Many conservationists undertake environmentally harmful activities in their private lives such as flying and eating meat, while calling for people as a whole to reduce such behaviors. To quantify the extent of our hypocrisy and put our actions into context, we conducted a questionnaire-based survey of 300 conservationists and compared their personal (rather than professional) behavior, across 10 domains, with that of 207 economists and 227 medics. We also explored two related issues: the role of environmental knowledge in promoting pro-environmental behavior, and the extent to which different elements of people's footprint co-vary across behavioral domains. The conservationists we sampled have a slightly lower overall environmental footprint than economists or medics, but this varies across behaviors. Conservationists take fewer personal flights, do more to lower domestic energy use, recycle more, and eat less meat - but don't differ in how they travel to work, and own more pets than do economists or medics. Interestingly, conservationists also score no better than economists on environmental knowledge and knowledge of pro-environmental actions. Overall footprint scores are higher for males, US nationals, economists, and people with higher degrees and larger incomes, but (as has been reported in other studies) are unrelated to environmental knowledge. Last, we found different elements of individuals' footprints are generally not intercorrelated, and show divergent demographic patterns. These findings suggest three conclusions. First, lowering people's footprints may be most effectively achieved via tailored interventions targeting higher-impact behaviors (such as meat consumption, flying and family size). Second, as in health matters, education about environmental issues or pro-environmental actions may have little impact on behavior. Last, while conservationists perform better on certain measures than other groups, we could (and we would argue, must) do far more to reduce our footprint.
Numerous studies have now demonstrated that the most common method of ageing sharks and rays, counting growth zones on calcified structures, can underestimate true age. I reviewed bomb carbon dating (n = 15) and fluorochrome chemical marking (n = 44) age validation studies to investigate the frequency and magnitude of this phenomenon. Age was likely to have been underestimated in nine of 29 genera and 30% of the 53 populations studied, including 50% of those validated using bomb carbon dating. Length and age were strongly significant predictors of occurrence, with age typically underestimated in larger and older individuals. These characteristics suggest age underestimation is likely a systemic issue associated with the current methods and structures used for ageing. Where detected using bomb carbon dating, growth zones were reliable up to 88% of asymptotic length (L∞) and 41% of maximum age (AMax). The maximum magnitude of age underestimation, ΔMax, ranged from five to 34 years, averaging 18 years across species. Current perceptions of shark and ray life histories are informed to a large extent by growth studies that assume calcified ageing structures are valid throughout life. The widespread age underestimation documented here shows this assumption is frequently violated, with potentially important consequences for conservation and management. In addition to leading to an underestimation of longevity, the apparent loss of population age-structure associated with it may unexpectedly bias growth and mortality parameters. Awareness of these biases is essential given shark and ray population assessments often rely exclusively on life history parameters derived from ageing studies.
The history of the Earth system is a story of change. Some changes are gradual and benign, but others, especially those associated with catastrophic mass extinction, are relatively abrupt and destructive. What sets one group apart from the other? Here, I hypothesize that perturbations of Earth’s carbon cycle lead to mass extinction if they exceed either a critical rate at long time scales or a critical size at short time scales. By analyzing 31 carbon isotopic events during the past 542 million years, I identify the critical rate with a limit imposed by mass conservation. Identification of the crossover time scale separating fast from slow events then yields the critical size. The modern critical size for the marine carbon cycle is roughly similar to the mass of carbon that human activities will likely have added to the oceans by the year 2100.
