Reef Check Australia (RCA) has collected data on benthic composition and cover at > 70 sites along > 1000 km of Australia's Queensland coast from 2002 to 2015. This paper quantifies the accuracy, precision and power of RCA benthic composition data, to guide its application and interpretation. A simulation study established that the inherent accuracy of the Reef Check point sampling protocol is high (<± 7% error absolute), in the range of estimates of benthic cover from 1% to 50%. A field study at three reef sites indicated that, despite minor observer- and deployment-related biases, the protocol does reliably document moderate ecological changes in coral communities. The error analyses were then used to guide the interpretation of inter-annual variability and long term trends at three study sites in RCA's major 2002–2015 data series for the Queensland coast.
Tun Mustapha Park, in Sabah, Malaysia, was gazetted in May 2016 and is the first multiple-use park in Malaysia where conservation, sustainable resource use and development co-occur within one management framework. We applied a systematic conservation planning tool, Marxan with Zones, and stakeholder consultation to design and revise the draft zoning plan. This process was facilitated by Sabah Parks, a government agency, and WWF-Malaysia, under the guidance of the Tun Mustapha Park steering committee and with support from the University of Queensland. Four conservation and fishing zones, including no-take areas, were developed, each with representation and replication targets for key marine habitats, and a range of socio-economic and community objectives. Here we report on how decision-support tools informed the reserve design process in three planning stages: prioritization, government review, and community consultation. Using marine habitat and species representation as a reporting metric, we describe how the zoning plan changed at each stage of the design process. We found that the changes made to the zoning plan by the government and stakeholders resulted in plans that compromised the achievement of conservation targets because no-take areas were moved away from villages and the coastline, where unique habitats are located. The design process highlights a number of lessons learned for future conservation zoning, which we believe will be useful as many other places embark on similar zoning processes on land and in the sea.
The objectives of conservation science and dissemination of its research create a paradox: Conservation is about preserving the environment, yet scientists spread this message at conferences with heavy carbon footprints. Ecology and conservation science depend on global knowledge exchange—getting the best science to the places it is most needed. However, conference attendance from developed countries typically outweighs that from developing countries that are biodiversity and conservation hotspots. If any branch of science should be trying to maximize participation while minimizing carbon emissions, it is conservation. Virtual conferencing is common in other disciplines, such as education and humanities, but it is surprisingly underused in ecology and conservation. Adopting virtual conferencing entails a number of challenges, including logistics and unified acceptance, which we argue can be overcome through planning and technology. We examined 4 conference models: a pure-virtual model and 3 hybrid hub-and-node models, where hubs stream content to local nodes. These models collectively aim to mitigate the logistical and administrative challenges of global knowledge transfer. Embracing virtual conferencing addresses 2 essential prerequisites of modern conferences: lowering carbon emissions and increasing accessibility for remote, time- and resource-poor researchers, particularly those from developing countries.
Marine conservation actions are promoted to conserve natural values and support human wellbeing. Yet the quality of governance processes and the social consequences of some marine conservation initiatives have been the subject of critique and even human rights complaints. These types of governance and social issues may jeopardize the legitimacy of, support for and long-term effectiveness of marine conservation. Thus, we argue that a clearly articulated and comprehensive set of social standards - a code of conduct - is needed to guide marine conservation. In this paper, we draw on the results of an expert meeting and scoping review to present key principles that might be taken into account in a code of conduct, to propose a draft set of foundational elements for inclusion in a code of conduct, to discuss the benefits and challenges of such a document, and to propose next steps to develop and facilitate the uptake of a broadly applicable code of conduct within the marine conservation community. The objectives of developing such a code of conduct are to promote fair conservation governance and decision-making, socially just conservation actions and outcomes, and accountable conservation practitioners and organizations. The uptake and implementation of a code of conduct would enable marine conservation to be both socially acceptable and ecologically effective, thereby contributing to a truly sustainable ocean.
