Ecosystem-based management is an increasingly prominent paradigm for the management of living marine resources with a focus on maintaining ecosystem level properties and processes. Although highly migratory marine and anadromous fish species often disproportionately contribute to the structure and function of ecosystems, incorporating these species into ecosystem-based management policies remains difficult because they spend a considerable portion of time outside the boundaries that define a particular management area. In this paper, two case studies are used to examine how the challenges of ecosystem openness, imperfect information, and ecosystem complexity can impede efforts to integrate highly migratory Pacific salmon into ecosystem-based management policies. This analysis highlights three main factors that hinder more effective integration: (1) uncertainties about impacts of human activities and ecological processes that occur in geographically distant jurisdictional areas or at spatial scales larger than the ecosystem-based management area, (2) spatial asymmetries in the distribution of costs and benefits associated with management decisions (i.e., positive or negative externalities), and (3) static management policies that prevent updating management decisions in a timely manner when ecosystem conditions change or new information becomes available. Given these factors, two potential strategies to address migratory challenges are suggested. First, the creation of an international ecosystem synthesis group is recommended to facilitate the collection, analysis, and dissemination of ecological, social, and policy information across national and other jurisdictional boundaries. Second, the expanded use of dynamic in-season management policies is recommended, which allow for rapid updating of management decisions based on evolving information about ecosystem conditions.
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) in marine ecosystems considers impacts caused by complex interactions between environmental and anthropogenic pressures (i.e., oceanographic, climatic, socio-economic) and marine communities. EBM depends, in part, on ecological indicators that facilitate understanding of inherent properties and the dynamics of pressures within marine communities. Thresholds of ecological indicators delineate ecosystem status because they represent points at which a small increase in one or many pressure variables results in an abrupt change of ecosystem responses. The difficulty in developing appropriate thresholds and reference points for EBM lies in the multidimensionality of both the ecosystem responses and the pressures impacting the ecosystem. Here, we develop thresholds using gradient forest for a suite of ecological indicators in response to multiple pressures that convey ecosystem status for large marine ecosystems from the US Pacific, Atlantic, sub-Arctic, and Gulf of Mexico. We detected these thresholds of ecological indicators based on multiple pressures. Commercial fisheries landings above approximately 2–4.5 t km−2 and fisheries exploitation above 20–40% of the total estimated biomass (of invertebrates and fish) of the ecosystem resulted in a change in the direction of ecosystem structure and functioning in the ecosystems examined. Our comparative findings reveal common trends in ecosystem thresholds along pressure gradients and also indicate that thresholds of ecological indicators are useful tools for comparing the impacts of environmental and anthropogenic pressures across multiple ecosystems. These critical points can be used to inform the development of EBM decision criteria.
Proponents of marine renewable energy worldwide highlight that regulatory and consenting procedures are a significant barrier to the upscaling of infrastructure required to transform the energy generation sector. Uncertainties about the cumulative effects of marine renewable energy developments cause substantial delays during the consenting process, which are exacerbated by the lack of clarity about how to assess cumulative effects. These obstacles have contributed to perceptions that this essential emerging industry receives disproportionate scrutiny relative to established maritime activities. However, alongside legislated targets to reduce carbon emissions, there are legal obligations to protect, maintain and improve the condition of the marine environment. As the imperative to halt the decline in the condition of the environment increases, so expectations of cumulative impact assessments grow and the risk of consenting delays persists. To investigate how robust current cumulative impact assessment practise is, a novel evaluation framework was developed and applied to Environmental Statements of the world's largest offshore wind farms, currently in United Kingdom waters. The framework was designed to evaluate cumulative impact assessments relative to the information needs of decision-makers tasked with managing cumulative effects. We found that current practise does not meet those needs, that there is dissonance between science and practise, and problematic variability between assessments was observed. Straightforward recommendations for improved practise are provided, which if implemented may ease the perceived regulatory burden by clarifying practise. We also highlight additional steps that could enable project-led cumulative impact assessments to better support regional marine management. The results and recommendations will be of interest to countries worldwide where marine renewable energy is emerging alongside ecosystem-approach and marine spatial planning aspirations.
