Rapid ocean warming due to climate change poses a serious risk to the survival of coral reefs. It is estimated that 70–90 percent of all reefs will be severely degraded by mid-century even if the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Climate Agreement is achieved. However, one coral reef ecosystem seems to be more resilient to rising sea temperatures than most others. The Red Sea’s reef ecosystem is one of the longest continuous living reefs in the world, and its northernmost portion extends into the Gulf of Aqaba. The scleractinian corals in the Gulf have an unusually high tolerance for the rapidly warming seawater in the region. They withstand water temperature anomalies that cause severe bleaching or mortality in most hard corals elsewhere. This uniquely resilient reef employs biological mechanisms which are likely to be important for coral survival as the planet’s oceans warm. The Gulf of Aqaba could potentially be one of the planet’s largest marine refuges from climate change. However, this unique portion of the Red Sea’s reef will only survive and flourish if serious regional environmental challenges are addressed. Localized anthropogenic stressors compound the effects of warming seawater to damage corals and should be mitigated immediately. Reefs in the rest of the Red Sea are already experiencing temperatures above their thermal tolerance and have had significant bleaching, though they too would benefit from fewer local anthropogenic stressors. The countries bordering the entire Red Sea will need to cooperate to enable effective scientific research and conservation. The newly established Transnational Red Sea Center, based at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), can serve as the regionally inclusive, neutral organization to foster crucial regional scientific collaboration.
Planned adaptation to climate impacts and subsequent vulnerabilities will necessarily interact with autonomous responses enabled within existing fisheries management processes and initiated by the harvest and post-harvest components of fishing industries. Optimal adaptation options are those which enable negative effects to be mitigated and opportunities that arise to be maximized, both in relation to specific climate-driven changes and the broader fisheries system. We developed a two-step participatory approach to evaluating adaption options for key fisheries in the fast-warming hotspot of south-eastern Australia. Four fisheries (southern rock lobster, abalone, snapper, and blue grenadier) were selected as case studies on the basis of their high to moderate vulnerability to climatic effects on species distribution and abundance. Involved stakeholders undertook a “first pass” screening assessment of options, by characterizing and then evaluating options. In the characterization step potential adaptation options for each fishery, contextualized by prior knowledge of each species’ climate change exposure and sensitivity, were described using a characterization matrix. This matrix included: the specific climate vulnerability/challenges, the implications of each option on the fishery system as a whole, the temporal and spatial scales of implementation processes, and realized benefits and costs. In the evaluation step, semi-quantitative evaluation of options was undertaken by stakeholders scoring the anticipated performance of an option against a pre-determined set of criteria relating to perceived feasibility, risk (inclusive of potential costs), and benefit. Reduction of the total annual commercial catch as well as reductions in both effort and catch through spatial and temporal closures were the options scored as having the highest level of expected benefit and of feasibility and the lowest level of risk of negative outcomes overall. Our screening assessment represents a pragmatic approach to evaluate and compare support for and the effects of alternative adaptation options prior to committing to more detailed formal and resource intensive evaluation or implementation.
Assessing the non-lethal effects of disturbance and their population-level consequences is a significant ecological and conservation challenge, because it requires extensive baseline knowledge of behavioral patterns, life-history and demography. However, for many marine mammal populations, this knowledge is currently lacking and it may take decades to fill the gaps. During this time, undetected population declines may occur. In this study we identify methods that can be used to monitor populations subject to disturbance and provide insights into the processes through which disturbance may affect them. To identify and address the knowledge gaps highlighted above, we reviewed the literature to identify suitable response variables and methods for monitoring these variables. We also used existing models of the population consequences of disturbance (PCoD) to identify demographic characteristics (e.g., the proportion of immature animals in the population, or the ratio of calves/pups to mature females) that may be strongly correlated with population status and therefore provide early warnings of future changes in abundance. These demographic characteristics can be monitored using established methods such as visual surveys combined with photogrammetry, and capture-recapture analysis. Individual health and physiological variables can also inform PCoD assessment and can be monitored using photogrammetry, remote tissue sampling, hands-on assessment and individual tracking. We then conducted a workshop to establish the relative utility and feasibility of all these approaches for different groups of marine mammal species. We describe how future marine mammal monitoring programs can be designed to inform population-level analysis.
