Text mining and analytics may offer possibilities to assess scientists' professional writing and identify patterns of co-occurrence between words and phrases associated with different environmental challenges and their potential solutions. This approach has the potential to help to track emerging issues, semi-automate horizon scanning processes, and identify how different institutions or policy instruments are associated with different types of ocean and coastal sustainability challenges. Here I examine ecologically-oriented ocean and coastal science journal article abstracts published between 2006 and 2015. Informed by the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, I constructed a dictionary containing phrases associated with 40 ocean challenges and 15 solution-oriented instrument or investments. From 50,817 potentially relevant abstracts, different patterns of co-occurring text associated with challenges and potential solutions were discernable. Topics receiving significantly increased attention in the literature in 2014–15 relative to the 2006–13 period included: marine plastics and debris; environmental conservation; social impacts; ocean acidification; general terrestrial influences; co-management strategies; ocean warming; licensing and access rights; oil spills; and economic impacts. Articles relating to global environmental change were consistently among the most cited; marine plastics and ecosystem trophic structure were also focal topics among the highly cited articles. This exploratory research suggests that scientists' written outputs provide fertile ground for identifying and tracking important and emerging ocean sustainability issues and their possible solutions, as well as the organizations and scientists who work on them.
Evidence-based decision making is an essential process for sustainable, effective, and efficient marine spatial planning (MSP). In that sense, decision support tools (DSTs) could be considered to be the primary assistant of planners. Although there are many DSTs listed in tool databases, most of them are conceptual and not used in real MSP implementation. The main objective of this review is to: (i) characterize and analyse the present use of the DSTs in existing MSP implementation processes around the world, (ii) identify weaknesses and gaps of existing tools, and (iii) propose new functionalities both to improve their feasibility and to promote their application. In total, 34 DSTs have been identified in 28 different MSP initiatives with different levels of complexity, applicability and usage purposes. Main characteristics of the tools were transferred into a DST matrix. It was observed that limited functionality, tool stability, consideration of economic and social decision problems, ease of use, and tool costs could be considered as the main gaps of existing DSTs. Future developments are needed and should be in the direction of the specific need of marine planners and stakeholders. Results revealed that DST developments should consider both spatial and temporal dynamics of the ocean, and new tools should provide multi-functionality and integrity; meanwhile they should be easy to use and freely available. Hence, this research summarised current use, gaps, and expected development trends of DSTs and it concludes that there is still a big potential of DST developments to assist operational MSP processes.
Coastal environments are some of the most populated on Earth, with greater pressures projected in the future. Managing coastal systems requires the consideration of multiple uses, which both benefit from and threaten multiple ecosystem services. Thus understanding the cumulative impacts of human activities on coastal ecosystem services would seem fundamental to management, yet there is no widely accepted approach for assessing these. This study trials an approach for understanding the cumulative impacts of anthropogenic change, focusing on Tasman and Golden Bays, New Zealand. Using an expert elicitation procedure, we collected information on three aspects of cumulative impacts: the importance and magnitude of impacts by various activities and stressors on ecosystem services, and the causal processes of impact on ecosystem services. We assessed impacts to four ecosystem service benefits — fisheries, shellfish aquaculture, marine recreation and existence value of biodiversity—addressing three main research questions: (1) how severe are cumulative impacts on ecosystem services (correspondingly, what potential is there for restoration)?; (2) are threats evenly distributed across activities and stressors, or do a few threats dominate?; (3) do prominent activities mainly operate through direct stressors, or do they often exacerbate other impacts? We found (1) that despite high uncertainty in the threat posed by individual stressors and impacts, total cumulative impact is consistently severe for all four ecosystem services. (2) A subset of drivers and stressors pose important threats across the ecosystem services explored, including climate change, commercial fishing, sedimentation and pollution. (3) Climate change and commercial fishing contribute to prominent indirect impacts across ecosystem services by exacerbating regional impacts, namely sedimentation and pollution. The prevalence and magnitude of these indirect, networked impacts highlights the need for approaches like this to understand mechanisms of impact, in order to develop strategies to manage them.