Shifts in dominance from coral to other benthic groups in coral reefs have raised concerns about the persistence of coral reefs and their ability to provide ecosystem services. Acute disturbances such as ship groundings offer the opportunity to examine the dynamics of successional processes in coral reefs, since understanding them is a prerequisite for their proper management. In this study, we investigated whether a ship grounding area in a reef located in a marine protected area in Cancún, Mexico, showed signs of recovery 15 years after the incident. We evaluated the reef's composition and structure by taking samples at three different scales (reef scale, 1 m2, and 0.01 m2). In these samples, we analysed coral density and recruitment, the abundance of five functional algal groups, and the abundance of the grazer sea urchin Diadema antillarum. If recovery had already occurred, we expected the impacted sector to have a community composition and structure similar to that of a contiguous, non-impacted sector. Using historical information, we found indications of a long-term phase shift, with Porites astreoides being the dominant coral species some time ago and at all scales of analysis; this species also showed intense recruitment. In agreement with previous studies of Caribbean reefs, architectural complexity was low. The algal cover was similar in impacted and non-impacted sectors though the density of sea urchins differed between them. Fifteen years after the ship grounding and despite the enforcement of the prohibition of tourism and fishing activities at the site, the impacted sector does not show signs of recovery. On the contrary, like other reefs in the Caribbean Sea, the non-impacted sector is becoming degraded due to the loss of reef builder key species and the increase of the algae-covered area, mirroring the path observed in the impacted sector.
The increase in demand for nature-based tourism brings economic and educational benefits but risks the introduction of invasive species. Increasing the length of tourist trips can better balance these benefits and risks by maintaining revenues while reducing the number of unique contacts with tourists. Changing the relative prices of trips can induce tourists to take longer trips. We hypothesized that providing information about the negative externalities of tourism could improve the effectiveness of such pricing strategies.
We administered one of two discrete choice surveys to tourists considering a trip to the Galapagos. One of the surveys described the Galapagos as a fragile ecosystem susceptible to invasive species; the second described it as a standard nature-based destination. For each sample, we estimated the probability of the tourist choosing a short versus long trip, given the tourist's personal information and trip options presented to him. We then simulated the demand for trips using three pricing strategies. We found that providing information on invasive species significantly increased the efficacy of strategic pricing. We propose using a two-prong approach to tourism management: educate potential tourists about the islands’ vulnerabilities, and simultaneously increase the per-day cost of short trips relative to that of longer trips.
Managing for sustainable development and resource extraction requires an understanding of the feedbacks between ecosystems and humans. These feedbacks are part of complex social-ecological systems (SES), in which resources, actors, and governance systems interact to produce outcomes across these component parts. Qualitative modeling approaches offer ways to assess complex SES dynamics. Loop analysis in particular is useful for examining and identifying potential outcomes from external perturbations and management interventions in data poor systems when very little is known about functional relationships and parameter values. Using a case study of multispecies, multifleet coastal small-scale fisheries, we demonstrate the application of loop analysis to provide predictions regarding SES responses to perturbations and management actions. Specifically, we examine the potential ecological and socioeconomic consequences to coastal fisheries of different governance interventions (e.g., territorial user rights, fisheries closures, market-based incentives, ecotourism subsidies) and environmental changes. Our results indicate that complex feedbacks among biophysical and socioeconomic components can result in counterintuitive and unexpected outcomes. For example, creating new jobs through ecotourism or subsidies might have mixed effects on members of fishing cooperatives vs. nonmembers, highlighting equity issues. Market-based interventions, such as ecolabels, are expected to have overall positive economic effects, assuming a direct effect of ecolabels on market-prices, and a lack of negative biological impacts under most model structures. Our results highlight that integrating ecological and social variables in a unique unit of management can reveal important potential trade-offs between desirable ecological and social outcomes, highlight which user groups might be more vulnerable to external shocks, and identify which interventions should be further tested to identify potential win-win outcomes across the triple-bottom line of the sustainable development paradigm.
To investigate the distribution and variability of trace metal pollution in the Chinese coastal waters, over 1000 adult oyster individuals were collected from 31 sites along the entire coastline, spanning from temperate to tropical regions (Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea), between August and September 2015. Concentrations of macroelements [sodium (Na), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and phosphorus (P)] and trace elements [cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), chromium (Cr), silver (Ag), and titanium (Ti)] in these oysters were concurrently measured and analyzed. The results showed high Ti, Zn and Cu bioaccumulation in oysters from Guangdong (South China Sea) and Zhejiang (East China Sea). Oysters at Nanji Island (Wenzhou) and Daya Bay (Huizhou) accumulated significantly high concentrations of Ni and Cr. The elements in these oysters were several times higher than the national food safety limits of China. On the other hand, the present study found that normalization of metals by salinity (Na) and nutrient (P) could reflect more details of metal pollution in the oysters. Biomonitoring of metal pollution could benefit from incorporating the macroelement calibration instead of focusing only on the total metal concentrations. Overall, simultaneous measurement of macroelements and trace metals coupled with non-linear analysis provide a new perspective for revealing the underlying mechanism of trace metal bioavailability and bioaccumulation in marine organisms.
