In the Gulf of Mexico, especially along the southwest Florida coast, blooms of the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis are a coastal natural hazard. The organism produces a potent class of toxins, known as brevetoxins, which are released following cell lysis into ocean or estuarine waters or, upon aerosolization, into the atmosphere. When exposed to sufficient levels of brevetoxins, humans may suffer from respiratory, gastrointestinal, or neurological illnesses. The hazard has been exacerbated by the geometric growth of human populations, including both residents and tourists, along Florida’s southwest coast. Impacts to marine organisms or ecosystems also may occur, such as fish kills or deaths of protected mammals, turtles, or birds. Since the occurrence of a severe Karenia brevis bloom off the southwest Florida coast three-quarters of a century ago, there has been an ongoing debate about the best way for humans to mitigate the impacts of this hazard. Because of the importance of tourism to coastal Florida, there are incentives for businesses and governments alike to obfuscate descriptions of these blooms, leading to the social amplification of risk. We argue that policies to improve the public’s ability to understand the physical attributes of blooms, specifically risk communication policies, are to be preferred over physical, chemical, or biological controls. In particular, we argue that responses to this type of hazard must emphasize maintaining the continuity of programs of scientific research, environmental monitoring, public education, and notification. We propose a common-sense approach to risk communication, comprising a simplification of the public provision of existing sources of information to be made available on a mobile website.
The marine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) pool is an important player in the functioning of marine ecosystems. DOC is at the interface between the chemical and the biological worlds, it fuels marine food webs, and is a major component of the Earth’s carbon system. Here, we review the research showing impacts of global change stressors on the DOC cycling, specifically: ocean warming and stratification, acidification, deoxygenation, glacial and sea ice melting, changed inflow from rivers, changing ocean circulation and upwelling, and wet/dry deposition. A unified outcome of the future impacts of these stressors on the global ocean DOC production and degradation is not possible, due to regional differences and differences in stressors impacts, but general patterns for each stressor are presented.
Mass coral bleaching has increased in intensity and frequency and has severely impacted shallow tropical reefs worldwide. Although extensive investigation has been conducted on the resistance and resilience of coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean, the unique reefs of the South Atlantic remain largely unassessed. Here we compiled primary and literature data for reefs from three biogeographical regions: Indo-Pacific, Caribbean and South Atlantic and performed comparative analyses to investigate whether the latter may be more resistant to bleaching. Our findings show that South Atlantic corals display critical features that make them less susceptible to mass coral bleaching: (i) deeper bathymetric distribution, as species have a mean maximum depth of occurrence of 70 m; (ii) higher tolerance to turbidity, as nearly 60% of species are found in turbid conditions; (iii) higher tolerance to nutrient enrichment, as nitrate concentration in the South Atlantic is naturally elevated; (iv) higher morphological resistance, as massive growth forms are dominant and comprise two thirds of species; and (v) more flexible symbiotic associations, as 75% of corals and 60% of symbiont phylotypes are generalists. Such features were associated with occurrence of fewer bleaching episodes with coral mortality in the South Atlantic, approximately 60% less than the Indo-Pacific and 50% less than the Caribbean. In addition, no mass coral mortality episodes associated with the three global mass bleaching events have been reported for the South Atlantic, which suffered considerably less bleaching. These results show that South Atlantic reefs display several remarkable features for withstanding thermal stress. Together with a historic experience of lower heat stress, our findings may explain why climate change impacts in this region have been less intense. Given the large extension and latitudinal distribution of South Atlantic coral reefs and communities, the region may be recognized as a major refugium and likely to resist climate change impacts more effectively than Indo-Pacific and Caribbean reefs.
The coasts and islands that flank Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s largest emirate, host the country’s most significant coastal and marine habitats including coral reefs. These reefs, although subject to a variety of pressures from urban and industrial encroachment and climate change, exhibit the highest thresholds for coral bleaching and mortality in the world. By reviewing and benchmarking global, regional and local coral reef conservation efforts, this study highlights the ecological importance and economic uniqueness of the UAE corals in light of the changing climate. The analysis provides a set of recommendations for coral reef management that includes an adapted institutional framework bringing together stakeholders, scientists, and managers. These recommendations are provided to guide coral reef conservation efforts regionally and in jurisdictions with comparable environmental challenges.