Bycatch of marine fauna by small-scale (artisanal) fisheries is an important anthropogenic mortality source to several species of cetaceans, including humpback whales and odontocetes, in Ecuador's marine waters. Long-term monitoring actions and varied conservation efforts have been conducted by non-governmental organizations along the Ecuadorian coast, pointing toward the need for a concerted mitigation plan and actions to hamper cetaceans’ bycatch. Nevertheless, little has currently been done by the government and regional authorities to address marine mammal interactions with fisheries in eastern Pacific Ocean artisanal fisheries. This study provides a review of Ecuador's current status concerning cetacean bycatch, and explores the strengths and weaknesses of past and current programs aiming to tackle the challenges of bycatch mitigation. To bolster our appraisal of the policies, a synthesis of fishers’ perceptions of the bycatch problem is presented in concert with recommendations for fostering fishing community-based conservation practices integrated with policies to mitigate cetacean bycatch. Our appraisal, based upon the existing literature, indicates a situation of increasing urgency. Taking into consideration the fishers’ perceptions and attitudes, fisheries governance in Ecuador should draw inspiration from a truly bottom-up, participatory framework based on stakeholder engagement processes; if it is based on a top-down, regulatory approach, it is less likely to succeed. To carry out this process, a community-based conservation programs to provide conditions for empowering fishing communities is recommend. This would serve as an initial governance framework for fishery policy for conserving marine mammals while maximizing the economic benefits from sustainable small-scale fisheries in Ecuador.
Industrial harbours are a complex interface between environmental, economic and social systems. Trying to manage the social and economic needs of the community while maintaining the integrity of environmental ecosystems is complicated, as is the identification and evaluation of the various factors that underpin the drivers of economic, community and resource condition. An increasingly popular strategy to deal with the identification and evaluation challenges in complex human-environmental systems is to use a report card system which can be used as a summary assessment tool to monitor the health of aquatic ecosystems. To date though these have largely focused on environmental factors, and it is only very recently that attempts are being made to include social, cultural and economic indicators. There has been limited consensus in the selection of social and economic indicators applied in different aquatic report cards but as recreation is such an important activity, typically some measure of recreation benefit is included. However, there has been no commonality in the measures applied to assess its performance as an economic indicator.
This paper is focused on the assessment of recreational benefits as an indicator of economic value in the report card for Gladstone Harbour in Queensland, Australia. It is the first aquatic health report card to include an assessment of the nonmarket value of recreation which makes it a more comprehensive indicator of economic value compared to other report cards based on measures of employment, participation or expenditure. There have now been three consecutive years of reporting (2014–2016) of the Gladstone Harbour report card, and the results indicate that the recreation index appears to be effective in monitoring changes over time.
Tropical tuna fisheries are among the largest worldwide, with some having significant bycatch issues. However, pole-and-line tuna fisheries are widely believed to have low bycatch rates, although these have rarely been quantified. The Maldives has an important pole-and-line fishery, targeting skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). In the Maldives, 106 pole-and-line tuna fishing days were observed between August 2014 and November 2015. During 161 fishing events, tuna catches amounted to 147 t: 72% by weight was skipjack, 25% yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and 3% other tunas. Bycatch (all non-tuna species caught plus all tuna discards) amounted to 951 kg (0.65% of total tuna catch). Most of the bycatch (95%) was utilized, and some bycatch was released alive, so dead discards were particularly low (0.02% of total tuna catch, or 22 kg per 100 t). Rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulata) and dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) together constituted 93% of the bycatch. Live releases included small numbers of silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) and seabirds (noddies, Anous tenuirostris and A. stolidus). Pole-and-line tuna fishing was conducted on free schools and schools associated with various objects (Maldivian anchored fish aggregating devices [aFADs], drifting FADs from western Indian Ocean purse seine fisheries, other drifting objects and seamounts). Free school catches typically included a high proportion of large skipjack and significantly less bycatch. Associated schools produced more variable tuna catches and higher bycatch rates. Fishing trips in the south had significantly lower bycatch rates than those in the north. This study is the first to quantify bycatch rates in the Maldives pole-and-line tuna fishery and the influence of school association on catch composition. Ratio estimator methods suggest roughly 552.6 t of bycatch and 27.9 t of discards are caught annually in the fishery (based on 2015 national catch), much less than other Indian Ocean tuna fisheries, e.g. gillnet, purse-seine, and longline.
