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Major changes in the ecology of the Wadden Sea: human impacts, ecosystem engineering and sediment dynamics

Citation Information: Ecosystems; Volume 13, Number 5 (2010), 752-764

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-010-9352-3

Authors: Britas Klemens Eriksson, Tjisse van der Heide, Johan van de Koppel, Theunis Piersma, Henk W. van der Veer and Han Olff

Abstract: Shallow soft-sediment systems are mostly dominated by species that, by strongly affecting sediment dynamics, modify their local environment. Such ecosystem engineering species can have either sediment-stabilizing or sediment-destabilizing effects on tidal flats. They interplay with abiotic forcing conditions (wind, tide, nutrient inputs) in driving the community structure and generating spatial heterogeneity, determining the composition of different communities of associated species, and thereby affecting the channelling of energy through different compartments in the food web. This suggests that, depending on local species composition, tidal flats may have conspicuously different geomorphology and biological functions under similar external conditions. Here we use a historical reconstruction of benthic production in the Wadden Sea to construct a framework for the relationships between human impacts, ecosystem engineering and sediment dynamics. We propose that increased sediment disturbances by human exploitation interfere with biological controls of sediment dynamics, and thereby have shifted the dominant compartments of both primary and secondary production in the Wadden Sea, transforming the intertidal from an internally regulated and spatially heterogeneous, to an externally regulated and spatially homogenous system. This framework contributes to the general understanding of the interaction between biological and environmental control of ecosystem functioning, and suggests a general framework for predicting effects of human impacts on soft-bottom ecosystems.

Threshold values and management options for nutrients in a catchment of a temperate estuary with poor ecological status

Citation Information: Hinsby, K., Markager, S., Kronvang, B., Windolf, J., Sonnenborg, T. O., and Thorling, L.: Threshold values and management options for nutrients in a catchment of a temperate estuary with poor ecological status, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2663-2683, doi:10.5194/hess-16-2663-2012, 2012.

Prediction, scenarios and insight: The uses of an end-to-end model

Citation Information: Progress in Oceanography; Volume 102, September 2012, Pages 67–73; End-to-End Modeling: Toward Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization

Author: John H. Steele

Abstract: A major function of ecosystem models is to provide extrapolations from observed data in terms of predictions or scenarios or insight. These models can be at various levels of taxonomic resolution such as total community production, abundance of functional groups, or species composition, depending on the data input as drivers. A 40-year dynamic simulation of end-to-end processes in the Georges Bank food web is used to illustrate the input/output relations and the insights gained at the three levels of food web aggregation. The focus is on the intermediate level and the longer term changes in three functional fish guilds – planktivores, benthivores and piscivores – in terms of three ecosystem-based metrics – nutrient input, relative productivity of plankton and benthos, and food intake by juvenile fish. These simulations can describe the long term constraints imposed on guild structure and productivity by energy fluxes over the 40 years but cannot explain concurrent switches in abundance of individual species within guilds. Comparing time series data for individual species with model output provides insights; but including the data in the model would confer only limited extra information. The advantages and limitations of the three levels of resolution of models in relation to ecosystem-based management are:

  1. The correlations between primary production and total yield of fish imply a “bottom-up” constraint on end-to-end energy flow through the food web that can provide predictions of such yields.
  2. Functionally defined metrics such as nutrient input, relative productivity of plankton and benthos and food intake by juvenile fish, represent bottom-up, mid-level and top-down forcing of the food web. Model scenarios using these metrics can demonstrate constraints on the productivity of these functionally defined guilds within the limits set by (1).
  3. Comparisons of guild simulations with time series of fish species provide insight into the switches in species dominance that accompany changes in guild productivity and can illuminate the top-down aspects of regime shifts.

Ecosystem limits to food web fluxes and fisheries yields in the North Sea simulated with an end-to-end food web model

Citation Information: Progress in Oceanography; Volume 102, September 2012, Pages 42–66; End-to-End Modeling: Toward Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization

Author: Michael R. Heath

Abstract: Equilibrium yields from an exploited fish stock represent the surplus production remaining after accounting for losses due to predation. However, most estimates of maximum sustainable yield, upon which fisheries management targets are partly based, assume that productivity and predation rates are constant in time or at least stationary. This means that there is no recognition of the potential for interaction between different fishing sectors. Here, an end-to-end ecosystem model is developed to explore the possible scale and mechanisms of interactions between pelagic and demersal fishing in the North Sea. The model simulates fluxes of nitrogen between detritus, inorganic nutrient and guilds of taxa spanning phytoplankton to mammals. The structure strikes a balance between graininess in space, taxonomy and demography, and the need to constrain the parameter-count sufficiently to enable automatic parameter optimization. Simulated annealing is used to locate the maximum likelihood parameter set, given the model structure and a suite of observations of annual rates of production and fluxes between guilds. Simulations of the impact of fishery harvesting rates showed that equilibrium yields of pelagic and demersal fish were strongly interrelated due to a variety of top-down and bottom-up food web interactions. The results clearly show that management goals based on simultaneously achieving maximum sustainable biomass yields from all commercial fish stocks is simply unattainable. Trade-offs between, for example, pelagic and demersal fishery sectors and other properties of the ecosystem have to be considered in devising an overall harvesting strategy.

