Land clearing and ecosystem degradation are primary causes of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide, putting at risk sustainable options for Earth and humankind. According to recent global estimates, degraded lands already account for at least 1 and up to 6 billion ha. Given high rates of habitat degradation and loss of biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes with high levels of ecosystem transformation, conventional approaches to conservation such as setting aside lands in protected areas, are not enough; in combination with ecosystem protection, ecological restoration is essential to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and delivery of ecosystem services. Despite recognition of the role of ecological restoration, the planning of restoration at the landscape scale remains a major challenge. Specifically, more studies are needed on developing restoration plans that maximize conservation and provisioning of ecosystem services, while minimizing competition with high-productivity land uses. We use Colombia, one of the world’s mega-diversity countries in which ca. 25 % of ecosystems are listed as critically endangered (CR), as a test case for exploring the potential advantages of including the Red List of Ecosystems, a newly developed tool for assessing conservation value, in restoration planning. We identified restoration priorities focused on both high-risk ecosystems and low-productivity lands, to maximize conservation value and minimize land-use conflicts. This approach allowed us to identify over 6 M ha of priority areas for restoration, targeting the restoration of 31 (75 %) of the country’s endangered ecosystems. Eight of the Regional Administrative Environmental Planning Areas (CARs) had greater than 20 % of their area identified as restoration priorities. We roughly estimated that the cost of restoring the prioritized areas with restoration through natural regeneration, using payment for ecosystem services (PES), would equal less than 50 % of the annual budget of the CARs. Our results are in sharp contrast (only 12 % agreement) with the priorities identified under the current National Restoration Strategy of Colombia, and highlight the potential contribution of the Red List of Ecosystems in refining and improving restoration planning strategies at both national and sub-national levels.
Coastal flood impact assessments are important tools for risk management and are performed by combining the hazard component with the vulnerability of exposed assets, to quantify consequences (or impacts) in terms of relative or absolute (e.g. financial) damage. The process generates uncertainties that should be taken into account for the correct representation of the consequences of floods. This study presents a coastal flood impact application at the spatial level of the Stavanger municipality (Norway), based on a multi-damage model approach able to represent impacts, and their overall uncertainty. Hazard modelling was performed using the LISFLOOD-FP code, taking into account historical extreme water level events (1988–2017) and relative sea level rise scenarios. Direct impacts were calculated in the form of relative and financial damage for different building categories, using flood damage curves. The results showed that the expected impacts are fewer than 50 flooded receptors and less than €1 million in damage in the current sea level scenario. The impacts could double by the end of the century, considering the most optimistic relative sea level scenario. The results were discussed considering the limitations of the approach for both hazard and impact modelling, that will be improved in future implementations. The outcome of this study may be useful for cost–benefit analyses of mitigation actions and local-scale plans for adaptation.
Environmental exposure to organophosphate esters (OPEs) continues to be a concern. Little is known about their bioaccumulation and trophodynamics, especially in tropical food webs. This study collected seawater and fifteen types of organism from a tropical ecosystem, South China Sea, to investigate the species-specific compositional, bioaccumulation, and trophic transfer of OPEs. The total concentrations of 11 target OPEs (ng/g dw) in the organisms decreased with the increase of their trophic levels in the order: phytoplankton (922) > zooplankton (660) > oysters (309) > crabs (225) > coral tissues (202) > fishes (58.2). The composition profiles (relative abundances) of OPEs were different among the species of organisms, which is likely affected by metabolism and the physicochemical property of OPEs. The trophic biomagnification of tripentyl phosphate (TPTP) in the pelagic food web was unexpected and requires further investigation. The trophic magnification factors (TMFs) of OPEs were generally lower in this tropical aquatic food web than in temperate and frigid aquatic food web. Our analysis suggests that there is a significant positive linear correlation between latitude and TMF. Intakes of OPEs through the consumption of the seafood involved in this work does not pose health risk to adults.