We document a tendency for published estimates of population size in sea turtles to be increasing rather than decreasing across the globe. To examine the population status of the seven species of sea turtle globally, we obtained 299 time series of annual nesting abundance with a total of 4417 annual estimates. The time series ranged in length from 6 to 47 years (mean, 16.2 years). When levels of abundance were summed within regional management units (RMUs) for each species, there were upward trends in 12 RMUs versus downward trends in 5 RMUs. This prevalence of more upward than downward trends was also evident in the individual time series, where we found 95 significant increases in abundance and 35 significant decreases. Adding to this encouraging news for sea turtle conservation, we show that even small sea turtle populations have the capacity to recover, that is, Allee effects appear unimportant. Positive trends in abundance are likely linked to the effective protection of eggs and nesting females, as well as reduced bycatch. However, conservation concerns remain, such as the decline in leatherback turtles in the Eastern and Western Pacific. Furthermore, we also show that, often, time series are too short to identify trends in abundance. Our findings highlight the importance of continued conservation and monitoring efforts that underpin this global conservation success story.
Coastal wetland responses to sea-level rise are greatly influenced by biogeomorphic processes that affect wetland surface elevation. Small changes in elevation relative to sea level can lead to comparatively large changes in ecosystem structure, function, and stability. The surface elevation table-marker horizon (SET-MH) approach is being used globally to quantify the relative contributions of processes affecting wetland elevation change. Historically, SET-MH measurements have been obtained at local scales to address site-specific research questions. However, in the face of accelerated sea-level rise, there is an increasing need for elevation change network data that can be incorporated into regional ecological models and vulnerability assessments. In particular, there is a need for long-term, high-temporal resolution data that are strategically distributed across ecologically-relevant abiotic gradients. Here, we quantify the distribution of SET-MH stations along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast (USA) across political boundaries (states), wetland habitats, and ecologically-relevant abiotic gradients (i.e., gradients in temperature, precipitation, elevation, and relative sea-level rise). Our analyses identify areas with high SET-MH station densities as well as areas with notable gaps. Salt marshes, intermediate elevations, and colder areas with high rainfall have a high number of stations, while salt flat ecosystems, certain elevation zones, the mangrove-marsh ecotone, and hypersaline coastal areas with low rainfall have fewer stations. Due to rapid rates of wetland loss and relative sea-level rise, the state of Louisiana has the most extensive SET-MH station network in the region, and we provide several recent examples where data from Louisiana’s network have been used to assess and compare wetland vulnerability to sea-level rise. Our findings represent the first attempt to examine spatial gaps in SET-MH coverage across abiotic gradients. Our analyses can be used to transform a broadly disseminated and unplanned collection of SET-MH stations into a coordinated and strategic regional network. This regional network would provide data for predicting and preparing for the responses of coastal wetlands to accelerated sea-level rise and other aspects of global change.
Sea level rise exhibits significant regional differences. Based on Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models, sea level projections have been produced for the Australian region by taking account of regional dynamic changes, ocean thermal expansion, mass loss of glaciers, changes in Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and land water storage, and glacial isostatic adjustment. However, these regional projections have a coarse resolution (~100 km), while coastal adaptation planners demand finer scale information at the coast. To address this need, a 1/10° near-global ocean model driven by ensemble average forcings from 17 CMIP5 models is used to downscale future climate. We produce high-resolution sea level projections by combining downscaled dynamic sea level with other contributions. Off the southeast coast, dynamic downscaling provides better representation of high sea level projections associated with gyre circulation and boundary current changes. The high-resolution sea level projection should be a valuable product for detailed coastal adaptation planning.
Alien species, one of the biggest threats to natural ecosystems worldwide, are of particular concern for oceanic archipelagos such as Galápagos. To enable more effective management of alien species, we reviewed, collated and analysed all available records of alien species for Galápagos. We also assembled a comprehensive dataset on pathways to and among the Galápagos Islands, including tourist and resident numbers, tourist vessels, their itineraries and visitation sites, aircraft capacity and occupancy, air and sea cargo and biosecurity interceptions. So far, 1,579 alien terrestrial and marine species have been introduced to Galápagos by humans. Of these, 1,476 have become established. Almost half of these were intentional introductions, mostly of plants. Most unintentional introductions arrived on plants and plant associated material, followed by transport vehicles, and commodities (in particular fruit and vegetables). The number, frequency and geographic origin of pathways for the arrival and dispersal of alien species to and within Galápagos have increased over time, tracking closely the increase in human population (residents and tourists) on the islands. Intentional introductions of alien species should decline as biosecurity is strengthened but there is a danger that unintentional introductions will increase further as tourism on Galápagos expands. This unique world heritage site will only retain its biodiversity values if the pathways for invasion are managed effectively.