Screening California Current fishery management scenarios using the Atlantis end-to-end ecosystem model

Citation Information: Progress in Oceanography; Volume 102, September 2012, Pages 5–18; End-to-End Modeling: Toward Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization

Authors: Isaac C. Kaplan, Peter J. Horne, Phillip S. Levin

Dealing with uncertainty in ecosystem models: The paradox of use for living marine resource management

Citation Information: Progress in Oceanography; Volume 102, September 2012, Pages 102–114; End-to-End Modeling: Toward Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization

Authors: J.S. Link, T.F. Ihde, C.J. Harvey, S.K. Gaichas, J.C. Field, J.K.T. Brodziak, H.M. Townsend, R.M. Peterman

Abstract: To better manage living marine resources (LMRs), it has become clear that ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is a desired approach. To do EBFM, one of the key tools will be to use ecosystem models. To fully use ecosystem models and have their outputs adopted, there is an increasingly recognized need to address uncertainty associated with such modeling activities. Here we characterize uncertainty as applied to ecosystem models into six major factors, including: natural variability; observation error; inadequate communication among scientists, decision-makers and stakeholders; the structural complexity of the model(s) used; outcome uncertainty; and unclear management objectives. We then describe best practices to address each of these uncertainties as they particularly apply to ecosystem models being used in a LMR management context. We also present case studies to highlight examples of how these best practices have been implemented. Although we acknowledge that this work was compiled by ecosystem modelers in an LMR management context primarily for other ecosystem modelers, the principles and practices described herein are also germane for managers, stakeholders and other natural resource management communities. We conclude by emphasizing not only the need to address uncertainty in ecosystem models, but also the feasibility and benefits of doing so.

Development of an integrated economic and ecological framework for ecosystem-based fisheries management in New England

Citation Information: Progress in Oceanography; Volume 102, September 2012, Pages 93–101; End-to-End Modeling: Toward Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization

Authors: D. Jin, P. Hoagland, T.M. Dalton, E.M. Thunberg

Abstract: We present an integrated economic-ecological framework designed to help assess the implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) in New England. We develop the framework by linking a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of a coastal economy to an end-to-end (E2E) model of a marine food web for Georges Bank. We focus on the New England region using coastal county economic data for a restricted set of industry sectors and marine ecological data for three top level trophic feeding guilds: planktivores, benthivores, and piscivores. We undertake numerical simulations to model the welfare effects of changes in alternative combinations of yields from feeding guilds and alternative manifestations of biological productivity. We estimate the economic and distributional effects of these alternative simulations across a range of consumer income levels. This framework could be used to extend existing methodologies for assessing the impacts on human communities of groundfish stock rebuilding strategies, such as those expected through the implementation of the sector management program in the US northeast fishery. We discuss other possible applications of and modifications and limitations to the framework.

Marine reserves as a tool for ecosystem-based management: The potential importance of megafauna

Citation Information: Hooker, S.K. and Gerber, L.R. Marine reserves as a tool for ecosystem-based management: The potential importance of megafauna. BioScience 54(1): 27-39, 2004.

Abstract: Marine predators attract significant attention in ocean conservation planning and are therefore often used politically to promote reserve designation. We discuss whether their ecology and life history can help provide a rigorous ecological foundation for marine reserve design. In general, we find that reserves can benefit marine megafauna, and that megafauna can help establish target areas and boundaries for ecosystem reserves. However, the spatial nature of the interplay between potential threats and predator life histories requires careful consideration for the establishment of effective reserves. Modeling tools such as demographic sensitivity analysis will aid in establishing protection for different life stages and distributional ranges. The need for pelagic marine reserves is becoming increasingly apparent, and it is in this venue that marine predators may be most effectively used as indicator species of underlying prey distribution and ecosystem processes.