Global demand for freshwater and marine foods (i.e., seafood) is rising and an increasing proportion is farmed. Aquaculture encompasses a range of species and cultivation methods, resulting in diverse social, economic, nutritional, and environmental outcomes. As a result, how aquaculture develops will influence human wellbeing and environmental health outcomes. Recognition of this has spurred a push for nutrition-sensitive aquaculture, which aims to benefit public health through the production of diverse, nutrient-rich seafood and enabling equitable access. This article explores plausible aquaculture futures and their role in nutrition security using a qualitative scenario approach. Two dimensions of economic development – the degree of globalization and the predominant economic development philosophy – bound four scenarios representing systems that are either localized or globalized, and orientated toward maximizing sectoral economic growth or to meeting environmental and equity dimensions of sustainability. The potential contribution of aquaculture in improving nutrition security is then evaluated within each scenario. While aquaculture could be “nutrition-sensitive” under any of the scenarios, its contribution to addressing health inequities is more likely in the economic and political context of a more globally harmonized trade environment and where economic policies are oriented toward social equity and environmental sustainability.
The Great Barrier Reef catchment is located adjacent to the world's largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, in eastern Queensland, Australia.
This study characterized the geologic and hydrogeologic settings and evaluated the influence of regional faults on groundwater flow. 3D geological models of six regions within the catchment were constructed using drill-log data from >49,000 wells, digital elevation models and surface geological maps. The 3D models were then integrated with potentiometric surface maps and faults data to conceptualize the hydraulic relationships of aquifer units and estimate groundwater development potentials. Potentiometric surfaces and fault orientations were used to conceptualize groundwater flow directions.
New hydrological insights for the region
The 3D geological and hydrogeological characterizations revealed previously unknown faults and aquifer units in the study area. The study found that the central regions consisted of fractured and porous-unconfined aquifers, while confined aquifers, which extend to the coast and likely beyond, were also found in the northern and southern most regions. The orientations of the faults trended in NW-SE directions and could form conduits for south-easterly groundwater flow as opposed to the predominate easterly flow in the porous-unconfined and confined aquifers. The 3D models, aquifer connectivities and geometries provided crucial information to determine groundwater development potentials and offer a first step in developing local and regional groundwater flow and contaminant transport models.
There is a global lack of data concerning shark consumption trends, consumer attitudes, and public knowledge regarding sharks. This is the case in Trinidad and Tobago, where shark is a popular culinary delicacy. A Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) survey was conducted in Trinidad and Tobago. Six hundred and seven questionnaires were administered. Univariate and stepwise multivariate logistic regressions were performed to test the association between KAP and demographic categories. The response rate was 93.4% with 567 questionnaires returned (473 from Trinidad and 94 from Tobago). Two hundred and seventeen (38.3%) participants were knowledgeable, 422 (74.4%) displayed attitudes in favour of shark conservation and sustainable use, and 270 (47.6%) displayed practices promoting shark conservation and sustainable use. Island (AOR = 2.81, CI = 1.78, 4.46) and tertiary education (AOR = 2.31, CI = 1.20, 4.46) significantly influenced knowledge level. Gender (AOR = 1.50, CI = 1.02, 2.20) and island (AOR = 0.56, CI = 0.35, 0.90) significantly influenced attitude. Gender (COR = 1.59, CI = 1.14, 2.22) was significantly associated with practices. Over 70% of respondents ate shark, and 54.7% ate shark infrequently enough to avoid risks from heavy metal toxicity. Our results may be useful to develop public awareness and practice improvement initiatives in order to improve KAP regarding shark meat consumption.
Distinct zonation of community assemblages among habitats is a ubiquitous feature of coral reefs. The distribution of roving herbivorous fishes (parrotfishes, surgeonfishes and rabbitfishes) is a particularly clear example, with the abundance of these fishes generally peaking in shallow-water, high-energy habitats, regardless of the biogeographic realm. Yet, our understanding of the factors which structure this habitat partitioning, especially with regards to different facets of structural complexity and nutritional resource availability, is limited. To address this issue, we used three-dimensional photogrammetry and structure-from-motion technologies to describe five components of structural complexity (rugosity, coral cover, verticality, refuge density and field-of-view) and nutritional resource availability (grazing surface area) among habitats and considered how these factors are related to herbivorous fish distributions. All complexity metrics (including coral cover) were highest on the slope and crest. Nutritional resource availability differed from this general pattern and peaked on the outer-flat. Unexpectedly, when compared to the distribution of herbivorous fishes, none of the complexity metrics had a marked influence in the models. However, grazing surface area was a strong predictor of both the abundance and biomass of herbivorous fishes. The strong relationship between grazing surface area and herbivorous fish distributions indicates that nutritional resource availability may be one of the primary factors driving the distribution of roving herbivorous fishes. The lack of a relationship between complexity and herbivorous fishes, and a strong affinity of herbivorous fishes for low-complexity, algal turf-dominated outer-flat habitats, offers some cautious optimism that herbivory may be sustained on future, low-complexity, algal turf-dominated reef configurations.