Cultivated kelps and other macroalgae have great potential in future provision of food, feed, bioenergy, fertilizer, and raw material for a range of chemical products including pharmaceuticals, food and feed additives, and cosmetics. Only a few species are currently cultivated, almost exclusively in Asia. There is a range of species that could be utilized in different parts of the world, providing that protocols for reproduction, propagation, and cultivation are developed. Domestication of species involves selection of traits that are desirable in cultivation and in the utilization of the harvested biomass. Genetic improvement of cultivated species through recombination of alleles and selection (breeding) has ensured high productivity and product quality in both agri- and aquaculture and will likely do so for macroalgae cultivation and use as well. According to the published literature, genetic improvement of kelps in Asia has so far largely relied on utilization of heterosis expressed in certain combinations of parental material, sometimes species hybrids. Here, we explore and evaluate the various methods that could be used in kelp breeding and propose an initial simple and low-cost breeding strategy based on recurrent mixed hybridization and phenotypic selection within local populations. We also discuss the genetic diversity in wild populations, and how this diversity can be protected against genetic pollution, either by breeding and cultivating local populations, or by developing cultivars that are not able to establish in, or hybridize with, wild populations.
Oil is a main driver for the growth of modern economies because of its multifaceted use in transport, energy and manufacturing. Due to uneven distribution of petroleum products across the world, maritime transportation of mineral oils has increased. The main objective of the paper is to examine data on oil spills created by oil tankers for the past 50 years and to examine trends in oil trading and oil spill pollution in an effort to analyse the state of pollution in major oil disasters. The paper also considers the key factors of tanker oil spills and summarizes strategies and directions for the global maritime transport industry to prevent oil tanker pollution in the future.
The radiated noise of a ship is mainly composed of a low-frequency line spectrum and a medium-high frequency broadband continuum spectrum. In the ocean, the low-frequency sound signal decays slowly, so the low-frequency line spectrum of ship radiated noise can be transmitted over long distances. Based on the statistical analysis method, the inherent source characteristics of radiated noise are obtained from the measured data in shallow sea waveguides. Different deep sea sound velocity distribution conditions, such as the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea deep sea, the Norwegian sea surface channel and the polar regions, were selected, and the propagation characteristics of the low-frequency radiation noise field of the ship were simulated at a horizontal distance of 150 km. The effects of different sound velocity distributions on the propagation of low-frequency acoustic signals are obtained. The research results have important practical significance for the utilization of low-frequency radiation noise characteristics of ships in deep sea.
The artisanal shrimp fishery in Guyana is important for livelihood and food security, involving around 300 vessels owned and crewed exclusively by Guyanese nationals. This fishery uses Chinese seines and operates in major river estuaries. It targets penaeid shrimp, but also retains some finfish and is known to discard a significant but undocumented quantity of smaller finfish bycatch. The lack of knowledge regarding the bycatch is a concern for fishery management and biodiversity conservation. In this study, we quantify for the first time the finfish bycatch discards through onboard observations (July—August 2016) of a single typical vessel operating in the Demerara estuary. Wet weights of the total catch, retained catch, and finfish discards were recorded separately for each of 76 seine hauls, and subsequently presented as catch rates per trip, catch rates per seine haul (kg/haul), and catch rates standardized per hour of seine net soak—time (kg/hr). A sub—sample of finfish discards was taken from every haul to determine taxonomic composition and species—specific length frequencies. Examination of 2,012 discarded finfish distributed among 32 species revealed high taxonomic diversity, none of which were considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Most finfish discards were small (modal size class 5—7 cm fork length) and included juveniles of 15 species of importance to other fisheries in Guyana. On average, a standardized total catch rate of 14.8 kg was taken per hour of seine net soak—time, yielding 3.9 kg retained catch (shrimp and a few selected finfish), 10.3 kg of finfish bycatch discards, and 0.6 kg of miscellaneous invertebrate discards. This demonstrates significant wastage (finfish discards represent about 69% of the total catch weight) and potential for negative impact on biodiversity and other commercial fisheries. The information provided here addresses an important knowledge gap in the artisanal fisheries of Guyana.
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.