We have developed a global biogeographic classification of the mesopelagic zone to reflect the regional scales over which the ocean interior varies in terms of biodiversity and function. An integrated approach was necessary, as global gaps in information and variable sampling methods preclude strictly statistical approaches. A panel combining expertise in oceanography, geospatial mapping, and deep-sea biology convened to collate expert opinion on the distributional patterns of pelagic fauna relative to environmental proxies (temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen at mesopelagic depths). An iterative Delphi Method integrating additional biological and physical data was used to classify biogeographic ecoregions and to identify the location of ecoregion boundaries or inter-regions gradients. We define 33 global mesopelagic ecoregions. Of these, 20 are oceanic while 13 are ‘distant neritic.’ While each is driven by a complex of controlling factors, the putative primary driver of each ecoregion was identified. While work remains to be done to produce a comprehensive and robust mesopelagic biogeography (i.e., reflecting temporal variation), we believe that the classification set forth in this study will prove to be a useful and timely input to policy planning and management for conservation of deep-pelagic marine resources. In particular, it gives an indication of the spatial scale at which faunal communities are expected to be broadly similar in composition, and hence can inform application of ecosystem-based management approaches, marine spatial planning and the distribution and spacing of networks of representative protected areas.
As the Arctic warms and sea ice decreases, increased shipping will lead to higher ambient noise levels in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic marine mammals are vulnerable to increased noise because they use sound to survive and likely evolved in a relatively quiet soundscape. We model vessel noise propagation in the proposed western Canadian Arctic shipping corridor in order to examine impacts on marine mammals and marine protected areas (MPAs). Our model predicts that loud vessels are audible underwater when > 100 km away, could affect marine mammal behaviour when within 2 km for icebreakers vessels, and as far as 52 km for tankers. This vessel noise could have substantial impacts on marine mammals during migration and in MPAs. We suggest that locating the corridor farther north, use of marine mammal observers on vessels, and the reduction of vessel speed would help to reduce this impact.
There is increasing evidence that science & engineering PhD students lose interest in an academic career over the course of graduate training. It is not clear, however, whether this decline reflects students being discouraged from pursuing an academic career by the challenges of obtaining a faculty job or whether it reflects more fundamental changes in students’ career goals for reasons other than the academic labor market. We examine this question using a longitudinal survey that follows a cohort of PhD students from 39 U.S. research universities over the course of graduate training to document changes in career preferences and to explore potential drivers of such changes. We report two main results. First, although the vast majority of students start the PhD interested in an academic research career, over time 55% of all students remain interested while 25% lose interest entirely. In addition, 15% of all students were never interested in an academic career during their PhD program, while 5% become more interested. Thus, the declining interest in an academic career is not a general phenomenon across all PhD students, but rather reflects a divergence between those students who remain highly interested in an academic career and other students who are no longer interested in one. Second, we show that the decline we observe is not driven by expectations of academic job availability, nor by related factors such as postdoctoral requirements or the availability of research funding. Instead, the decline appears partly due to the misalignment between students’ changing preferences for specific job attributes on the one hand, and the nature of the academic research career itself on the other. Changes in students’ perceptions of their own research ability also play a role, while publications do not. We discuss implications for scientific labor markets, PhD career development programs, and science policy.