Protecting the ocean has become a major goal of international policy as human activities increasingly endanger the integrity of the ocean ecosystem, often summarized as “ocean health.” By and large, efforts to protect the ocean have failed because, among other things, (1) the underlying socio-ecological pathways have not been properly considered, and (2) the concept of ocean health has been ill defined. Collectively, this prevents an adequate societal response as to how ocean ecosystems and their vital functions for human societies can be protected and restored. We review the confusion surrounding the term “ocean health” and suggest an operational ocean-health framework in line with the concept of strong sustainability. Given the accelerating degeneration of marine ecosystems, the restoration of regional ocean health will be of increasing importance. Our advocated transdisciplinary and multi-actor framework can help to advance the implementation of more active measures to restore ocean health and safeguard human health and well-being.
Concern about the effects of maritime vessel collisions with marine animals is increasing worldwide. To date, most scientific publications on this topic have focused on the collisions between large vessels and large whales. However, our review found that at least 75 marine species are affected, including smaller whales, dolphins, porpoises, dugongs, manatees, whale sharks, sharks, seals, sea otters, sea turtles, penguins, and fish. Collision incidents with smaller species are scarce, likely as a result of reporting biases. Some of these biases can be addressed through the establishment of species-specific necropsy protocols to ensure reliable identification of collision-related injury, particularly blunt force trauma. In addition, creating a ship strike database for smaller species can assist in identifying the species most frequently involved in collisions, identifying high-risk areas, and determining species-specific relationships between vessel speed and lethal injury. The International Whaling Commission database on collisions with large whales provides a good example of this type of database and its potential uses. Prioritizing the establishment of a species-specific necropsy protocol and a database for smaller species as well as the identification of high-risk areas for species other than large whales, would be a valuable step toward the mitigation of collisions with smaller species.
The dramatic warming of the Arctic Ocean will impact pelagic ecosystems in complex ways, including shifting patterns of species distribution and abundance, and altering migration pathways and population connectivity. Species of the Phylum Chaetognatha (arrow worms) are abundant in the zooplankton assemblage and are highly effective predators, with key roles in pelagic food webs. They are useful indicator species for impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. This study examined the population genetic diversity, structure and connectivity of the chaetognath, Eukrohnia hamata, based on sampling from six regions defined by geography, bathymetry, and major currents flowing through the Arctic Ocean. A 528-base pair sequenced region of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) analyzed for 131 specimens resulted in 78 haplotypes and very high haplotype diversity. Analysis of mtCOI haplotype frequencies provided no evidence of population genetic structure. Genomic Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) detected from the same specimens by double-digest Restriction-site Associated Digestion (ddRAD) confirmed high levels of gene flow among the regions, but supported the genetic distinctiveness of two population clusters: Atlantic–Arctic versus Pacific–Arctic. Removal of SNPs subject to selection resulted in slightly higher probability of three clusters, and suggested the possibility of local adaptation of regional populations of E. hamata. Comparative analysis revealed evidence that random selection of subsets of SNPs, perhaps impacted by different ecological and (micro) evolutionary drivers, can result in marked differences in numbers and distributional patterns of clusters and associated variation in F-statistics. Analysis of population connectivity using SNPs supported the primary migration pathway via flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific Arctic regions.
