors is warranted.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding is an increasingly popular method for rapid biodiversity assessment. As with any ecological survey, false negatives can arise during sampling and, if unaccounted for, lead to biased results and potentially misdiagnosed environmental assessments. We developed a multi-scale, multi-species occupancy model for the analysis of community biodiversity data resulting from eDNA metabarcoding; this model accounts for imperfect detection and additional sources of environmental and experimental variation. We present methods for model assessment and model comparison and demonstrate how these tools improve the inferential power of eDNA metabarcoding data using a case study in a coastal, marine environment. Using occupancy models to account for factors often overlooked in the analysis of eDNA metabarcoding data will dramatically improve ecological inference, sampling design, and methodologies, empowering practitioners with an approach to wield the high-resolution biodiversity data of next-generation sequencing platforms.
Hurricanes pose an increasing threat to coastal environments as the intensity and severity of hurricanes are predicted to increase under the changing climate. Coastal wetlands are effective nature-based defenses of coastal cities against storms. However, the ecosystems themselves are also susceptible to the impacts of hurricanes, which are highly complex and not fully understood. Here we utilize multi-decadal satellite data archives (Landsat 1984–2014 and MODIS 2005–2015) and long-term coast-wide field-based environmental data (1978–2018) to investigate the impacts of hurricanes Katrina (2005), Gustav (2008), and Isaac (2012) on the coastal marshes in Louisiana, USA, where the hurricanes made landfall. While the hurricanes had immediate impacts on the marshes’ biomass and area at an ecosystem scale, general recovery was observed in the next one and two years. We also found that the most severe damage always occurred in the intermediate and brackish marshes of the Breton Sound basin, where the nitrogen concentration in the water was significantly higher compared to areas with less damage (P < 0.01). Because excess nutrient can reduce the marshes' root growth and degrade their root mat, we posit that the long-term nutrient enrichment in the area, which resulted from the diverted Mississippi River water, has increased the marshes’ susceptibility to hurricanes. The results highlight the resilience of coastal marsh ecosystems against hurricanes, but also underline the profound synergistic effects of climatic and anthropogenic factors on the sustainability of coastal ecosystems, which have important implications for coastal management under the current climate trend.
Fisheries management should account for the tradeoffs associated with regulatory options to minimize unintended consequences and undue impacts on stakeholder communities. Importantly, these assessments necessitate the inclusion of the perceptions of resource users to help anticipate consequences. While stakeholder involvement is a central tenet in federal fisheries management, managers are faced with many challenges such as those associated with collecting perspectives from diverse groups and the potential biases associated with public testimony. Here we demonstrate the strength of a collaborative approach to generating social information from a commercial fishing cooperative (i.e., an association) by partnering with the Pollock Conservation Cooperative, a fishing cooperative for the Bering Sea pollock Catcher/Processor fleet in Alaska. To understand how the fleet may respond to hypothetical regulatory and environmental changes, we collaboratively designed a survey and applied a novel participant-selection strategy that focused on personnel involved in decision-making at the corporate and vessel levels. Our findings revealed that respondents from separate companies and with different performance histories had different perceptions, suggesting that broad fleet-level analyses are critical for management strategy evaluations that seek to understand the impacts of environmental change and regulatory decisions on a fishery. As such, establishing lines of applied sociological research could benefit from a collaborative approach that accounts for the fishery's organizational structure.
Fisheries industries produce wastewater as by-product. Based on preliminary surveys, there is no integrated wastewater management in the Southern Coast of Jember Regency where the centre fisheries industry was taken place. This study aims to find areas that are potentially polluted by fisheries industries wastewater and offer the information for planning integrated wastewater management in the coastal area of Jember Regency. We collected primary and secondary data about fish processing production and the impact of wastewater for environment. The results were analysed descriptively and potentially polluted areas were mapped with Arc-Gis software. The study area involves two sub-districts, Puger and Ambulu sub-district. Surveys conducted to 16 fisheries industries showed that 81.25% of them discharged the untreated wastewater into the stream directly. Wastewater disposal into the stream not only cause pollution in water bodies but also cause pollution in the Indian Ocean.
Ecosystem-based management requires an assessment of the cumulative effects of human pressures and environmental change. The operationalization and integration of cumulative effects assessments (CEA) into decision-making processes often lacks a comprehensive and transparent framework. A risk-based CEA framework that divides a CEA in risk identification, risk analysis and risk evaluation, could structure such complex analyses and facilitate the establishment of direct science-policy links. Here, we examine carefully the operationalization of such a risk-based CEA framework with the help of eleven contrasting case studies located in Europe, French Polynesia, and Canada. We show that the CEA framework used at local, sub-regional, and regional scales allowed for a consistent, coherent, and transparent comparison of complex assessments. From our analysis, we pinpoint four emerging issues that, if accurately addressed, can improve the take up of CEA outcomes by management: 1) framing of the CEA context and defining risk criteria; 2) describing the roles of scientists and decision-makers; 3) reducing and structuring complexity; and 4) communicating uncertainty. Moreover, with a set of customized tools we describe and analyze for each case study the nature and location of uncertainty as well as trade-offs regarding available knowledge and data used for the CEA. Ultimately, these tools aid decision-makers to recognize potential caveats and repercussions of management decisions. One key recommendation is to differentiate CEA processes and their context in relation to governance advice, marine spatial planning or regulatory advice. We conclude that future research needs to evaluate how effective management measures are in reducing the risk of cumulative effects. Changing governance structures takes time and is often difficult, but we postulate that well-framed and structured CEA can function as a strategic tool to integrate ecosystem considerations across multiple sectorial policies.
The ingestion of plastics appears to be widespread throughout the animal kingdom with risks to individuals, ecosystems and human health. Despite growing information on the location, abundance and size distribution of plastics in the environment, it cannot be assumed that any given animal will ingest all sizes of plastic encountered. Here, we use published data to develop an allometric relationship between plastic consumption and animal size to estimate the size distribution of plastics feasibly ingested by animals. Based on more than 2000 gut content analyses from animals ranging over three orders of magnitude in size (lengths 9 mm to 10 m), body length alone accounts for 42% of the variance in the length of plastic an animal may ingest and indicates a size ratio of roughly 20:1 between animal body length and the largest plastic the animal may ingest. We expect this work to improve global assessments of plastic pollution risk by introducing a quantifiable link between animals and the plastics they can ingest.