Seafood mislabeling occurs in a wide range of seafood products worldwide, resulting in public distrust, economic fraud, and health risks for consumers. We quantified the extent of shrimp mislabeling in coastal and inland North Carolina. We used standard DNA barcoding procedures to determine the species identity of 106 shrimp sold as “local” by 60 vendors across North Carolina. Thirty-four percent of the purchased shrimp was mislabeled, and surprisingly the percentage did not differ significantly between coastal and inland counties. One third of product incorrectly marketed as “local” was in fact whiteleg shrimp: an imported and globally farmed species native to the eastern Pacific, not found in North Carolina waters. In addition to the negative ecosystem consequences of shrimp farming (e.g., the loss of mangrove forests and the coastal buffering they provide), North Carolina fishers—as with local fishers elsewhere—are negatively impacted when vendors label farmed, frozen, and imported shrimp as local, fresh, and wild-caught.
The interest in reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) from the scientific community is growing in reaction to the major decline of populations around the world. Studies have highlighted the need to further investigate the spatial ecology of this species to inform conservation and management initiatives. Here we briefly report the results from nine SPLASH10-F-321A pop-off satellite archival tags (PSAT-tags) deployed in New Caledonia that recorded the world’s deepest known dives for reef manta rays. All tagged individuals performed dives exceeding 300 m in depth, with a maximum depth recorded of 672 ± 4 m. Diel comparisons revealed that most of the deepest dives occurred during night-time. We hypothesize this deep-diving behaviour is employed to access important food resources at these depths during the night and may also indicate that zooplankton abundance in the surface waters surrounding New Caledonian coral reefs is insufficient to sustain these megafauna. These results add new information on the habitat use of this species in a region where manta behaviour has not previously been studied, and increase the known depth range of M. alfredi by more than 200 m.
The extent to which small plastics and potentially associated compounds are entering coastal food webs, especially in estuarine systems, is only beginning to be realized. This study examined an estuarine reach at the mouth of urbanized Chollas Creek in San Diego, California to determine: 1) the extent and magnitude of microplastics pollution in estuarine sediments and fish, 2) the extent and magnitude of SVOC contamination in estuarine fish, and 3) whether fish preferentially ingested certain types of microplastics, when compared with the microplastic composition of creekbed sediments. Surface sediments (0–5 cm depth) contained about 10,000 small plastic pieces per m2, consisting mostly (90%) of fibers, and hard and soft pieces. Nearly 25% of fish contained small plastics, but prevalence varied with size and between species. Of the 25 types of small plastics found in sediment, fish preferred about 10 types (distinct colors and forms). Several SVOCs, both water soluble and sediment-associated compounds, were found in the two species of fish tested. This study revealed that a species’ natural history may influence contamination levels, and warrants further study to better understand the pathways of plastics and associated contaminants into and throughout coastal food webs, and the potential health risks for small and/or low-trophic level organisms.
Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is a powerful method to study the occurrence, movement and behavior of echolocating odontocetes (toothed whales) in the wild. However, in areas occupied by more than one species, echolocation clicks need to be classified into species. The present study investigated whether the echolocation clicks produced by small, at-risk, resident sympatric populations of Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) in Menai Bay, Zanzibar, East Africa, could be classified to allow species specific monitoring. Underwater sounds of S. plumbea and T. aduncus groups were recorded using a SoundTrap 202HF in January and June-August 2015. Eight acoustic parameters, i.e. -10 dB duration, peak, centroid, lower -3 and lower -10 dB frequencies, and -3 dB, -10 dB and root-mean-squared bandwidth, were used to describe and compare the two species’ echolocation clicks. Statistical analyses showed that S. plumbea clicks had significantly higher peak, centroid, lower -3 and lower -10 dB frequencies compared to T. aduncus, whereas duration and bandwidth parameters were similar for the two species. Random Forest (RF) classifiers were applied to determine parameters that could be used to classify the two species from echolocation clicks and achieved 28.6% and 90.2% correct species classification rates for S. plumbea and T. aduncus, respectively. Both species were classified at a higher rate than expected at random, however the identified classifiers would only be useful for T. aduncus monitoring. The frequency and bandwidth parameters provided most power for species classification. Further study is necessary to identify useful classifiers for S. plumbea. This study represents a first step in acoustic description and classification of S. plumbea and T. aduncus in the western Indian Ocean region, with potential application for future acoustic monitoring of species-specific temporal and spatial occurrence in these sympatric species.