There has been a strong push within natural resource management to incorporate spatial structure into management regimes. However, discussions surrounding the appropriate designs of spatial management have largely been conceptual. This paper develops a spatial econometric model of fishing location choice using non-confidential data from the Great Barrier Reef coral trout commercial fishery. Harvest location decisions are modeled as a function of spatial patterns of expected economic returns. The preferred spatially dependent econometric model is shown to outperform ordinary least squares and fixed effects models in out-of-sample forecasting. Estimates from the spatial model reveal spatial spillover effects in fleet harvest location behavior. In particular, harvest activity at any given site is equally sensitive to same-site economic returns and surrounding-site economic returns. The econometric results are illustrated using a fee-based policy simulation. Results suggest non-spatial management is characterized by two inefficiencies. First, heterogeneity between sites is averaged, resulting a fee that is too high or too low across space. Second, fees that are too high or too low affect the fishing effort in nearby locations.
Marine debris is the most conspicuous pollutant that makes beaches aesthetically unappealing to users. The perceptions and reactions of beach users to stranded litter were compared between second-home owners and users (SHOU) and non-recurrent tourists (T). A questionnaire was applied to obtain socio-economic characteristics; assessment of the overall beach quality and perception of beach litter pollution (perception); hypothetical scenarios of marine litter pollution and deterrence (reaction); and potential alternative destinations in the case of deterrence (economic effect). Questionnaires (n = 319) were applied at two Brazilian subtropical beaches, with different physiographical settings (Pontal do Sul, PS, estuarine beach; Ipanema, I, open-ocean beach). Beach users’ groups differed regarding daily expenses (T > SHOU), period of permanence per trip (SHOU > T) and trip frequency (SHOU > T). The open-ocean beach (I) was rated the worst regarding overall beach quality. Marine debris generation was mainly attributed to local “beach users”, in the open-ocean beach (I). “Marine” (or non-local) sources were four times more frequently cited in the estuarine beach (PS). Perception on actual litter pollution and litter deterrence scenarios, did not vary between beaches or groups. More than 85% of beachgoers would avoid a beach visit if a worst scenario (> 15items/m2) occurred and most users would choose a neighboring state beach destination. Stranded litter may potentially reduce local tourism income by 39.1%, representing losses of up to US$ 8.5 million per year. These figures are proxies to support the trade-off local authority's make between investments to prevent/remove beach litter and the potential reduction in income from a tourist destination change.
We have little empirical evidence of how large-scale overlaps between large numbers of marine species may have altered in response to human impacts. Here, we synthesized all available distribution data (>1 million records) since 1992 for 61 species of the East Australian marine ecosystem, a global hot spot of ocean warming and continuing fisheries exploitation. Using a novel approach, we constructed networks of the annual changes in geographical overlaps between species. Using indices of changes in species overlap, we quantified changes in the ecosystem stability, species robustness, species sensitivity and structural keystone species. We then compared the species overlap indices with environmental and fisheries data to identify potential factors leading to the changes in distributional overlaps between species. We found that the structure of the ecosystem has changed with a decrease in asymmetrical geographical overlaps between species. This suggests that the ecosystem has become less stable and potentially more susceptible to environmental perturbations. Most species have shown a decrease in overlaps with other species. The greatest decrease in species overlap robustness and sensitivity to the loss of other species has occurred in the pelagic community. Some demersal species have become more robust and less sensitive. Pelagic structural keystone species, predominately the tunas and billfish, have been replaced by demersal fish species. The changes in species overlap were strongly correlated with regional oceanographic changes, in particular increasing ocean warming and the southward transport of warmer and saltier water with the East Australian Current (EAC), but less correlated with fisheries catch. Our study illustrates how large-scale multispecies distribution changes can help identify structural changes in marine ecosystems associated with climate change.
This article explores the concept of “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs) in the context of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 on marine protected areas and OECMs and its linkages to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It argues that mainstreaming biodiversity through CBD Aichi Biodiversity Targets’ implementation into the SDGs can contribute to a more systemic and comprehensive implementation of SDG 14.5 on conservation of at least 10% of marine and coastal areas. It argues that OECMs can complement MPAs and contribute to ecologically representative and effectively managed marine protected areas systems integrated into broader governance systems such as marine spatial planning. Selected global and local sectoral conservation measures are therefore highlighted in this analysis as potential forms of OECMs. At the local level, a case study of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas managed as locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) in Mozambique is discussed. This case study explores how multiple-use LMMAs, which respond to short-term fisher's needs and targeted biodiversity conservation, could contribute to the achievement of specific SDGs on food security, poverty elimination and resilient ecosystems if properly supported by long-term investments, strong institutions and integrated oceans management.