Owing to production, usage, and disposal of nano-enabled products as well as fragmentation of bulk materials, anthropogenic nanoscale particles (NPs) can enter the natural environment and through different compartments (air, soil, and water) end up into the sea. With the continuous increase in production and associated emissions and discharges, they can reach concentrations able to exceed toxicity thresholds for living species inhabiting marine coastal areas. Behavior and fate of NPs in marine waters are driven by transformation processes occurring as a function of NP intrinsic and extrinsic properties in the receiving seawaters. All those aspects have been overlooked in ecological risk assessment. This review critically reports ecotoxicity studies in which size distribution, surface charges and bio−nano interactions have been considered for a more realistic risk assessment of NPs in marine environment. Two emerging and relevant NPs, the metal-based titanium dioxide (TiO2), and polystyrene (PS), a proxy for nanoplastics, are reviewed, and their impact on marine biota (from planktonic species to invertebrates and fish) is discussed as a function of particle size and surface charges (negative vs. positive), which affect their behavior and interaction with the biological material. Uptake of NPs is related to their nanoscale size; however, in vivo studies clearly demonstrated that transformation (agglomerates/aggregates) occurring in both artificial and natural seawater drive to different exposure routes and biological responses at cellular and organism level. Adsorption of single particles or agglomerates onto the body surface or their internalization in feces can impair motility and affect sinking or floating behavior with consequences on populations and ecological function. Particle complex dynamics in natural seawater is almost unknown, although it determines the effective exposure scenarios. Based on the latest predicted environmental concentrations for TiO2 and PS NPs in the marine environment, current knowledge gaps and future research challenges encompass the comprehensive study of bio−nano interactions. As such, the analysis of NP biomolecular coronas can enable a better assessment of particle uptake and related cellular pathways leading to toxic effects. Moreover, the formation of an environmentally derived corona (i.e., eco-corona) in seawater accounts for NP physical–chemical alterations, rebounding on interaction with living organisms and toxicity.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a new social and academic reality to researchers worldwide. The field of marine science, our own topic of interest, has also been impacted in multiple ways, from cancelation of laboratory and field activities to postponement of onboard research. As graduate researchers, we have a time-sensitive academic path, and our current situation may constrain our academic future. At the same time, the pandemic demands revised strategies to deal with the ongoing difficulties and tackle similar future situations. In this perspective, we have gathered information on the challenges, solutions and opportunities for graduate researchers in the field of marine science by (1) discussing the relevant short-, long-term challenges caused by the pandemic, (2) providing feasible immediate and near-future solutions, (3) compiling opportunities (courses, scientific events, academic positions), and (4) creating a shared social media account to make the available information on new opportunities more accessible. With this, we hope to add to the efforts to advance the academic career of marine graduates during this harsh period.
Temperate Australia has extensive and diverse coast and marine habitats throughout its inshore and offshore waters. The region includes the southernmost extent of mangroves, over 500 estuaries and coastal embayments, home to extensive meadows of seagrasses and tidal saltmarsh. In areas of hard substrate, rocky reefs are abundant and productive with large forests of macroalgae. Coastal regions can be densely populated by humans and often habitats can be degraded, polluted or lost, while some remain relatively isolated and pristine. These habitats provide services to society including provision of food, regulate our climate through sequestration of carbon, treating our waste and protecting our shorelines from damage from storms. Coastal areas are culturally importantly hubs for recreation and tourism. Habitat mapping demonstrates diverse habitats throughout temperate Australia, but a formal investigation of services provided by these habitats has been lacking. This review of ecosystem services provided by coast and marine environments throughout temperate Australia reveals vast and productive ecosystems that provide multiple ecosystem services, substantial value to the Australian economy and contribute to the health and well-being of people who live in, visit of benefit from services or products from these regions. Some of these are considered within traditional economic metrics such as provision of wild catch fisheries, but this review demonstrates that regulation and maintenance services including waste treatment and protecting shorelines from extreme events are under recognized, and their value is substantial. However, consistent with many locations globally, coast and marine habitats are under threat from increasing development, sewage, agricultural, industrial discharges, urban runoff and climate change. Resultantly, temperate Australian coast and marine habitat extent and condition is generally declining in many regions, putting the provision of services and benefits to the community at risk. Continued degraded or lost habitats indicate current management frameworks are not capturing the full risk from development and there are winners and losers in trade off decision making. Incorporating ecosystem services in decision making may allow an integrated approach to management, and acknowledgment of services provided could prevent habitats from being undervalued against economic and social interests, a practice that often results in environmental degradation.