Climate change is a mounting threat to biological diversity1, compromising ecosystem structure and function, and undermining the delivery of essential services worldwide2. As the magnitude and speed of climate change accelerates3, greater understanding of the taxonomy and geography of climatic vulnerability is critical to guide effective conservation action. However, many uncertainties remain regarding the degree and variability of climatic risk within entire clades and across vast ecosystem boundaries4. Here we integrate physiological estimates of thermal sensitivity for 2,960 ray-finned fishes with future climatic exposure, and demonstrate that global patterns of vulnerability differ substantially between freshwater and marine realms. Our results suggest that climatic vulnerability for freshwater faunas will be predominantly determined by elevated levels of climatic exposure predicted for the Northern Hemisphere, whereas marine faunas in the tropics will be the most at risk, reflecting their higher intrinsic sensitivity. Spatial overlap between areas of high physiological risk and high human impacts, together with evidence of low past rates of evolution in upper thermal tolerance, highlights the urgency of global conservation actions and policy initiatives if harmful climate effects on the world’s fishes are to be mitigated in the future.
The Paris Agreement has opened debate on whether limiting warming to 1.5 °C is compatible with current emission pledges and warming of about 0.9 °C from the mid-nineteenth century to the present decade. We show that limiting cumulative post-2015 CO2 emissions to about 200 GtC would limit post-2015 warming to less than 0.6 °C in 66% of Earth system model members of the CMIP5 ensemble with no mitigation of other climate drivers, increasing to 240 GtC with ambitious non-CO2 mitigation. We combine a simple climate–carbon-cycle model with estimated ranges for key climate system properties from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Assuming emissions peak and decline to below current levels by 2030, and continue thereafter on a much steeper decline, which would be historically unprecedented but consistent with a standard ambitious mitigation scenario (RCP2.6), results in a likely range of peak warming of 1.2–2.0 °C above the mid-nineteenth century. If CO2 emissions are continuously adjusted over time to limit 2100 warming to 1.5 °C, with ambitious non-CO2 mitigation, net future cumulative CO2 emissions are unlikely to prove less than 250 GtC and unlikely greater than 540 GtC. Hence, limiting warming to 1.5 °C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, but is likely to require delivery on strengthened pledges for 2030 followed by challengingly deep and rapid mitigation. Strengthening near-term emissions reductions would hedge against a high climate response or subsequent reduction rates proving economically, technically or politically unfeasible.
Climate changes projected for 2100 and beyond could result in a worldwide race for adaptation resources on a scale never seen before. This paper describes a model for estimating the cost and materials of elevating coastal seaport infrastructure in the United States to prevent damage from sea level rise associated with climate change. This study pilots the use of a generic port model (GenPort) as a basis from which to estimate regional materials and monetary demands, resulting in projections that would be infeasible to calculate on an individual port-by-port basis. We estimate the combined cost of adding two meters of additional fill material to elevate the working surface and then reconstructing the generic port. We use the resulting unit area cost to develop an estimate to elevate and retrofit 100 major United States commercial coastal ports. A total of $57 billion to $78 billion (2012 US dollars) and 704 million cubic meters of fill would be required to elevate the 100 ports by two meters and to reconstruct associated infrastructure. This estimation method and the results serve as a thought exercise to provoke considerations of the cumulative monetary and material demands of widespread adaptations of seaport infrastructure. The model can be adapted for use in multiple infrastructure sectors and coastal managers can use the outlined considerations as a basis for individual port adaptation strategy assessments.