Marine ecosystems are increasingly threatened by the cumulative effects of multiple human pressures. Cumulative effect assessments (CEAs) are needed to inform environmental policy and guide ecosystem-based management. Yet, CEAs are inherently complex and seldom linked to real-world management processes. Therefore we propose entrenching CEAs in a risk management process, comprising the steps of risk identification, risk analysis and risk evaluation. We provide guidance to operationalize a risk-based approach to CEAs by describing for each step guiding principles and desired outcomes, scientific challenges and practical solutions. We reviewed the treatment of uncertainty in CEAs and the contribution of different tools and data sources to the implementation of a risk based approach to CEAs. We show that a risk-based approach to CEAs decreases complexity, allows for the transparent treatment of uncertainty and streamlines the uptake of scientific outcomes into the science-policy interface. Hence, its adoption can help bridging the gap between science and decision-making in ecosystem-based management.
Ecosystems influence human societies, leading people to manage ecosystems for human benefit. Poor environmental management can lead to reduced ecological resilience and social–ecological collapse. We review research on resilience and collapse across different systems and propose a unifying social–ecological framework based on (i) a clear definition of system identity; (ii) the use of quantitative thresholds to define collapse; (iii) relating collapse processes to system structure; and (iv) explicit comparison of alternative hypotheses and models of collapse. Analysis of 17 representative cases identified 14 mechanisms, in five classes, that explain social–ecological collapse. System structure influences the kind of collapse a system may experience. Mechanistic theories of collapse that unite structure and process can make fundamental contributions to solving global environmental problems.
As social–ecological systems enter a period of rapid global change, science must predict and explain ‘unthinkable’ social, ecological, and social–ecological collapses.
Existing theories of collapse are weakly integrated with resilience theory and ideas about vulnerability and sustainability.
Mechanisms of collapse are poorly understood and often heavily contested. Progress in understanding collapse requires greater clarity on system identity and alternative causes of collapse.
Archaeological theories have focused on a limited range of reasons for system collapse. In resilience theory, the adaptive cycle has been used to describe collapse but offers little insight into the mechanisms that cause it.
Theories of collapse should connect structure and process. Mechanistic, structure–process–function theories of collapse suggest new avenues for understanding and improving resilience.
Globally, many temperate marine communities have experienced significant temperature increases over recent decades in the form of gradual warming and heatwaves. As a result, these communities are shifting towards increasingly subtropical and tropical species compositions. Expanding coral populations have been reported from several temperate reef ecosystems along warming coastlines; these changes have been attributed to direct effects of gradual warming over decades. In contrast, increases in coral populations following shorter-term extreme warming events have rarely been documented. In this study, we compared coral populations on 17 temperate reefs in Western Australia before (2005/06) and after (2013) multiple marine heatwaves (2010–2012) affected the entire coastline. We hypothesised that coral communities would expand and change as a consequence of increasing local populations and recruitment of warm-affinity species. We found differences in coral community structure over time, driven primarily by a fourfold increase of one local species, Plesiastrea versipora, rather than recruitment of warm-affinity species. Coral populations became strongly dominated by small size classes, indicative of recent increased recruitment or recruit survival. These changes were likely facilitated by competitive release of corals from dominant temperate seaweeds, which perished during the heatwaves, rather than driven by direct temperature effects. Overall, as corals are inherently warm-water taxa not commonly associated with seaweed-dominated temperate reefs, these findings are consistent with a net tropicalisation. Our study draws attention to processes other than gradual warming that also influence the trajectory of temperate reefs in a changing ocean.
The world's oceans today have become a place for the disposal of toxic waste, which leads to the degradation of marine mammal habitats and populations. Marine mammal cell cultures have proven to be a multifunctional tool for studying the peculiarities of the cell physiology and biochemistry of these animals as well as the destructive effects of anthropogenic and natural toxicants. This review describes the sources of marine mammal live tissues and the methods required for establishing cell cultures, their use, and long-term storage. Approaches to conserving rare animal species by applying cell biology methodologies are also discussed.
The future rate and extent of sea level rise are highly uncertain, and responses to higher water levels will need to reflect this uncertainty. Sea level rise was a major topic of the annual meeting of the National Academy of Engineering on October 9–10, 2016, and the second day featured a forum on adaptation to it. This summary of the forum, which also incorporates material from Robert J. Nicholls’ plenary presentation, outlines a rich and challenging set of problems for engineers, scientists, and those who work with them.