The recent finding of gas embolism (GE) and decompression sickness (DCS) in loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean Sea challenged the conventional understanding of marine vertebrate diving physiology. Additionally, it brought to light a previously unknown source of mortality associated with fisheries bycatch for this vulnerable species. In this paper, we use ultrasonography to describe GE in a leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), and an olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) from accidental capture in a gillnet, bottom trawl, and pair-bottom trawl, respectively. This is the first description of this condition in these three species worldwide. These cases of GE suggest that this may be a threat faced by all sea turtle species globally.
Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) is one of the most lucrative fisheries on the United States (U.S.) west coast. There have been large spatial and temporal fluctuations in catch, which reflect the interconnected influences of the coupled natural-human fishery system. Changing ocean conditions are likely to further alter the magnitude and distribution of Dungeness crab catch, the impacts of which will propagate ecologically and through the social systems of fishing communities. Therefore, the effect of changing ocean conditions on U.S. west coast Dungeness crab catch per unit effort (CPUE) was used as an interdisciplinary case study to examine the susceptibility, a metric that integrates Dungeness crab reliance and social vulnerability indices, of coastal communities to changes in the fishery. Statistical models indicated that ocean conditions influence commercial CPUE 3–5 years later and that CPUE is likely to decline in the future as ocean conditions change. In particular, sea surface temperature scenarios for 2080 (+1.7 and +2.8°C) reduced Dungeness crab CPUE by 30–100%, depending on fishing port latitude. Declines in Dungeness crab CPUE were greater for southern port communities than for northern port communities under both scenarios – demonstrating greater exposure at the southern end of the species range. We show that U.S. west coast communities are differentially susceptible to a decline in Dungeness crab catch, with Washington communities being at least five times more susceptible than California communities. Our overall assessment showed varying levels of risk (a combination of exposure and susceptibility) for Dungeness crab fishing ports that do not necessarily align with regional or fishery management boundaries.
The Mediterranean Sea is subject to multiple human pressures increasingly threatening its unique biodiversity. Spatially explicit information on the ecological status of marine ecosystems is therefore key to an effective maritime spatial planning and management, and to help the achievement of environmental targets. Here, we summarized scientific data on the ecological status of a selection of marine ecosystems based on a set of ecological indicators in more than 700 sites of the Mediterranean Sea. For Posidonia oceanica seagrass beds, rocky intertidal fringe, and coastal soft bottoms, more than 70% of investigated sites exhibited good to high ecological conditions. In contrast, about two-thirds of sites for subtidal rocky reefs were classified to be in moderate to bad conditions, stressing the need for prioritizing conservation initiatives on these productive and diverse environments. Very little quantitative information was available for the southern Mediterranean Sea, thus monitoring programs and assessments in this area are essential for a representative assessment of the health of marine coastal ecosystems in the whole basin. This overview represents a first step to implement a baseline that, through georeferenced data on ecological status, could help identifying information gaps, directing future research priorities, and supporting improvements to spatial models of expected cumulative impacts on marine ecosystems.
It is hard to find a definition of gill health in the literature although there is a lot of information on changes to gill structure as a result of infectious and non-infectious challenge. How these changes relate to overall fish health is sometimes not clear. Interaction between the gill, the fish, and a range of anticipated changes in the environment will have a currently unknown effect on marine health and aquaculture production. To a degree, fish will likely be able to ameliorate certain changes, such as compensating for slightly elevated carbon dioxide; however, these actions may come at the cost of compromising other functions such as osmoregulation. Compensation will also depend on gill epithelial health and other environmental factors like external nitrogen and ammonia sources which can rise depending on the direction future culture and levels of eutrophication take. Fish can also remodel gill structure in response to salinity, hypoxia, or acidification but it appears that increased temperatures may be associated with increased pathology observable in the gill, and certain fishes may be more susceptible to change. There is a need for more targeted research into climate change-specific gill physiology and a need to recognise gill health as being a key component of food security and not just fish health.