The potential for imminent abyssal polymetallic nodule exploitation has raised considerable scientific attention. The interface between the targeted nodule resource and sediment in this unusual mosaic habitat promotes the development of some of the most biologically diverse communities in the abyss. However, the ecology of these remote ecosystems is still poorly understood, so it is unclear to what extent and timescale these ecosystems will be affected by, and could recover from, mining disturbance. Using data inferred from seafloor photo-mosaics, we show that the effects of simulated mining impacts, induced during the “DISturbance and reCOLonization experiment” (DISCOL) conducted in 1989, were still evident in the megabenthos of the Peru Basin after 26 years. Suspension-feeder presence remained significantly reduced in disturbed areas, while deposit-feeders showed no diminished presence in disturbed areas, for the first time since the experiment began. Nevertheless, we found significantly lower heterogeneity diversity in disturbed areas and markedly distinct faunal compositions along different disturbance levels. If the results of this experiment at DISCOL can be extrapolated to the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, the impacts of polymetallic nodule mining there may be greater than expected, and could potentially lead to an irreversible loss of some ecosystem functions, especially in directly disturbed areas.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of 209 persistent and bio-accumulative toxic pollutants present as complex mixtures in human and animal tissues. Harbor porpoises accumulate some of the highest levels of PCBs because they are long-lived mammals that feed at a high trophic level. Studies typically use the sum of a suite of individual chlorobiphenyl congeners (CBs) to investigate PCBs in wildlife. However, toxic effects and thresholds of CB congeners differ, therefore population health risks of exposure may be under or over-estimated dependent on the congener profiles present. In this study, we found congener profiles varied with age, sex and location, particularly between adult females and juveniles. We found that adult females had the highest proportions of octa-chlorinated congeners whilst juveniles had the highest proportions of tri- and tetra-chlorinated congeners. This is likely to be a consequence of pollutant offloading between mothers and calves during lactation. Analysis of the individual congener toxicities found that juveniles were exposed to a more neurotoxic CB mixture at a time when they were most vulnerable to its effects. These findings are an important contribution towards our understanding of variation in congener profiles and the potential effects and threats of PCB exposure in cetaceans.
Strategies aimed to conserve and manage rare species are often hindered by the lack of data needed for their effective design. Incomplete and inaccurate data on habitat associations and current species distributions pose a barrier to effective conservation and management for several species of endemic sea snakes in Western Australia that are thought to be in decline. Here we used a correlative modelling approach to understand habitat associations and identify suitable habitats for five of these species (Aipysurus apraefrontalis, A. foliosquama, A. fuscus, A. l. pooleorum and A. tenuis). We modelled species-specific habitat suitability across 804,244 km2 of coastal waters along the North-west Shelf of Western Australia, to prioritise future survey regions to locate unknown populations of these rare species. Model projections were also used to quantify the effectiveness of current spatial management strategies (Marine Protected Areas) in conserving important habitats for these species. Species-specific models matched well with the records on which they were trained, and identified additional regions of suitability without records. Subsequent field validation of the model projections uncovered a previously unknown locality for A. fuscus within the mid-shelf shoal region, outside its currently recognised global range. Defining accurate geographic distributions for rare species is a vital first step in defining more robust extent of species occurrence and range overlap with threatening processes.
Global mean sea level budget is rigorously adjusted during the period 2005–2015. The emphasis is to provide the best estimates for the linear rates of changes (trends) of the global mean sea level budget components during this period subject to the constraint: Earth's hydrosphere conserves water. The newly simultaneously adjusted trends of the budget components suggest a larger correction for the global mean sea level trend implicated by the other budget components' trends under the budget constraint. The simultaneous estimation of the linear trends of the budget components subject to the constraint for closure improves their uncertainties and enables a holistic assessment of the global mean sea budget, which has implications for future sea level science studies, including the future Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, and the US Climate Assessment Reports.
As human use of the oceans increases, marine spatial planning (MSP) is being more widely adopted to achieve improved environmental, economic, and social outcomes. However, there is a lack of practical guidance for stakeholder driven, scientifically informed MSP processes in small island and data‐limited contexts. Here, we present an overview of MSP on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, with a focus on the scientific and technical input that helped inform the process. Montserrat presents an interesting case study of MSP in the small island context as it has ocean uses that are common to many islands, namely small‐scale fisheries and tourism, but the marine environment has been heavily impacted due to volcanic activity. We detail the methods for data collection and analysis and the decision‐making process that contributed to a marine spatial plan. We highlight aspects of the process that may be useful for other small islands embarking on MSP, and lessons learned regarding scientific support, including the need for on‐site scientific support and guidance throughout MSP, the importance of setting clear objectives, working within data limitations and making data accessible, and choosing and using appropriate decision support tools.