Management of coastal and marine natural resources presents a number of challenges as a growing global population and a changing climate require us to find better strategies to conserve the resources on which our health, economy, and overall well-being depend. To evaluate the status and trends in changing coastal resources over larger areas, managers in government agencies and private stakeholders around the world have increasingly turned to remote sensing technologies. A surge in collaborative and innovative efforts between resource managers, academic researchers, and industry partners is becoming increasingly vital to keep pace with evolving changes of our natural resources. Synoptic capabilities of remote sensing techniques allow assessments that are impossible to do with traditional methods. Sixty years of remote sensing research have paved the way for resource management applications, but uncertainties regarding the use of this technology have hampered its use in management fields. Here we review examples of remote sensing applications in the sectors of coral reefs, wetlands, water quality, public health, and fisheries and aquaculture that have successfully contributed to management and decision-making goals.
- Impacts of bottom fishing, particularly trawling and dredging, on seabed (benthic) habitats are commonly perceived to pose serious environmental risks. Quantitative ecological risk assessment can be used to evaluate actual risks and to help guide the choice of management measures needed to meet sustainability objectives.
- We develop and apply a quantitative method for assessing the risks to benthic habitats by towed bottom-fishing gears. The method is based on a simple equation for relative benthic status (RBS), derived by solving the logistic population growth equation for the equilibrium state. Estimating RBS requires only maps of fishing intensity and habitat type – and parameters for impact and recovery rates, which may be taken from meta-analyses of multiple experimental studies of towed-gear impacts. The aggregate status of habitats in an assessed region is indicated by the distribution of RBS values for the region. The application of RBS is illustrated for a tropical shrimp-trawl fishery.
- The status of trawled habitats and their RBS value depend on impact rate (depletion per trawl), recovery rate and exposure to trawling. In the shrimp-trawl fishery region, gravel habitat was most sensitive, and though less exposed than sand or muddy-sand, was most affected overall (regional RBS = 91% relative to un-trawled RBS = 100%). Muddy-sand was less sensitive, and though relatively most exposed, was less affected overall (RBS = 95%). Sand was most heavily trawled but least sensitive and least affected overall (RBS = 98%). Region-wide, >94% of habitat area had >80% RBS because most trawling and impacts were confined to small areas. RBS was also applied to the region's benthic invertebrate communities with similar results.
- Conclusions. Unlike qualitative or categorical trait-based risk assessments, the RBS method provides a quantitative estimate of status relative to an unimpacted baseline, with minimal requirements for input data. It could be applied to bottom-contact fisheries world-wide, including situations where detailed data on characteristics of seabed habitats, or the abundance of seabed fauna are not available. The approach supports assessment against sustainability criteria and evaluation of alternative management strategies (e.g. closed areas, effort management, gear modifications).
When making science matter for conservation, marine conservation practitioners, and managers must be prepared to make the appropriate decision based on the results of the best available science used to inform it. For nearly a decade, many stakeholders encouraged the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to enact protections for deep-sea corals in several canyons in the Eastern Bering Sea slope. In 2014, at the request of the Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center conducted a strip-transect survey along the Eastern Bering Sea slope to validate the results of a model predicting the occurrence of deep-sea coral habitat. More than 250,000 photos were analyzed to estimate coral, sponge, and sea whip abundance, distribution, height, and vulnerability to anthropogenic damage. The results of the survey confirmed that coral habitat and occurrence was concentrated around Pribilof Canyon and the adjacent slope. The results also confirmed that the densities of corals in the Eastern Bering Sea were low, even where they occurred. After reviewing the best available scientific information, the Council concluded that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that deep-sea corals in the Eastern Bering Sea slope or canyons are at risk from commercial fisheries under the current management structure, and that special protections for deep-sea corals were not warranted.