With large-scale human interventions and climate change unfolding as they are now, coastal changes at decadal timescales are not limited to incremental modifications of systems that are fixed in their general geometry, but often show significant changes in layout that may be catastrophic for populations living in previously safe areas. This poses severe challenges that are difficult to meet for existing models. A new free-form coastline model, ShorelineS, is presented that is able to describe large coastal transformations based on relatively simple principles of alongshore transport gradient driven changes as a result of coastline curvature, including under highly obliquely incident waves, and consideration of splitting and merging of coastlines, and longshore transport disturbance by hard structures. An arbitrary number of coast sections is supported, which can be open or closed and can interact with each other through relatively straightforward merging and splitting mechanisms. Rocky parts or structures may block wave energy and/or longshore sediment transport. These features allow for a rich behavior including shoreline undulations and formation of spits, migrating islands, merging of coastal shapes, salients and tombolos. The main formulations of the (open-source) model, which is freely available at www.shorelines.nl, are presented. Test cases show the capabilities of the flexible, vector-based model approach, while field validation cases for a large-scale sand nourishment (the Sand Engine; 21 million m3) and an accreting groin scheme at Al-Gamil (Egypt) show the model’s capability of computing realistic rates of coastline change as well as a good representation of the shoreline shape for real situations.
Approximately one-quarter of the World’s sandy beaches, most of which are interrupted by tidal inlets, are eroding. Understanding the long-term (50–100 year) evolution of inlet-interrupted coasts in a changing climate is, therefore of great importance for coastal zone planners and managers. This study, therefore, focuses on the development and piloting of an innovative model that can simulate the climate-change driven evolution of inlet-interrupted coasts at 50–100 year time scales, while taking into account the contributions from catchment-estuary-coastal systems in a holistic manner. In this new model, the evolution of inlet-interrupted coasts is determined by: (1) computing the variation of total sediment volume exchange between the inlet-estuary system and its adjacent coast, and (2) distributing the computed sediment volume along the inlet-interrupted coast as a spatially and temporally varying quantity. The exchange volume, as computed here, consists of three major components: variation in fluvial sediment supply, basin (or estuarine) infilling due to the sea-level rise-induced increase in accommodation space, and estuarine sediment volume change due to variations in river discharge. To pilot the model, it is here applied to three different catchment-estuary-coastal systems: the Alsea estuary (Oregon, United States), Dyfi estuary (Wales, United Kigdom), and Kalutara inlet (Sri Lanka). Results indicate that all three systems will experience sediment deficits by 2100 (i.e., sediment importing estuaries). However, processes and system characteristics governing the total sediment exchange volume, and thus coastline change, vary markedly among the systems due to differences in geomorphic settings and projected climatic conditions. These results underline the importance of accounting for the different governing processes when assessing the future evolution of inlet-interrupted coastlines.
Fishers “local ecological knowledge” (LEK) can be used to reconstruct long-term trends of species that are at very low biomass due to overfishing. In this study, we used historical memories of Sicilian fishers to understand their perception of change in abundance of cartilaginous fish in the Strait of Sicily over the last decades. We conducted interviews with 27 retired fishers from Mazara del Vallo harbor (SW Sicily) working in demersal fisheries, using a pre-defined questionnaire with a series of open and fixed questions related to the abundance of sharks and rays. The questionnaire included specific questions about the trends they perceived in catch or by-catch of cartilaginous fish abundance between the 1940s and 2000s compared to the present. Information was gathered for 18 species, including Carcharhinidae, mesopredatory demersal sharks (Squalidae, Hexanchidae, Centrophoridae, Oxynotidae, Triakidae, Scyliorhinidae, and Squatinidae) and batoids. Overall shark catches were perceived to have diminished since the early 1940s: about 95% of fishers reported the decline of commercially important species (e.g., Mustelus spp.) and indicated species that could have been depleted or locally extinct (e.g., Squatina spp., Sphyrna lewini, Mustelus asterias, etc.). Our study shows that LEK of fishers can be beneficial for reconstructing long-term population trends of exploited species when traditional standard data on fisheries catch or species relative abundance from surveys is limited or only available for recent periods. The results obtained clearly indicate the rapid and alarming decline of elasmobranchs in the Strait of Sicily highlighting the need for urgent conservation measures to be adopted.