In the Antarctic Circumpolar Current region of the Southern Ocean, the massive phytoplankton blooms stemming from islands support large trophic chains. Contrary to islands, open ocean seamounts appear to sustain blooms of lesser intensity and, consequently, are expected to play a negligible role in the productivity of this area. Here we revisit this assumption by focusing on a region of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current zone which is massively targeted by marine predators, even if no island fertilizes this area. By combining high resolution bathymetric data, Lagrangian analyses of altimetry-derived velocities and chlorophyll a observations derived from BGC-Argo floats and ocean color images, we reveal that the oligotrophic nature of the study region considered in low chlorophyll a climatological maps hides in reality a much more complex environment. Significant (chlorophyll a in excess of 0.6 mg/m3) phytoplankton blooms spread over thousands of kilometers and have bio-optical signatures similar to the ones stemming from island systems. By adopting a Lagrangian approach, we demonstrate that these moderate blooms (i) originate at specific sites where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current interacts with seamounts, and (ii) coincide with foraging areas of five megafauna species. These findings underline the ecological importance of the open ocean subantarctic waters and advocate for a connected vision of future conservation actions along the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
Coastal seas are highly productive systems, providing an array of ecosystem services to humankind, such as processing of nutrient effluents from land and climate regulation. However, coastal ecosystems are threatened by human-induced pressures such as climate change and eutrophication. In the coastal zone, the fluxes and transformations of nutrients and carbon sustaining coastal ecosystem functions and services are strongly regulated by benthic biological and chemical processes. Thus, to understand and quantify how coastal ecosystems respond to environmental change, mechanistic modeling of benthic biogeochemical processes is required. Here, we discuss the present model capabilities to quantitatively describe how benthic fauna drives nutrient and carbon processing in the coastal zone. There are a multitude of modeling approaches of different complexity, but a thorough mechanistic description of benthic-pelagic processes is still hampered by a fundamental lack of scientific understanding of the diverse interactions between the physical, chemical and biological processes that drive biogeochemical fluxes in the coastal zone. Especially shallow systems with long water residence times are sensitive to the activities of benthic organisms. Hence, including and improving the description of benthic biomass and metabolism in sediment diagenetic as well as ecosystem models for such systems is essential to increase our understanding of their response to environmental changes and the role of coastal sediments in nutrient and carbon cycling. Major challenges and research priorities are (1) to couple the dynamics of zoobenthic biomass and metabolism to sediment reactive-transport in models, (2) to test and validate model formulations against real-world data to better incorporate the context-dependency of processes in heterogeneous coastal areas in models and (3) to capture the role of stochastic events.
The northern Gulf of Mexico has been an important source for crude oil and natural gas extraction since the 1930s. Thousands of fixed platforms and associated equipment have been installed on the Gulf of Mexico continental shelf, leading to a pervasive ‘ocean sprawl.’ After decommissioning, 100s of these structures have been converted to artificial reefs under the federal ‘Rigs-to-Reefs’ program, in addition to artificial reefs specifically designed to enhance fisheries and/or benefit the recreational diving industry. Apart from a few natural banks, which reach to approximately 55 ft below the surface, artificial reefs provide the only shallow-water hard substrate for benthic organisms in the deeper waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. This vast expansion in available habitat has almost exclusively occurred over a relatively short span of time (∼50 years). The ecological interactions of artificial and natural reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico are complex. Artificial reefs in general, and oil and gas structures in particular, have often been invoked as stepping stones for non-native and invasive species (e.g., Tubastrea cup corals, lionfish). The pilings are covered with fouling communities which remain largely unstudied. While the risks of these fouling organisms for invading natural reefs are being broadly discussed, other impacts on the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico, such as the potential to facilitate jellyfish blooms or increase the incidence of ciguatera fish poisoning, have received less attention. Artificial reefs also provide ecosystem services, particularly as habitat for economically important fish species like red snapper. Here we revisit the potential role of artificial reefs as ‘stepping stones’ for species invasions and for fisheries enhancement. Beyond concerns about ecological effects, some of these topics also raise public health concerns. We point out gaps in current knowledge and propose future research directions.