In the 2010s, the ‘Blue Economy’ has been widely advocated by a spectrum of interests as a strategy to save the world’s oceans and water. This article explores what the Blue Economy moment is and how geographers can engage with it. It acknowledges recent efforts by geographers to understand Blue Economy but goes further by outlining the European Union’s Blue Economy programmes and by discussing these in relation to recent agenda setting in marine science. We argue that in spite of apparent convergence on this goal, the Blue Economy imaginary disciplines disparate knowledge for economic projects, when the planetary reality is that every economic project is axiomatically a biological project, with some economic aspects. In this context, the article outlines how assemblage thinking could be relevant to a human geography engagement with Blue Economy and what this could like, and how a relational conception of Blue Economy helps advance understanding. Finally, we discuss the difficulties and potential for human geographers to be genuinely enactive given the disciplinary framings that have already been assumed or imposed through Blue Economy. This last is highlighted by discussing engagement in a particular New Zealand Blue Economy initiative. Rather than either promoting or critiquing Blue Economy, we encourage informed and critical engagement with Blue Economy by geographers.
Determining the prey composition and foraging habitats of U.S. Pacific Coast groundfishes are specified management directives that have not received much scientific attention. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a meta-analysis of the feeding ecology of 18 commercially important species and their life stages during a recent review of Pacific Coast groundfish essential fish habitat. A Major Prey Index was developed to evaluate relative importance among 47 prey taxa. Based on this metric, unidentified teleosts, euphausiids, and brachyuran crabs were the most important prey groups. When 14 generalized prey categories were used, fishes represented the dominant taxon (mean % weight or volume = 32.3) followed by shrimps (11.5), crabs (10.0), and euphausiids (9.5). PERMANOVA results indicated that species-specific differences were the primary source of dietary variability among tested variables (life stage, functional group, taxonomic group). Pacific Coast groundfishes mainly were characterized as mesopredators with estimated trophic levels ranging from 3.4 to 4.2. Foraging habitats differed significantly among functional (benthic, demersal, pelagic) and taxonomic (elasmobranch, roundfish, rockfish, flatfish) groups. Using hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis, we identified a significantly distinct trophic guild that consumes mainly polychaetes and hard-shelled molluscs (juvenile, juvenile–adult Dover Sole; juvenile–adult English Sole) and another that specializes on euphausiids (juvenile Pacific Hake; juvenile–adult Darkblotched Rockfish). Our findings filled substantial data gaps in the trophic ecology and habitat-based management of commercially important species and can be used to inform future reviews of Pacific Coast groundfish essential fish habitat.
Seabirds are amongst the most affected organisms by plastic pollution worldwide. Ingestion of marine debris has been reported in at least 122 species, and owing to the increasing global production and persistence of these anthropogenic materials within the marine environment, it is expected to be a growing problem to the marine fauna. Here we report evidence of an increasing frequency in marine debris ingestion and a decrease in the amount of plastic pellets ingested by White-chinned Petrels attending south Brazilian waters during the last three decades. Future studies comprising large temporal scales and large sample sizes are needed to better understand the trends of marine debris ingestion by seabirds. We expect our findings to highlight the need for prevention policies and mitigation measures to reduce the amount of solid litter in the oceans.
Among the many threats that can be recorded on sandy beaches, plastic litter represents a serious problem for these complex and endangered ecosystems. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is increasingly abundant as a form of plastic litter in natural environments, particularly along shores and waterways. Nevertheless, despite the great number of scientific articles concerning the impact of litter on animal species, there are still no research focusing on the interaction between this type of beach litter and other biodiversity components. In this work, we reported the first evidence of interactions between EPS and living plants along a sandy beach of Tyrrhenian central Italy. We sampled 540 EPS items, mainly deriving from fishery activities (>75%). We obtained evidence for an interaction between EPS and plants: about 5% of items resulted perforated or have roots of three species (Phragmites australis, Spartina versicolor, Anthemis maritima). Apparently, we did not observed a relationship between plants and EPS items size. More research is needed to assess if the plant assemblage growing on EPS is random or if peculiar substrate exerts some sort of selection on the plant community.
Challenges of governance often constitute critical obstacles to efforts to equitably improve livelihoods in social-ecological systems. Yet, just as often, these challenges go unspoken, or are viewed as fixed parts of the context, beyond the scope of influence of agricultural, development, or natural resource management initiatives. What does it take to get governance obstacles and opportunities out in the open, creating the space for constructive dialogue and collective action that can help to address them? We respond to this question by comparing experiences of participatory action research (PAR) in coastal and floodplain systems in four countries (Zambia, Solomon Islands, Bangladesh, and Cambodia) with a focus on understanding how to build more equitable governance arrangements. We found that governance improvement was often an implicit or secondary objective of initiatives that initially sought to address more technical natural resource or livelihood-related development challenges. We argue that using PAR principles of ownership, equity, shared analysis, and feedback built trust and helped to identify and act upon opportunities to address more difficult-to-shift dimensions of governance particularly in terms of stakeholder representation, distribution of authority, and accountability. Our findings suggest that the engaged and embedded approach of researcher-facilitators can help move from identifying opportunities for governance change to supporting stakeholders as they build more equitable governance arrangements.