Climate change in the Arctic is occurring at a rapid rate. In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the world’s northernmost city, deadly avalanches and permafrost thaw-induced architectural destruction has disrupted local governance norms and responsibilities. In the North Atlantic, the warming ocean temperatures have contributed to a rapid expansion of the mackerel stock which has spurred both geo-political tensions but also tensions at the science-policy interface of fish quota setting. These local climate-induced changes have created a domino-like chain reaction that intensifies through time as a warming Arctic penetrates deeper into responsibilities of governing institutions and science institutions. In face with the increasing uncertain futures of climate-induced changes, policy choices also increase revealing a type of “snowballing” of possible futures facing decision-makers. We introduce a portmanteau-inspired concept called “The Melting Snowball Effect” that encompasses the chain reaction (“domino effect”) that increases the number of plausible scenarios (“snowball effect”) with climate change (melting snow, ice and thawing permafrost). We demonstrate the use of “The Melting Snowball Effect” as a heuristic within a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework of anticipation, engagement and reflection. To do this, we developed plausible scenarios based on participatory stakeholder workshops and narratives from in-depth interviews for deliberative discussions among academics, citizens and policymakers, designed for informed decision-making in response to climate change complexities. We observe generational differences in discussing future climate scenarios, particularly that the mixed group where three generations were represented had the most diverse and thorough deliberations.
The marine fish farming industry is growing at a significant rate, yet a number of concerns still remain with regards to environmental impacts on the surrounding coastal sea and its biota. Here, we assessed the impact of intensive farming on benthic prokaryotic communities at a Mediterranean sea bass and sea bream intensive aquaculture site over a period of 10 months, in relation to the increase in fish biomass within the cage together with the organic matter enrichment in the sediments. We report positive relationships between prokaryotic abundance and both organic matter and fish biomass, and a contextual decrease in prokaryotic diversity below the cages. A significant shift in microbial community composition occurred in fish farm sediments (FF) over time, indicating a likely impact of ongoing aquaculture activity on prokaryotic communities. Among the dominant taxa at the impacted site, we found Epsilonproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes, which showed a general increase with fish biomass. Analyses on specialist taxa underlined significant contributions of Clostridiales and Bacteroidales in the farmed sediments. Finally, sea bream and sea bass gut microbiome-related taxa were detected during the sampling period. Our results indicate that prokaryotic community composition underneath the cages is related to fish biomass and organic enrichment over the course of production, and confirms that the study of benthic microbial communities at aquaculture sites represents a useful tool to assess the impact of intensive mariculture on the surrounding environment.
Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum is considered the most precious coral worldwide. Harvesting activities are performed by licensed scuba divers and managed through the recent pan-Mediterranean management plan issued by General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) along with measures locally enacted, imposing limits on licenses, harvesting season, minimum depth of dive, and size. The use of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) is prohibited, with the only exception being for scientific purposes. Despite measures already in force, the implementation of additional management tools has been recently recommended. This article reports results from the first monitoring campaign on C. rubrum harvesting based on ROVs for seabed exploration and Onboard Scientific Observers (OSOs), carried out from 2012 to 2015 along the coast of Sardinia (Mediterranean Sea—Western basin). More than 450 dives were monitored, confirming how ROV’s support eases the scouting of exploitable banks, leading to increases in catches. OSOs reported the collection of colonies below the minimum reference size and catches/dive above limits. Onboard observers collected data also on colony diameter, which is crucial for the estimation of population size structure and exploitation status. OSOs proved to be valid tools in providing additional and reliable information on red coral harvesting, thus deserving to be included among mandatory measures for the sustainable exploitation of red coral in the Mediterranean Sea.