An ambitious nonprofit has announced new plan to sweep up plastic litter circulating in a "garbage patch" in the remote North Pacific. The Ocean Cleanup, based in Delft, the Netherlands, intends to launch a fleet of drifting trash collectors with booms that would funnel trash into central tanks, which ships would empty. Some experts and environmentalists have doubts. They say collecting trash closer to shore would be more cost effective, and they worry the project will distract from less glamorous efforts to keep plastic out of the sea in the first place. The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $31.5 million in donations, originally planned to deploy a 100-kilometer-long arc of booms and secure the unit to the sea bed some 5 kilometers down. But on 11 May, the group unveiled a revised blueprint that calls for up to 50 unmoored collectors, each just 1 or 2 kilometers long. They will be cheaper and faster to build, and they will collect more trash. The target is to start production in early 2018.
Europe has a long tradition of exploiting marine fishes and is promoting marine economic activity through its Blue Growth strategy. This increase in anthropogenic pressure, along with climate change, threatens the biodiversity of fishes and food security. Here, we examine the conservation status of 1,020 species of European marine fishes and identify factors that contribute to their extinction risk. Large fish species (greater than 1.5 m total length) are most at risk; half of these are threatened with extinction, predominantly sharks, rays and sturgeons. This analysis was based on the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) European regional Red List of marine fishes, which was coherent with assessments of the status of fish stocks carried out independently by fisheries management agencies: no species classified by IUCN as threatened were considered sustainable by these agencies. A remarkable geographic divergence in stock status was also evident: in northern Europe, most stocks were not overfished, whereas in the Mediterranean Sea, almost all stocks were overfished. As Europe proceeds with its sustainable Blue Growth agenda, two main issues stand out as needing priority actions in relation to its marine fishes: the conservation of marine fish megafauna and the sustainability of Mediterranean fish stocks.
Quantitative Seascape Ethnoecology practice is considered through a community-based food security lens. Fish and marine mammal records obtained from a wide range of Inuit co-management agreements are, for the first time combined to calculate an Inuit-culture marine ecological footprint, targeted on calendar year 2008. A reflexive, participatory and inclusive education/governance strategy for Arctic coastal food security is presented, particularly in Nunavut; considering caloric marine catch may average as high as 40% of human basal metabolic requirements for some communities. The current work provides a foundation to mitigate food insecurity for the Inuit in what may be the most insecure indigenous food setting in any country that is generally considered as developed. Four large marine ecosystems are considered within Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) areas 18 and 21. Initial fish catch reconstructions for 1950–2001 are combined with mammal harvest records. Food system changes and planning are examined from a community health and management perspective. The relationship between food security, gender, livelihoods and ecosystem capacity are discussed within current management challenges and the related mandates for Canadian government agencies, based in part upon the 2007, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). A process to combine academic ecological knowledge with traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and an Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) is suggested within a beneficiary-led marine protected area network. A re-evaluation of Canada’s northern (Nunavut) transfer and land claim agreements are suggested, with a goal to provide redress for UNDRIP compliance. Therein, consideration should be given to dedicated funds for reflexive and participatory development of university-level Ethnoecology programming and community-based offices for Nunavut food security science.