Facing uncertainty in ecosystem services-based resource management

Citation Information: Journal of Environmental Management; Available online 22 August 2012; In Press, Corrected Proof

Authors: Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Sibyl H. Brunner, Jürg Altwegg, Peter Bebi

Abstract: The concept of ecosystem services is increasingly used as a support for natural resource management decisions. While the science for assessing ecosystem services is improving, appropriate methods to address uncertainties in a quantitative manner are missing. Ignoring parameter uncertainties, modeling uncertainties and uncertainties related to human–environment interactions can modify decisions and lead to overlooking important management possibilities. In this contribution, we present a new approach for mapping the uncertainties in the assessment of multiple ecosystem services. The spatially explicit risk approach links Bayesian networks to a Geographic Information System for forecasting the value of a bundle of ecosystem services and quantifies the uncertainties related to the outcomes in a spatially explicit manner. We demonstrate that mapping uncertainties in ecosystem services assessments provides key information for decision-makers seeking critical areas in the delivery of ecosystem services in a case study in the Swiss Alps. The results suggest that not only the total value of the bundle of ecosystem services is highly dependent on uncertainties, but the spatial pattern of the ecosystem services values changes substantially when considering uncertainties. This is particularly important for the long-term management of mountain forest ecosystems, which have long rotation stands and are highly sensitive to pressing climate and socio-economic changes.

Energetics of life on the deep seafloor

Citation Information: PNAS September 4, 2012; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208976109

Authors: Craig R. McClain, Andrew P. Allen, Derek P. Tittensor, and Michael A. Rex

Abstract: With frigid temperatures and virtually no in situ productivity, the deep oceans, Earth’s largest ecosystem, are especially energy-deprived systems. Our knowledge of the effects of this energy limitation on all levels of biological organization is very incomplete. Here, we use the Metabolic Theory of Ecology to examine the relative roles of carbon flux and temperature in influencing metabolic rate, growth rate, lifespan, body size, abundance, biomass, and biodiversity for life on the deep seafloor. We show that the relative impacts of thermal and chemical energy change across organizational scales. Results suggest that individual metabolic rates, growth, and turnover proceed as quickly as temperature-influenced biochemical kinetics allow but that chemical energy limits higher-order community structure and function. Understanding deep-sea energetics is a pressing problem because of accelerating climate change and the general lack of environmental regulatory policy for the deep oceans.

Linking habitat mosaics and connectivity in a coral reef seascape

Citation Information: PNAS September 4, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1206378109

Authors: Kelton W. McMahon, Michael L. Berumen, and Simon R. Thorrold

Abstract: Tropical marine ecosystems are under mounting anthropogenic pressure from overfishing and habitat destruction, leading to declines in their structure and function on a global scale. Although maintaining connectivity among habitats within a seascape is necessary for preserving population resistance and resilience, quantifying movements of individuals within seascapes remains challenging. Traditional methods of identifying and valuing potential coral reef fish nursery habitats are indirect, often relying on visual surveys of abundance and correlations of size and biomass among habitats. We used compound-specific stable isotope analyses to determine movement patterns of commercially important fish populations within a coral reef seascape. This approach allowed us to quantify the relative contributions of individuals from inshore nurseries to reef populations and identify migration corridors among important habitats. Our results provided direct measurements of remarkable migrations by juvenile snapper of over 30 km, between nurseries and reefs. We also found significant plasticity in juvenile nursery residency. Although a majority of individuals on coastal reefs had used seagrass nurseries as juveniles, many adults on oceanic reefs had settled directly into reef habitats. Moreover, seascape configuration played a critical but heretofore unrecognized role in determining connectivity among habitats. Finally, our approach provides key quantitative data necessary to estimate the value of distinctive habitats to ecosystem services provided by seascapes.

How the Law Lets Down the ‘Down-Under Dolphin’—Fishing-Related Mortality of Marine Animals and the Law in New Zealand

Citation Information: J Environmental Law (2012) doi: 10.1093/jel/eqs017

Author: Nicola R. Wheen

Abstract: Regulatory control of fishing in response to fishing-related mortality of endemic marine animals in New Zealand waters has been weak and slow. The handful of populations and species that have been ‘protected’ from fishing activities are still probably declining or are unlikely to recover without further protection. The government itself recognises the inadequacies of its measures for protecting seabirds. Some species directly affected by fishing receive no protection at all from this threat. I argue that a legal framework that is almost wholly discretionary, allows fisheries interests to dominate decision-making and obscures and nullifies the intended effect of the precautionary approach is to blame. It follows that when in 2009 Members of the New Zealand Parliament rejected off-hand simple legislative changes capable of addressing these problems, they belied their own expressions of concern for marine animals threatened by fishing.