Realistic predictions of climate change effects on natural resources are central to adaptation policies that try to reduce these impacts. However, most current forecasting approaches do not incorporate species-specific, process-based biological information, which limits their ability to inform actionable strategies. Mechanistic approaches, incorporating quantitative information on functional traits, can potentially predict species- and population-specific responses that result from the cumulative impacts of small-scale processes acting at the organismal level, and can be used to infer population-level dynamics and inform natural resources management. Here we present a proof-of-concept study using the European anchovy as a model species that shows how a trait-based, mechanistic species distribution model can be used to explore the vulnerability of marine species to environmental changes, producing quantitative outputs useful for informing fisheries management. We crossed scenarios of temperature and food to generate quantitative maps of selected mechanistic model outcomes (e.g., Maximum Length and Total Reproductive Output). These results highlight changing patterns of source and sink spawning areas as well as the incidence of reproductive failure. This study demonstrates that model predictions based on functional traits can reduce the degree of uncertainty when forecasting future trends of fish stocks. However, to be effective they must be based on high spatial- and temporal resolution environmental data. Such a sensitive and spatially explicit predictive approach may be used to inform more effective adaptive management strategies of resources in novel climatic conditions.
The importance of the role of cephalopods in marine ecosystems and commercial fisheries has increased over recent years. There is now evidence that the distribution of cephalopods is expanding latitudinally. Nevertheless, information about the spatial distribution of cephalopods and its implications in the Yellow Sea (YS) is not well known. In an attempt to redress this deficiency, we firstly conducted a simple analysis of geospatial patterns in fishing effort in the YS during 2012–2016 to ascertain if changes in fishing intensity (across all species) might be responsible for creating an apparent latitudinal shift in cephalopod distribution. Although fishing intensity increased in the YS over the 5-year period, there are no significant differences among years within each latitude, implying that all latitudes respond in a similar way each year. We then used long-term scientific survey data (2000, 2009, 2014, and 2017) of cephalopods (Todarodes pacificus, Loliolus spp., Octopus variabilis, Octopus ocellatus, Sepiola birostrata, and Euprymna spp.) collected each October in the YS, combined with oceanographic variables including sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll-a concentration (CHLA), to model relationships to establish habitat suitability indices (HSIs) using both an arithmetic mean method (AMM) and a geometric mean method (GMM). Cross-validation, standard deviation, and mean squared error of prediction (MSEP) were used to evaluate the performance of the HSI. Abundance index data from surveys of 2018 were overlaid on maps of predicted HSI for the same year to visualize the correspondence of the modeled HSI. Spatiotemporal mapping of oceanographic variables showed that SST and CHLA change dramatically around 34°N, which may relate to the spatial distribution of cephalopods. CHLA is the most important oceanographic variable for most squid and octopus species, while SST is the most important for bobtail squid. The MSEP showed that the AMM-based HSI performed better than the GMM-based HSI. Future studies should take weighting of oceanographic variables into account and ideally integrate them into a more holistic model to obtain increased precision in predictions when establishing HSIs.
Distributing fishing mortality across the widest possible range of species, stocks, and sizes in proportion to their natural productivity (i.e., balanced harvest, BH) has been suggested as a new paradigm of fisheries management to minimize the effects of fishing on the ecosystem structure while maximizing overall yield. Models that have been used to test the effects of BH, however, usually concentrate on fish and assume full alignment of fishing mortality with the productivity of each species. Here, we used the trophic-level-based approach EcoTroph to investigate the effects of BH on the biomass and catch trophic spectra of a virtual ecosystem assuming (1) a full implementation, where all trophic levels can be fished according to their productivity and (2) a more realistic implementation, where low and intermediate trophic levels are only partially exploitable by fisheries mimicking current technological and practical limitations. EcoTroph simulations show that a BH fishing pattern does not fully maintain ecosystem structure but results in small structural changes and a large total yield. The resulting catch, however, was dominated by low trophic levels (i.e., 2–2.5). Considering that fishing mortality cannot be fully aligned to all species, we observed an additional adverse impact of BH: the increase in unexploitable biomass. In contrast, protecting lower trophic levels appeared as an efficient way to limit the impact of fisheries on the highest trophic levels, which play a crucial role in ecosystem stability and biodiversity. We conclude that given our inability to align fishing mortality to the productivity of each species, BH could lead to strong adverse impacts on the ecosystem. Instead of expanding fishing pressure toward new species and trophic levels, we first should ensure the sustainable management of those that are currently harvested beyond their capacity to replenish.