Bioerosion of calcium carbonate is the natural counterpart of biogenic calcification. Both are affected by ocean acidification (OA). We summarize definitions and concepts in bioerosion research and knowledge in the context of OA, providing case examples and meta-analyses. Chemically mediated bioerosion relies on energy demanding, biologically controlled undersaturation or acid regulation and increases with simulated OA, as does passive dissolution. Through substrate weakening both processes can indirectly enhance mechanical bioerosion, which is not directly affected by OA. The low attention and expert knowledge on bioerosion produced some ambiguous views and approaches, and limitations to experimental studies restricted opportunities to generalize. Comparability of various bioerosion and calcification rates remains difficult. Physiological responses of bioeroders or interactions of environmental factors are insufficiently studied. We stress the importance to foster and advance high quality bioerosion research as global trends suggest the following: (i) growing environmental change (eutrophication, coral mortality, OA) is expected to elevate bioerosion in the near future; (ii) changes harmful to calcifiers may not be as severe for bioeroders (e.g. warming); and (iii) factors facilitating bioerosion often reduce calcification rates (e.g. OA). The combined result means that the natural process bioerosion has itself become a “stress factor” for reef health and resilience.
The ocean acidification (OA) literature is replete with laboratory studies that report species sensitivity to seawater carbonate chemistry in experimental treatments as an “effect of OA”. I argue that this is unintentionally misleading, since these studies do not actually demonstrate an effect of OA but rather show sensitivity to CO2. Documenting an effect of OA involves showing a change in a species (e.g. population abundance or distribution) as a consequence of anthropogenic changes in marine carbonate chemistry. To date, there have been no unambiguous demonstrations of a population level effect of anthropogenic OA, as that term is defined by the IPCC.
Research on vulnerability and adaptation in social-ecological systems (SES) has largely centered on climate change and associated biophysical stressors. Key implications of this are twofold. First, there has been limited engagement with the impacts of social drivers of change on communities and linked SES. Second, the focus on climate effects often assumes slower drivers of change and fails to differentiate the implications of change occurring at different timescales. This has resulted in a body of SES scholarship that is under-theorized in terms of how communities experience and respond to fast versus slow change. Yet, social and economic processes at global scales increasingly emerge as ‘shocks’ for local systems, driving rapid and often surprising forms of change distinct from and yet interacting with the impacts of slow, ongoing ‘trends’. This research seeks to understand the nature and impacts of social shocks as opposed to or in concert with trends through the lens of a qualitative case study of a coastal community in Mexico, where demand from international seafood markets has spurred rapid development of a sea cucumber fishery. Specifically, we examined what different social-ecological changes are being experienced by the community, how the impacts of the sea cucumber fishery are distinct from and interacting with slower ongoing trends and how these processes are affecting system vulnerability, adaptations and adaptive capacity. We begin by proposing a novel framework for conceptualizing impacts on social systems, as comprised of structures, functions, and feedbacks. Our results illustrate how the rapid-onset of this fishery has ecological changes are being experienced by the community, how the impacts of the sea cucumber fishery are distinct from and interacting with slower ongoing trends and in poaching and armed violence have emerged, exacerbating pressures from ongoing trends in immigration, overfishing and tourism development. We argue that there is a need to better understand and differentiate the social and ecological implications of shocks, which present novel challenges for the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of communities and the sustainability of marine ecosystems.
Commercial interest in deep sea minerals in the area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction has rapidly increased in recent years. The International Seabed Authority has already given out 26 exploration contracts and it is currently in the process of developing the Mining Code for eventual exploitation of the mineral resources. Priority issues have so far been feasibility and profitability of this emerging industry, while relatively little consideration has been given as to how, and to an even lesser extent, whether deep seabed mining should proceed. This article makes a case that the global community should question and scrutinize the underlying assumption that deep seabed mining is going benefit humankind as a whole before commercializing the common heritage of humankind.