Global economic potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from mangrove loss

Citation Information: PNAS September 4, 2012 vol. 109 no. 36 14369-14374


Authors: Juha Siikamäkia, James N. Sanchirico and Sunny L. Jardine

Abstract: Mangroves are among the most threatened and rapidly disappearing natural environments worldwide. In addition to supporting a wide range of other ecological and economic functions, mangroves store considerable carbon. Here, we consider the global economic potential for protecting mangroves based exclusively on their carbon. We develop unique high-resolution global estimates (5′ grid, about 9 × 9 km) of the projected carbon emissions from mangrove loss and the cost of avoiding the emissions. Using these spatial estimates, we derive global and regional supply curves (marginal cost curves) for avoided emissions. Under a broad range of assumptions, we find that the majority of potential emissions from mangroves could be avoided at less than $10 per ton of CO2. Given the recent range of market price for carbon offsets and the cost of reducing emissions from other sources, this finding suggests that protecting mangroves for their carbon is an economically viable proposition. Political-economy considerations related to the ability of doing business in developing countries, however, can severely limit the supply of offsets and increases their price per ton. We also find that although a carbon-focused conservation strategy does not automatically target areas most valuable for biodiversity, implementing a biodiversity-focused strategy would only slightly increase the costs.

Accounting for demand and supply of the biosphere's regenerative capacity: The National Footprint Accounts’ underlying methodology and framework

Citation Information: Ecological Indicators; Volume 24, January 2013, Pages 518–533

Authors: Michael Borucke, David Moore, Gemma Cranston, Kyle Gracey, Katsunori Iha, Joy Larson, Elias Lazarus, Juan Carlos Morales, Mathis Wackernagel, Alessandro Galli

Abstract: Human demand on ecosystem services continues to increase, and evidence suggests that this demand is outpacing the regenerative and absorptive capacity of the biosphere. As a result, the productivity of natural capital may increasingly become a limiting factor for the human endeavor. Metrics tracking human demand on, and availability of, regenerative and waste absorptive capacity within the biosphere are therefore needed. Ecological Footprint analysis is such a metric; it measures human appropriation (Ecological Footprint) and the biosphere's supply (biocapacity) of ecosystem products and services in terms of the amount of bioproductive land and sea area (ecological assets) needed to supply these products and services.

This paper documents the latest method for estimating the Ecological Footprint and biocapacity of nations, using the National Footprint Accounts (NFA) applied to more than 200 countries and for the world overall. Results are also compared with those obtained from previous editions of the NFA. According to the 2011 Edition of the National Footprint Accounts, humanity demanded the resources and services of 1.5 planets in 2008; this human demand was 0.7 planets in 1961.

Situations in which total demand for ecological goods and services exceed the available supply for a given location, are called ‘overshoot’. ‘Global overshoot’ indicates that stocks of ecological capital are depleting and/or that waste is accumulating. As the methodology keeps being improved, each new edition of the NFA supports the findings of a global overshoot.

Coastal zone management with stochastic multi-criteria analysis

Citation Information: Journal of Environmental Management; Volume 112, 15 December 2012, Pages 252–266

Authors: A. Félix, A. Baquerizo, J.M. Santiago, M.A. Losada

Abstract: The methodology for coastal management proposed in this study takes into account the physical processes of the coastal system and the stochastic nature of forcing agents. Simulation techniques are used to assess the uncertainty in the performance of a set of predefined management strategies based on different criteria representing the main concerns of interest groups. This statistical information as well as the distribution function that characterizes the uncertainty regarding the preferences of the decision makers is fed into a stochastic multi-criteria acceptability analysis that provides the probability of alternatives obtaining certain ranks and also calculates the preferences of a typical decision maker who supports an alternative. This methodology was applied as a management solution for Playa Granada in the Guadalfeo River Delta (Granada, Spain), where the construction of a dam in the river basin is causing severe erosion. The analysis of shoreline evolution took into account the coupled action of atmosphere, ocean, and land agents and their intrinsic stochastic character. This study considered five different management strategies. The criteria selected for the analysis were the economic benefits for three interest groups: (i) indirect beneficiaries of tourist activities; (ii) beach homeowners; and (iii) the administration. The strategies were ranked according to their effectiveness, and the relative importance given to each criterion was obtained.

Indian Ocean Community Conservation Handbooks

Citation Information: Blue Ventures Conservation, 2011

Description: The Indian Ocean Community Conservation Handbooks are a series of information booklets tackling a number of specific environmental themes. These handbooks are designed to act as a reference and decision support tool for community leaders and local government authorities, so that they are better equipped to manage their coastal resources.