The CMSY and Bayesian Schaefer model (BSM) methods were applied to assess data-limited fishery stocks in the Japan Sea and surrounding areas of the Northwest Pacific. Ten stocks including 4 fish species and 5 cephalopod species were assessed; the CMSY method was used in 3 stocks with catch data only, and the BSM method in 7 stocks with both catch time series and catch per unit effort (CPUE) data available. The two methods estimated the maximum intrinsic rate of population increase (r) and carrying capacity of each stock, which allowed the computation of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and exploited biomass relative to the biomass at maximum sustainable yield (B/BMSY). All 10 stocks were overfished, if to a different extent, and one, the spear squid (Heterololigo bleekeri) has collapsed. The reference points estimated here may be used as indicator for fishery management in this ecoregion.
Understanding the social vulnerabilities and community strategies to adapt to environmental changes are crucial for the development of actions to enhance both community conservation and survival. With the aim to identify the drivers of vulnerability to climate change among different coastal communities a comprehensive multi-scale vulnerability framework was here adopted. Eight selected fishing communities representative of the South Brazil Bight (SBB) area were surveyed at the household level. A total of 151 fishers were interviewed. Quantitative indicators were calculated at the community-level, and their drivers identified, allowing for comparisons of the overall vulnerability score. Findings revealed that remoteness and the lack of climate change-related institutional support increase vulnerability among fishing communities in the region. On the other hand, community organization, leadership, research partnerships, community-based co-management, and livelihood diversification reduce vulnerability. Our analysis focused on social vulnerability to climate change in regional fishing communities and provides a better understanding of these effects in coastal zones, the factors explaining vulnerability and some perspectives on resilient and adaptable systems. Learning from comparisons at the ecosystem level may be applied to coastal regions elsewhere.
Climate change is expected to dramatically alter the distribution of many marine megafauna, impacting the people and economies that depend upon them. We build on the recent literature by developing a framework to describe the effects these changes will have on marine megafauna. With the goal to assist policymakers and grass roots organizers, we identify three illustrative pathways by which climate change drives these range shifts: (1) effects on habitat and shelter, (2) impacts on reproduction and disease, and (3) changing distribution of sources of food. We examine non-climate factors that may constrain or enable megafauna to adapt, creating winners and losers both for the species and the people dependent upon them. Finally, we comment on what management strategies exist at international and local scales that could help mitigate these impacts of climate change so that we, as a global community, can ensure that marine megafauna and people can best co-exist in a changing world.
The term vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) was introduced to facilitate the spatial management of deep-seas, identifying those habitats vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance, such as trawling. Consistent interpretation of the VME definition has been hampered by an underlying paucity of knowledge about the nature and distribution of deep-sea habitats. Photographic and video platforms yield data rich, quantifiable imagery to address these knowledge gaps. A low-cost towed benthic video sled has been used to investigate deep-sea habitats and trawling impacts in west Greenland. A review of imagery from multiple cruises highlighted an area where benthic megafauna contributes to notable structural complexity on the continental slope of the Toqqusaq Bank. Quantitative analysis of imagery from this area provides the first description of a soft coral garden habitat and other communities. The coral garden and observed densities are considered in relation to the VME guidelines (FAO, 2009) and wider literature. The study proposes a 486 km2 area spanning ∼60 km of continental slope as a VME. This has direct implications for the management of economically important deep-sea trawl fisheries, which are immediately adjacent. This furthers our knowledge and understanding of VMEs in North Atlantic, in a previously understudied region and demonstrates the utility of a low-cost video sled for identifying and describing VMEs.