Oyster reef ecosystems used to form significant components of many temperate and subtropical inshore coastal systems but have suffered declines globally, with a concurrent loss of services. The early timing of many of these changes makes it difficult to determine restoration targets which consider interdecadal timeframes, community values and shifted baselines. On the Australian continent, however, the transition from Indigenous (Aboriginal) to Westernized resource use and management occurred relatively recently, allowing us to map social-ecological changes in detail. In this study, we reconstruct the transformations in the Sydney rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) wild commercial industry of central and southeast Queensland, and by extension its reef ecosystems, as well as the changing societal and cultural values related to the presence and use of the rock oyster through time. By integrating data from the archaeological, anthropological and fisheries literature, government and media accounts, we explore these transformations over the last two centuries. Before the 1870s, there was a relative equilibrium. Aboriginal peoples featured as sole traders to Europeans, supplying oysters and becoming a substantial component of the industry's labour pool. Effectively, Australia's commercial oyster industry arose from Aboriginal-European trade. During this initial phase, there was still a relative abundance of wild oyster, with subtidal oyster reef structures present in regions where oysters are today absent or scarce. By contrast, these reefs declined by the late 19th century, despite production of oysters increasing due to continued large-scale oyster recruitment and the expansion of oyster cultivation in intertidal areas. Production peaked in 1891, with successive peaks observed in regions further north. During the 1890s, flood events coupled with land-use changes introduced large quantities of silt into the system, which likely facilitated an increase in oyster pests and diseases, ultimately decreasing the carrying capacity of the system. Today oyster production in this region is less than one-tenth of historical peak production. Many cultural heritage components have also been lost. Indigenous management is now very minor due to the massive decimation of Aboriginal populations and their respective practices. Yet, we found strong cultural attachment to midden remains and oyster production continues within Indigenous communities, with considerable broader community support. This study highlights the value of conducting thorough analysis of early media accounts as a means for reconstructing historical resource decline and management. It further demonstrates the application of historical information and context for contemporary management, protection and restoration of much-altered coastal social-ecological systems.
Coastal ecosystems provide a broad range of ecosystem services, which can be used to justify habitat conservation. The cultural ecosystem services of coastal ecosystems are generally underappreciated, and this is particularly the case when quantifying their scientific value. We created a tiered set of indicators to quantify scientific value spatially, and tested them using the case study of the island nation of Singapore. We conducted a systematic review of research papers, book chapters, conference reports and academic theses produced across 10 coastal ecosystems in Singapore, including mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, beaches and artificial coastal structures. At least 656 articles have been produced on Singapore’s coastal zone, with 2201 unique observations, showing that scientific value is spatially variable along Singapore’s coastline. Novel indicators such as the Site Impact Factor are able to differentiate scientific value between sites. This method has shed light on an under-recognised, but important cultural ecosystem service, and is applicable to other spatially-bounded coastal, marine and terrestrial landscapes.
Substantial perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) production still occurs in China, and the consumption of aquatic products is a critical exposure pathway of PFAAs in humans. In this study, specimens of 16 freshwater and 40 marine species were collected in the river-estuary-sea environment affected by a mega fluorochemical industry park in China in 2015, and the edible tissues of these organisms were analyzed for PFAA levels. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was the dominating contaminant with an overall contribution of more than 90%, and concentrations as high as 2161 ng/g wet weight (measured in the freshwater winkle). All species with the greatest PFOA levels were benthic. The trophic magnification factor (TMF) of PFOA was 1.10 for freshwater species and 1.28 for marine species, indicating that PFOA was slightly magnifying. Analysis of carbon source indicated that freshwater species were more benthic feeding, while marine species were more pelagic feeding. Aquatic food consumption screening values of PFOA were modified according to estimated daily intake (EDI) values, which generated recommendations for limited meal categories and the do-not-eat category. Thus, this study provides recommendations for mitigating the health risks of PFAA-contaminated aquatic food, ranging from food selection to consumption frequency and proper food processing.