Decision-makers focus on representing biodiversity pattern, maintaining connectivity, and strengthening resilience to global warming when designing marine protected area (MPA) systems, especially in coral reef ecosystems. The achievement of these broad conservation objectives will likely require large areas, and stretch limited funds for MPA implementation. We undertook a spatial prioritisation of Brazilian coral reefs that considered two types of conservation zones (i.e. no-take and multiple use areas) and integrated multiple conservation objectives into MPA planning, while assessing the potential impact of different sets of objectives on implementation costs. We devised objectives for biodiversity, connectivity, and resilience to global warming, determined the extent to which existing MPAs achieved them, and designed complementary zoning to achieve all objectives combined in expanded MPA systems. In doing so, we explored interactions between different sets of objectives, determined whether refinements to the existing spatial arrangement of MPAs were necessary, and tested the utility of existing MPAs by comparing their cost effectiveness with an MPA system designed from scratch. We found that MPAs in Brazil protect some aspects of coral reef biodiversity pattern (e.g. threatened fauna and ecosystem types) more effectively than connectivity or resilience to global warming. Expanding the existing MPA system was as cost-effective as designing one from scratch only when multiple objectives were considered and management costs were accounted for. Our approach provides a comprehensive assessment of the benefits of integrating multiple objectives in the initial stages of conservation planning, and yields insights for planners of MPAs tackling multiple objectives in other regions.
Identifying the multifaceted biodiversity hotspots for marine mammals and their spatial overlap with human threats at the global scale.
We compiled a functional trait database for 121 species of marine mammals characterized by 14 functional traits grouped into five categories. We estimated marine mammal species richness (SR) as well as functional (FD) and phylogenetic diversity (PD) per grid cell (1° × 1°) using the FRic index (a measure of trait diversity as the volume of functional space occupied by the species present in an assemblage) and the PD index (the amount of evolutionary history represented by a set of species), respectively. Finally, we assessed the spatial congruence of these three facets of biodiversity hotspots (defined as 2.5% and 5% of the highest values of SR, FD and PD) with human threats at the global scale.
We showed that the FRic index was weakly correlated with both SR and the PD index. Specifically, SR and FRic displayed a triangular relationship, that is, increasing variability in FRic along the species richness gradient. We also observed a striking lack of spatial congruence (<0.1%) between current human threats and the distribution of the multiple facets of biodiversity hotspots.
We highlighted that functional diversity calculated using the FRic index is weakly associated with the species richness of marine mammals world-wide. This is one of the most endangered vertebrate groups playing a key ecological role in marine ecosystems. This finding calls for caution when using only species richness as a benchmark for defining marine mammal biodiversity hotspots. The very low level of spatial congruence between hotspots of current threats and those of the multiple facets of marine mammal biodiversity suggests that current biodiversity patterns for this group have already been greatly affected by their history of exploitation.
While international agreements and legislation call for incorporation of four pillars of sustainability, the social (including cultural), economic and institutional aspects (the ‘human dimension’) have been relatively neglected to date. Three key impediments have been identified: a relative lack of explicit social, economic and institutional objectives; a general lack of process (frameworks, governance) for routine integration of all four pillars of sustainability; and a bias towards biological considerations. Practical integration requires a ‘systems’ approach with explicit consideration of strategic and operational aspects of management; multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary evaluations; practical objectives for the four pillars of sustainability; appropriate participation; and a governance system that is able to integrate these diverse considerations in management. We challenge all involved in fisheries to immediately take five practical steps toward integrating ecological, economic, social and institutional aspects: (1) Adopt the perspective of the fishery as a ‘system’ with interacting natural, human and management elements; (2) Be aware of both strategic and operational aspects of fisheries assessment and management; (3) Articulate overarching objectives that incorporate all four pillars of sustainability; (4) Encourage appropriate (and diverse) disciplinary participation in all aspects of research, evaluation and management; and (5) Encourage development of (or emulate) participatory governance.