The relationships between infaunal diversity and ecosystem function of biogenic structures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic remain poorly documented. Our study investigated the influence of sponge gardens at the Frobisher Bay site (137 m) and bamboo corals at the Baffin Bay site (1007 m) on the infaunal community structure and benthic ecosystem functioning. The occurrence of both types of biogenic structure type enhanced particular taxa and/or feeding guilds. A large density of suspension filter feeders was observed in bamboo coral sediment, whereas bare sediment exhibited a large proportion of nematodes and deposit-detritus feeders. Sponge gardens’ sediment showed a high proportion of isopods, Paraonidae polychaetes and up/down conveyors whereas bare sediment exhibited a large density of filter feeders. Through incubation cores, we measured ex situ benthic nutrient and oxygen fluxes at the sediment-water interface in each habitat and site. Biogeochemical fluxes varied significantly between habitats in the Baffin Bay site with a significant impact of bamboo coral habitat on nutrient fluxes (nitrate, ammonium, and silicate). Surprisingly, the sediment hosting bamboo corals acted as a source of nitrate and ammonium reaching values similar or higher to the Frobisher site despite the difference in water depth, and thus food supply between the two sites. These significant releases could derive from (i) a high organic matter deposition in bamboo coral habitat, allowed by their erected structure, (ii) a high efficiency of bioturbators (surficial modifiers and burrowers) mixing the surface layer of the sediment, and (iii) the difference in sediment type. Our study highlighted that, compared to its adjacent habitat, the presence of bamboo corals appeared to enhance the infaunal density and nutrient release of its sediment. In contrast, the impact of sponge gardens was not as clear as for bamboo coral habitat, likely due to the relatively significant presence of megabiota in the sponge garden adjacent habitat. Thus, our results based on a relatively small sample size, indicate that the bamboo coral habitat seems to increase the efficiency of deep-benthic ecosystem functioning, while that of sponge garden on the shallow ecosystem functioning remains uncertain.
Understanding the effects of bottom-trawling induced changes in benthic community structure, diversity and ecosystem functioning across different benthic-size components is imperative to determine the future sustainability of bottom-trawling fisheries in deep-sea regions. In this study, we combined field sampling observations with a pulse-chase experiment on sediments obtained from two stations of interest along the West Iberian Margin (WIM) distinguished by different trawling pressures. We compared these two stations in terms of meio- and macrofauna (infauna) standing stocks, biodiversity and several ecosystem function proxies. These proxies included: (i) 13C uptake by bacterial communities, (ii) infauna respiration rates, (iii) penetration of 13C in the sediment, and (iv) sediment pore-water nutrient concentrations. The pulse-chase experimental results were complemented with a larger biological dataset partially compiled from previous studies in the area, to investigate structural and functional diversity ecosystem functioning (respiration) patterns across the WIM. Our observations indicated that different regimes of trawling pressure influenced both macrofaunal respiration rates with disturbed sediments predominantly composed of deposit-/detritus-feeding smaller-sized macrofauna species. Moreover, sediment biogeochemical functioning (ammonium profiles) and 13C bacterial uptake showed differences among the two disturbance regimes. On the contrary, the biomass of small-sized biota, including bacteria and meiofauna, did not show marked differences between stations. The general depletion in macrofauna species richness across impacted areas of the study region was also correlated with a reduction in total biomass and respiration, suggesting that the long history of trawling disturbance at the WIM may affect regulatory ecosystem functions. These preliminary findings alert for the impacts of trawling on crucial functions of benthic ecosystems that may be imperceptible to the current tools used in monitoring programs.
The importance of macro-grazers in controlling macroalgal cover has long been recognized on tropical and temperate reefs, with fishes of primary importance on the former and sea urchins on the latter. However, the functional role of herbivorous urchins and fishes on subtropical marginal reefs remains poorly explored. To evaluate the relative importance of fishes and urchins on marginal subtropical reefs, this study used exclusion devices (excluding all grazers, fishes, or urchins) at two depths (1–2, 5–6 m) on Brazilian rocky reefs. Depth influenced responses within cages, with shallow sites changing from patchy barrens (dominated by crustose coralline algae) to epilithic algae-dominated within exclusion treatments, and sea urchins being the primary driver of benthic dynamics. In deeper water, the growth and senescence cycle of Sargassum species drove benthic dynamics and was associated with the season of higher intensity of upwelling events. No clear influence of herbivorous fishes was detected on benthic cover at either depth, despite biomasses similar to comparable tropical reefs where they do control macroalgal populations. Thus, abiotic factors seem to be a strong driver of benthic dynamics in the studied region, and top-down processes act only at shallow depths. Consequently, despite Brazilian subtropical communities being dominated by tropical species, the ecological drivers of these reefs may be more similar to temperate systems.