This study explores people's environmental attitudes and motives for putting economic values to marine biodiversity protection. Primary data were collected from a sample of 359 residents in two important Greek ports: Thessaloniki and Volos. Respondents’ environmental attitude was measured with the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale. Economic values were derived from contingent valuation survey. Use of appropriate methods revealed three factors of environmental attitudes: man dominate to nature, anti-anthropocentrism and limits to growth. Significant relationships are found between NEP scale factors, socio-economic characteristics and individuals’ opinions about biodiversity utility. Pro-environmental behavior is associated with higher NEP scores. A logistic regression setup the relation between people's willingness to pay (WTP) for marine biodiversity protection with their socio-economic characteristics and PCA results. Significant relationships are found between environmental attitudes, non-use motivations, WTP and ethical motives for species protection. Mean individuals’ WTP for marine biodiversity protection was calculated approximately equal to €29.
Coastal fisheries provide staple food and sources of livelihood in Pacific Island countries, and securing a sustainable supply is recognised as a critical priority for nutrition security. This study sought to better understand the role of fish for Pacific Island communities during disasters and in disaster recovery. To evaluate community impacts and responses after natural disasters, focus group discussions were held with men and women groups at ten sites across Shefa, Tafea, Malampa and Sanma provinces in Vanuatu. The combined impacts of category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam (TC-Pam) in March 2015 and prolonged El-Niño induced drought have had a profound impact across much of Vanuatu. Terrestrial systems had been disproportionately impacted with substantial shortages in drinking water, garden crops, cash crops and damage to infrastructure. Localized impacts were noted on marine environments from TC-Pam and the drought, along with an earthquake that uplifted reef and destroyed fishing grounds in Malampa province. Communities in Malampa and Shefa provinces also noted a crown-of-thorns outbreak that caused coral mortality. The significant reduction in terrestrial-based food and income generation capacity generally led to increased reliance on marine resources to cope and a shift in diets from local garden food to rice. However, limited market access, lack of fishing skills and technology in many sectors of the community reduced the capacity for marine resources to support recovery. A flexible management approach allowed protected areas and species to be utilized as reservoirs of food and income when temporarily opened to assist recovery. These findings illustrate that fish and fisheries management is at the center of disaster preparedness and relief strategies in remote Pacific Island communities. High physical capital (e.g. infrastructure, water tanks and strong dwellings) is key for disaster preparedness, but supporting community social capital for the purpose of natural resource management and human capital for diverse adaptation skills can also improve community resilience. Recognizing the humanitarian value that well managed fisheries resources and skilled fishers can play to disaster relief adds another dimension to the imperative of improving management of coastal fisheries and aligning policies across sectors.
Best use of scientific knowledge is required to maintain the fundamental role of seafood in human nutrition. While it is acknowledged that genomic-based methods allow the collection of powerful data, their value to inform fisheries management, aquaculture , and biosecurity applications remains underestimated. We review genomic applications of relevance to the sustainable management of seafood resources, illustrate the benefits of, and identify barriers to their integration. We conclude that the value of genomic information towards securing the future of seafood does not need to be further demonstrated. Instead, we need immediate efforts to remove structural roadblocks and focus on ways that support integration of genomic-informed methods into management and production practices. We propose solutions to pave the way forward.
Massive declines in population abundances of marine animals have been documented over century-long time scales. However, analogous loss of spatial extent of habitat-forming organisms is less well known because georeferenced data are rare over long time scales, particularly in subtidal, tropical marine regions. We use high-resolution historical nautical charts to quantify changes to benthic structure over 240 years in the Florida Keys, finding an overall loss of 52% (SE, 6.4%) of the area of the seafloor occupied by corals. We find a strong spatial dimension to this decline; the spatial extent of coral in Florida Bay and nearshore declined by 87.5% (SE, 7.2%) and 68.8% (SE, 7.5%), respectively, whereas that of offshore areas of coral remained largely intact. These estimates add to finer-scale loss in live coral cover exceeding 90% in some locations in recent decades. The near-complete elimination of the spatial coverage of nearshore coral represents an underappreciated spatial component of the shifting baseline syndrome, with important lessons for other species and ecosystems. That is, modern surveys are typically designed to assess change only within the species’ known, extant range. For species ranging from corals to sea turtles, this approach may overlook spatial loss over longer time frames, resulting in both overly optimistic views of their current conservation status and underestimates of their restoration potential.
Intense human activity in the marine environment poses a threat to marine ecosystem. The ecosystem-based planning and management approach has developed over the past decades with the goal of reducing this threat by defining planning and management of uses in a way that mitigates negative effects on ecosystem structure and function. For oceans and coasts, marine spatial planning (MSP) can further aid the implementation of ecosystem-based management, a widely accepted tenet of planning for the marine environment. It can do so by allocating different uses of space in a way that reduces conflicts for the benefit of the environment. Here, we propose an approach to MSP that incorporates principles of reconciliation ecology for the planning of marine (nearshore) enclosures. The approach supports conservation within and around anthropogenic elements outside of marine protected areas. Since human activity typically involves some damage to natural ecosystem, this research contributes by proposing a way to incorporate ecosystem modeling for MSP that includes human activity. Examining areas of human activity under different management scenarios allows identification of possible trends in human-natural ecosystem interactions. Using such an approach increases marine conservation opportunities, and directs educated and cautious MSP in ways that allow implementation of an ecosystem-based approach.