Herbivorous fishes play a critical role in maintaining or disrupting the ecological resilience of many kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass ecosystems, worldwide. The increasing rate and scale of benthic habitat loss under global change has magnified the importance of herbivores and highlights the need to study marine herbivory at ecologically relevant scales. Currently, underwater herbivore exclusions (or inclusions) have been restricted to small scale experimental plots, in large part due to the challenges of designing structures that can withstand the physical forces of waves and currents, without drastically altering the physical environment inside the exclusion area. We tested the ability of bubble curtains to deter herbivorous fishes from feeding on seaweeds as an alternative to the use of rigid exclusion cages. Kelps (Ecklonia radiata) were transplanted onto reefs with high browsing herbivore pressure into either unprotected plots, exclusion cages or plots protected by bubble curtains of 0.785 m2 and 3.14 m2. Remote underwater video was used to compare the behavioral response of fishes to kelps protected and unprotected by bubble curtains. Kelp biomass loss was significantly lower inside the bubble curtains compared to unprotected kelps and did not differ from kelp loss rates in traditional exclusion cages. Consistent with this finding, no herbivorous fishes were observed entering into the bubble curtain at any point during the experiment. In contrast, fish bite rates on unprotected kelps were 1,621 ± 702 bites h−1 (mean ± SE). Our study provides initial evidence that bubble curtains can exclude herbivorous fishes, paving the way for future studies to examine their application at larger spatial and temporal scales, beyond what has been previously feasible using traditional exclusion cages.
This report summarises the knowledge on plastics in Nordic marine species. Nordic biota interacts with plastic pollution, through entanglement and ingestion. Ingestion has been found in many seabirds and also in stranded mammals. Ingestion of plastics has been documented in 14 fish species, which many of them are of ecology and commercially importance. Microplastics have also been found in blue mussels and preliminary studies found synthetic fibres in marine worms. Comparability between and within studies of plastic ingestion by biota from the Nordic environment and other regions are difficult as there are: few studies and different methods are used. It is important that research is directed towards the knowledge gaps highlighted in this report, to get a better understanding on plastic ingestion and impact on biota from the Nordic marine environment.
The role of public aquariums in promoting conservation has changed substantially over the decades, evolving from entertainment attractions to educational and research centres. In many facilities, larger sharks are an essential part of the collection and represent one of the biggest draws for the public. Displaying healthy elasmobranchs comes with many challenges, but improvements in husbandry techniques have enabled aquariums to have success with a variety of species. The establishment of organisations such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the completion of texts like the Elasmobranch Husbandry Manual, has helped set high standards of care for sharks in captivity and promoted international conservation efforts. Aquariums keeping sharks are in a unique position to influence local, regional, and international attitudes and policies by acting as both educational and research facilities. Interactions with multiple stakeholders of diverse educational and demographic backgrounds through the use of in-house advocacy, public outreach, media interviews, and partnerships with academic and government institutions enable these facilities to engage and share information with a broad audience. Although the data collected on sharks in captivity often cannot be directly translated to animals in the wild, it offers better insight into a number of life history traits and poorly understood behaviours, and has been the foundation for many captive breeding programs. Several Northeast Pacific (NEP) shark species are commonly displayed for long durations or bred in aquariums, while other less studied species have been held for short periods to collect valuable data that can be applied towards ongoing studies and conservation measures. Here, we discuss past and current tangible benefits of holding NEP sharks in captivity, as well as noting several ways in which future research and education activities will continue to inform and shape public opinions on shark management and conservation.
This work carries out a landscape analysis for the last 60 years to compare the degree of preservation of two areas on the same Italian coastline characterized by different environmental protection levels: a National designated protected areas and a highly tourist coastal destination. The conversion of natural land-covers into human land uses were detected for protected and unprotected coastal stretches highlighting that the only establishment of a protected area is not enough to stem undesirable land-use outcomes. A survey analysis was also conducted to assess attitudes of beach users and to evaluate their perception of natural habitats, beach and coastal water quality, and coastal dynamic over time. The results of 2071 questionnaires showed that there is similarity between subjective and objective data. However, several beach users perceived a bad quality of coastal water in the legally unprotected coastal area. The implications from a planning and management perspective are discussed.
A detailed understanding of spatial genetic structure (SGS) and the factors driving contemporary patterns of gene flow and genetic diversity are fundamental for developing conservation and management plans for marine fisheries. We performed a detailed study of SGS and genetic diversity throughout the overharvested queen conch (Lobatus gigas) fishery. Caribbean countries were presented as major populations to examine transboundary patterns of population differentiation.