Light-sticks are used as bait in surface long-line fishing, to capture swordfish and other large pelagic predators. When discharged in the ocean, it may reach the beaches. The traditional Brazilian community of Costa dos Coqueiros, Bahia, use light-sticks as a medicine for rheumatism, vitiligo and mycoses. It may affect the marine life when its content leak in the open ocean. This work evaluated and identified the acute and chronic toxicity of the light-stick. A high acute toxicity was observed in the mobility/mortality of Artemia sp.; in the fertilization of sea urchin eggs, and a high chronic toxicity in the development of the pluteus larvae of the same sea urchin. The main compounds that probably caused toxicity were the volatiles such as the fluorescent PAH and oxidants such as the hydrogen peroxide. Its disposal in the open ocean is a potential threat for marine life.
The 2010 Manila amendments to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Code (STCW) was adopted by the idea to render the profession more attractive to the seafarers, particularly to cadets. It is possible to ensure greater attraction only by providing suitable and safe working conditions on board to cadets. This study analyses occupational accidents and near misses encountered by ocean going deck cadets, who received A-II/I training, during their sea training. The aim of this study was to determine causal factors influencing work accidents and to propose several recommendations for the safety of deck cadets. A total of 857 officer candidates, who received maritime education at university level in Turkey, were interviewed. The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method was used in the study to analyse the occupational accidents. As a result of this study on deck cadets, the most risky areas for work accidents were found to be the deck (39.9%), cargo areas (35.7%), areas used for manoeuvring operations (including winch areas and areas in which berthing, unberthing, and anchoring operations take place) (16.1%), and accommodation areas (8.3%). The most important root causes for occupational accidents were identified as not using personal protective equipment (24.2%), haste (22.6%), and presence in inappropriate places (13.6%). This study offers some important insight into the prevention of occupational accidents, and includes suggestions and advisory opinions of sector representatives. As a result of this study, several recommendations for the prevention of accidents are proposed.
Marine debris (MDs) produces a wide variety of negative environmental, economic, safety, health and cultural impacts. Most marine litter has a very low decomposition rate (plastics), leading to a gradual accumulation in the coastal and marine environment. Characterization of the MDs has been done in terms of their pollutant content: PAHs, ClBzs, ClPhs, BrPhs, PCDD/Fs and PCBs. The results show that MDs is not a very contaminated waste. Also, thermal decomposition of MDs materials has been studied in a thermobalance at different atmospheres and heating rates. Below 400–500 K, the atmosphere does not affect the thermal degradation of the mentioned waste. However, at temperatures between 500 and 800 K the presence of oxygen accelerates the decomposition. Also, a kinetic model is proposed for the combustion of the MDs, and the decomposition is compared with that of their main constituents, i.e., polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), nylon and polyethylene-terephthalate (PET).
Perceived changes in the culture of sponge science and sponge conferences served as motivation for an evaluation of the sponge science community and research, over time and at present. Observed changes included a decrease in proceedings publications on sponge fossils and freshwater sponges, sponges from temperate environments, review papers and data syntheses, frequency of aquarium studies, and number of species investigated per publication. Publications on recent sponges, hexactinellids, calcareans, marine, Indo-Pacific and warm-water sponges increased, as well as the number of authors per publication and the proportion of field studies. Studies at the level of specimens and ultrastructure were gradually replaced by molecular approaches, but studies at the community level remained stable. The five sub-disciplines morphology/taxonomy, phylogeny/evolution, physiology, ecology and faunistics also retained about equal proportions over time. Conference publications related to taxonomy, phylogeny and biodiversity prevailed, whereas those on management and conservation were rare, possibly because studies on sponge recovery, survival and mortality were also scarce. The community of sponge scientists has grown and become more diverse over time, presently representing 72 nations. The gender distribution evened out since the first sponge conference and presently favours women at early and men at late career stages. Although stated research interests are generally dominated by physiology and ecology, taxonomy and evolution are favoured after retirement. Sponge science has become more dynamic, but maybe also more competitive and less inclusive. We now face the dual challenge of safeguarding against the loss of some sub-disciplines, and fostering the collaborative, helpful culture characteristic of sponge science.