Because of the complexity and speed of environmental, climatic, and socio-political change in coastal marine social-ecological systems, there is significant academic and applied interest in assessing and fostering the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. Adaptive capacity refers to the latent ability of a system to respond proactively and positively to stressors or opportunities. A variety of qualitative, quantitative, and participatory approaches have been developed and applied to understand and assess adaptive capacity, each with different benefits, drawbacks, insights, and implications. Drawing on case studies of coastal communities from around the globe, we describe and compare 11 approaches that are often used to study adaptive capacity of social and ecological systems in the face of social, environmental, and climatic change. We synthesize lessons from a series of case studies to present important considerations to frame research and to choose an assessment approach, key challenges to analyze adaptive capacity in linked social-ecological systems, and good practices to link results to action to foster adaptive capacity. We suggest that more attention be given to integrated social-ecological assessments and that greater effort be placed on evaluation and monitoring of adaptive capacity over time and across scales. Overall, although sustainability science holds a promise of providing solutions to real world problems, we found that too few assessments seem to lead to tangible outcomes or actions to foster adaptive capacity in social-ecological systems.
The apparent prevalence of rare species (rarity) in the deep sea is a concern for environmental management and conservation of biodiversity. Rare species are often considered at risk of extinction and, in terrestrial and shallow water environments, have been shown to play key roles within an ecosystem. In the deep-sea environment, current research focuses primarily on abundant species and deep-sea stakeholders are questioning the importance of rare species in ecosystem functioning. This study asks whether deep-sea stakeholders (primarily scientists) view rare-species research as a priority in guiding environmental management. Delphi methodology (i.e., an iterative survey approach) was used to understand views about whether or not ‘deep-sea scientists should allocate more resources to research on rare species in the deep sea, even if this means less resources might be available for abundant-species research.’ Results suggest little consensus regarding the prioritization of resources for rare-species research. From Survey 1 to Survey 3, the average participant response shifted toward a view that rare-species research is not a priority if it comes at a cost to research on abundant species. Participants pointed to the need for a balanced approach and highlighted knowledge gaps about even the most fundamental questions, including whether rare species are truly ‘rare’ or simply under-sampled. Participants emphasized the lack of basic biological knowledge for rare and abundant species, particularly abundant meio- and microscopic species, as well as uncertainty in the roles rare and abundant species play in ecosystem processes. Approaches that jointly consider the role of rare and abundant species in ecosystem functioning (e.g., biological trait analysis) may help to clarify the extent to which rare species need to be incorporated into deep-sea environment management in order to maintain ecosystem functioning.
Leadership is often viewed as being critical to successful natural resource management. This research focuses on a set of leaders identified through a social network analysis of fishers in a rural coastal region. Leaders' connections to different fisheries are evaluated, and these actors are found to be significantly more diversified than other fishers in the area. Drawing on theory related to institutional entrepreneurship and a series of in-depth interviews with these actors, this paper puts forward several hypotheses to explain how diverse social-ecological connections facilitate leadership. Three mechanisms are identified. Being diversified facilitates: (1) production of alternative visions; (2) framing of tractable strategies to sustain local marine resource; and (3) participation in the management process. While more research is needed to understand the relationship between diversification and leadership, these exploratory results suggest that leadership is, in part, a manifestation of ecological circumstance, supporting recent assertions that scholarship on leadership in natural resource management settings could benefit from being more attentive to the processes that shape leadership rather than fixating on individuals and their personal attributes. Given that fisheries policies increasingly constrain diversification, policymakers and managers should consider how specialization of fishers might change the form and function of leaders in the future.
Scleractinian, octocoral, and antipatharian corals have colonized many of the offshore oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We surveyed 25 offshore oil and gas platforms for these cnidarians. Few to no corals were detected on inshore, shallow-water structures at <25 m depth; however, the abundance of corals increased, ranging from 14 to 194/m2, on platforms in waters deeper ≥25 m. The most common coral encountered were Tubastraea coccinea (Scleractinia) and Telesto spp. (Octocorallia). The data suggest that the offshore platforms located in waters of >25–30 m in the study area are often colonized by these corals. We recommend that structures located in deeper waters should be surveyed for coral and, if the populations are substantial, consider alternate uses for the retired platforms, and leaving them in place, when feasible.