Nineteen locations in the greater Caribbean from Anguilla, the Bahamas, Belize, Caribbean Netherlands, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Turks and Caicos, and the USA.
We genotyped 643 individuals with nine microsatellites. Population genetic and multivariate analyses characterized SGS. We tested the alternate hypotheses: (1) SGS is randomly distributed in space or (2) pairwise genetic structure among sites is correlated with oceanic distance (IBOD).
Our study found that L. gigas does not form a single panmictic population in the greater Caribbean. Significant levels of genetic differentiation were identified between Caribbean countries (FCT = 0.011; p = .0001), within Caribbean countries (FSC = 0.003; p = .001), and among sites irrespective of geographic location (FST = 0.013; p = .0001). Gene flow across the greater Caribbean was constrained by oceanic distance (p = .0009; Mantel r = .40), which acted to isolate local populations.
Gene flow over the spatial scale of the entire Caribbean basin is constrained by oceanic distance, which may impede the natural recovery of overfished L. gigas populations. Our results suggest a careful blend of local and international management will be required to ensure long-term sustainability for the species.
Individuals relying on natural resource extraction for their livelihood face high income variability driven by a mix of environmental, biological, management, and economic factors. Key to managing these industries is identifying how regulatory actions and individual behavior affect income variability, financial risk, and, by extension, the economic stability and the sustainable use of natural resources. In commercial fisheries, communities and vessels fishing a greater diversity of species have less revenue variability than those fishing fewer species. However, it is unclear whether these benefits extend to the actions of individual fishers and how year-to-year changes in diversification affect revenue and revenue variability. Here, we evaluate two axes by which fishers in Alaska can diversify fishing activities. We show that, despite increasing specialization over the last 30 years, fishing a set of permits with higher species diversity reduces individual revenue variability, and fishing an additional permit is associated with higher revenue and lower variability. However, increasing species diversity within the constraints of existing permits has a fishery-dependent effect on revenue and is usually (87% probability) associated with increased revenue uncertainty the following year. Our results demonstrate that the most effective option for individuals to decrease revenue variability is to participate in additional or more diverse fisheries. However, this option is expensive, often limited by regulations such as catch share programs, and consequently unavailable to many individuals. With increasing climatic variability, it will be particularly important that individuals relying on natural resources for their livelihood have effective strategies to reduce financial risk.
Climate change is reshaping the way in which contaminants move through the global environment, in large part by changing the chemistry of the oceans and affecting the physiology, health, and feeding ecology of marine biota. Climate change-associated impacts on structure and function of marine food webs, with consequent changes in contaminant transport, fate, and effects, are likely to have significant repercussions to those human populations that rely on fisheries resources for food, recreation, or culture. Published studies on climate change–contaminant interactions with a focus on food web bioaccumulation were systematically reviewed to explore how climate change and ocean acidification may impact contaminant levels in marine food webs. We propose here a conceptual framework to illustrate the impacts of climate change on contaminant accumulation in marine food webs, as well as the downstream consequences for ecosystem goods and services. The potential impacts on social and economic security for coastal communities that depend on fisheries for food are discussed. Climate change–contaminant interactions may alter the bioaccumulation of two priority contaminant classes: the fat-soluble persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as well as the protein-binding methylmercury (MeHg). These interactions include phenomena deemed to be either climate change dominant (i.e., climate change leads to an increase in contaminant exposure) or contaminant dominant (i.e., contamination leads to an increase in climate change susceptibility). We illustrate the pathways of climate change–contaminant interactions using case studies in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean. The important role of ecological and food web modeling to inform decision-making in managing ecological and human health risks of chemical pollutants contamination under climate change is also highlighted. Finally, we identify the need to develop integrated policies that manage the ecological and socioeconomic risk of greenhouse gases and marine pollutants.