Coastal marine ecosystems can be managed by actions undertaken both on the land and in the ocean. Quantifying and comparing the costs and benefits of actions in both realms is therefore necessary for efficient management. Here, we quantify the link between terrestrial sediment runoff and a downstream coastal marine ecosystem and contrast the cost-effectiveness of marine- and land-based conservation actions. We use a dynamic land- and sea-scape model to determine whether limited funds should be directed to 1 of 4 alternative conservation actions—protection on land, protection in the ocean, restoration on land, or restoration in the ocean—to maximise the extent of light-dependent marine benthic habitats across decadal timescales. We apply the model to a case study for a seagrass meadow in Australia. We find that marine restoration is the most cost-effective action over decadal timescales in this system, based on a conservative estimate of the rate at which seagrass can expand into a new habitat. The optimal decision will vary in different social–ecological contexts, but some basic information can guide optimal investments to counteract land- and ocean-based stressors: (1) marine restoration should be prioritised if the rates of marine ecosystem decline and expansion are similar and low; (2) marine protection should take precedence if the rate of marine ecosystem decline is high or if the adjacent catchment is relatively intact and has a low rate of vegetation decline; (3) land-based actions are optimal when the ratio of marine ecosystem expansion to decline is greater than 1:1.4, with terrestrial restoration typically the most cost-effective action; and (4) land protection should be prioritised if the catchment is relatively intact but the rate of vegetation decline is high. These rules of thumb illustrate how cost-effective conservation outcomes for connected land–ocean systems can proceed without complex modelling.
Accurately estimating contacts between animals can be critical in ecological studies such as examining social structure, predator–prey interactions or transmission of information and disease. While biotelemetry has been used successfully for such studies in terrestrial systems, it is still under development in the aquatic environment. Acoustic telemetry represents an attractive tool to investigate spatio-temporal behaviour of marine fish and has recently been suggested for monitoring underwater animal interactions. To evaluate the effectiveness of acoustic telemetry in recording interindividual contacts, we compared co-occurrence matrices deduced from three types of acoustic receivers varying in detection range in a benthic shark species. Our results demonstrate that (i) associations produced by acoustic receivers with a large detection range (i.e. Vemco VR2W) were significantly different from those produced by receivers with smaller ranges (i.e. Sonotronics miniSUR receivers and proximity loggers) and (ii) the position of individuals within their network, or centrality, also differed. These findings suggest that acoustic receivers with a large detection range may not be the best option to represent true social networks in the case of a benthic marine animal. While acoustic receivers are increasingly used by marine ecologists, we recommend users first evaluate the influence of detection range to depict accurate individual interactions before using these receivers for social or predator–prey studies. We also advocate for combining multiple receiver types depending on the ecological question being asked and the development of multi-sensor tags or testing of new automated proximity loggers, such as the Encounternet system, to improve the precision and accuracy of social and predator–prey interaction studies.
Conservationists continue to put forth international milestone goals for preserving the world’s oceans (e.g. 30%; World Parks Congress, 2014) while assuming that this protection will be effective. However, most of the world’s “protected” oceans are plagued with persistent poaching problems and inadequate management capacity that render these reserves ineffective (Kelleher et al., 1995; Mora et al., 2006; Gill et al., 2017). Although the term marine protected area can encompass a range of protections, I focus here on no-take marine reserves (NTMRs), and define effectiveness as the ability to reduce or eliminate fishing mortality within their boundaries. There is no doubt that NTMRs can deliver substantial outcomes when effectively managed to ensure high compliance (Graham et al., 2011; Edgar et al., 2014; Cinner et al., 2016; Gill et al., 2017), but this is more often the exception, rather than the rule. For instance, my colleagues and I recently demonstrated that poaching by recreational fishers in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) is significant, and regularly occurs in areas previously thought to be among the best protected (Bergseth et al. 2017). Specifically, we found no difference in the accumulation of discarded fishing gear between no-fishing and fished zones—which suggests that these no-take zones are receiving the same amount of fishing pressure as areas legally open to fishing (Figure 1).