The booklets provide practical, hands-on information to enable more effective, informed resource management. Associated comics may also be downloaded from the Indian Ocean Community Conservation website.

The handbooks and website were developed by Blue Ventures Conservation with generous support from the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation.

Special thanks to an anonymous OpenChannels user for submitting this content!

Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle

Citation Information: World Resources Institute, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56973-791-0

Description: The World Resources Institute produced the report in close collaboration with the USAID-funded Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP). Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle was adapted from WRI’s 2011 global analysis of threats to coral reefs, Reefs at Risk Revisited, and supplemented with more recent and detailed data for the Coral Triangle region.

Threats to coral reefs in the Coral Triangle are much higher than the global average. More than 85 percent of reefs within the Coral Triangle Region are currently threatened by local stressors (such as overfishing, pollution, and coastal development), which is substantially higher than the global average of 60 percent. Nearly 45 percent are at high or very high threat levels. When the influence of recent thermal stress and coral bleaching is combined with these local threats, the percent of reefs rated as threatened increases to more than 90 percent, which is substantially greater than the global average of 75 percent.

Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle studies current and future threats to the Coral Triangle’s reefs, evaluates social and economic vulnerability to reef degradation and loss throughout the six countries, examines reef management initiatives, and identifies solutions to help safeguard reefs.

Report of International Coastal Atlas Network Workshop 5: Coastal Atlases as Engines for Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning

Citation Information: Dwyer, N., Kopke, K., Berman, M., Belpaeme, K. , O’Dea, L., Haddad, T. and Wright, D.J. 2012. Report of International Coastal Atlas Network Workshop 5: Coastal Atlases as Engines for Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, UNESCO IOC IODE Headquarters, Oostende, Belgium, 31 August – 2 September 2011.

Executive Summary: From August 31st to November 2nd, 2011, the International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) held a workshop on “Coastal Atlases as Engines for Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning”, at the UNESCO IOC/IODE headquarters in Oostende, Belgium. The workshop (aka “ICAN 5”) engaged 43 participants from 15 countries, representing 36 organizations and multiple areas of scientific and technical expertise. This meeting was a follow-up to the successful 2009 workshop on “Formalizing the Network, Engaging the Mediterranean” (aka “ICAN 4”) held in Trieste, Italy, as well as workshops in 2008, 2007 and 2006.

ICAN 5 participants discussed the current and future potential of CWAs for coastal and marine spatial planning and explored the subject area in dedicated breakout sessions. A number of opportunities for how CWAs can contribute to the development of CMSP were identified whilst challenges were also highlighted. Other key activities at the workshop included:

Regional Data Management and Portal Development Workshop Report

Citation Information: NOAA Costal Services Center; Eastern Research Group, Inc.

Date: August 6, 2012

Executive Summary: A large and growing number of users rely on coastal and marine geospatial data to support research, planning, and decision-making processes. Accordingly, numerous atlases, portals, and catalogs have emerged to supply these users with the data they need. These systems include national, regional, state, and local efforts.

While each data management system has its own unique purpose, attributes, and constituencies, the current proliferation of systems creates a timely opportunity to leverage experience, expertise, and data across regions and between regional and national systems. That is, ocean data managers now have the opportunity to design a “system of systems” and create a community of practice to bring key regional and national data management systems together around a set of common goals and standards.

On June 27 and 28, 2012, the NOAA Coastal Services Center (NOAA CSC) convened a group of representatives from national, regional, and state data management systems (Appendix A) in Charleston, South Carolina, for a two-day workshop to discuss opportunities for coordination and collaboration among systems. Over the course of the two days, participants engaged in full-group discussions and breakout group brainstorming sessions (see agenda in Appendix B). Together they sought to achieve the following objectives:

  • Build awareness among participants of the status of existing regional and national marine information systems.
  • Develop a strategy for integration of national and regional coastal and marine data and systems-related activities, including data portals, web mapping applications, and metadata catalogs.
  • Identify common data management and exchange standards and procedures to be adopted by regional and national planning bodies and ocean governance groups.
  • Identify methods to increase collaboration among marine data management entities.

Coastal Services, July/August 2012

Citation Information: NOAA Coastal Services Center, July/August 2012

Table of Contents:

  • From the Director
  • Contact Information
  • News and Notes: Incorporating Sea Level Change Scenarios at the Local Level
  • Trade-off Analysis: New Tools May Help Balance Trade-offs for Ocean Users
  • Providing Access to Information on Tsunami Zones in Oregon and Washington
  • Ecotourism Thrives along Alabama’s Coastal Birding Trail
  • Learning Stewardship in New York by Helping with Wetland Loss in Louisiana


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