Recent evolutions in computing science and web technology provide the environmental community with continuously expanding resources for data collection and analysis that pose unprecedented challenges to the design of analysis methods, workflows, and interaction with data sets. In the light of the recent UK Research Council funded Environmental Virtual Observatory pilot project, this paper gives an overview of currently available implementations related to web-based technologies for processing large and heterogeneous datasets and discuss their relevance within the context of environmental data processing, simulation and prediction. We found that, the processing of the simple datasets used in the pilot proved to be relatively straightforward using a combination of R, RPy2, PyWPS and PostgreSQL. However, the use of NoSQL databases and more versatile frameworks such as OGC standard based implementations may provide a wider and more flexible set of features that particularly facilitate working with larger volumes and more heterogeneous data sources.
Cooperation between the social and natural sciences has become essential in order to encompass all the dimensions of coastal zone management. Socio-economic approaches are increasingly recommended to complement integrated assessment in support of these initiatives. A systematic review of the academic literature was carried out in order to analyze the main types of socio-economic assessments used to inform the coastal zone management process as well as their effectiveness. A corpus of 1682 articles published between 1992 and 2011 was identified by means of the representative coverage approach, from which 170 were selected by applying inclusion/exclusion criteria and then classified using a content analysis methodology. The percentage of articles that mention the use of socio-economic assessment in support of coastal zone management initiatives is increasing but remains relatively low. The review examines the links between the issues addressed by integrated assessments and the chosen analytical frameworks as well as the various economic assessment methods which are used in the successive steps of the coastal zone management process. The results show that i) analytical frameworks such as ‘risk and vulnerability’, ‘DPSIR’, ‘valuation’, ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘preferences’ are likely to lead to effective integration of social sciences in coastal zone management research while ‘integration’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘participation’ remain difficult to operationalize, ii) risk assessments are insufficiently implemented in developing countries, and iii) indicator systems in support of multi-criteria analyses could be used during more stages of the coastal zone management process. Finally, it is suggested that improved collaboration between science and management would require that scientists currently involved in coastal zone management processes further educate themselves in integrated assessment approaches and participatory methodologies.
There is a multitude of ecosystem service classifications available within the literature, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. Elements of them have been used to tailor a generic ecosystem service classification for the marine environment and then for a case study site within the North Sea: the Dogger Bank. Indicators for each of the ecosystem services, deemed relevant to the case study site, were identified. Each indicator was then assessed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure its relevance and applicability to environmental management. This paper identifies the need to distinguish between indicators of ecosystem services that are entirely ecological in nature (and largely reveal the potential of an ecosystem to provide ecosystem services), indicators for the ecological processes contributing to the delivery of these services, and indicators of benefits that reveal the realized human use or enjoyment of an ecosystem service. It highlights some of the difficulties faced in selecting meaningful indicators, such as problems of specificity, spatial disconnect and the considerable uncertainty about marine species, habitats and the processes, functions and services they contribute to.
Provision of broadly accessible and spatially referenced visualizations of the nature and rate of change in the Anthropocene is an essential tool in communicating to policy makers and to the wider public, who generally have little or no contact with academic publications and often rely on media-based information, to form and guide opinion. Three examples are used to demonstrate the use of geo-referenced data and GIS-based map compilations to provide accurate and widely accessible visual portrayals of historical processes. The first example shows the spread of Neolithic agriculture from Mesopotamia west and north across Europe over several millennia. The second plots the history of the drainage of the Fens (wetlands) in eastern England from the early seventeenth century onward. A third example illustrates one way in which releasing data in the public domain can lead to the enhancement of public data holdings. A concluding discussion outlines ways in which the methodology illustrated may be applied to processes key to understanding the Anthropocene.
Understanding changes in trophic group interactions following the implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs) is critical in understanding their success, or otherwise. A systematic review and meta-analysis was used to determine trends in the effects of MPAs on primary producers and herbivores from 57 locations throughout the world. On coral reefs, macroalgal coverage and sea urchin density were significantly (p<0.05p<0.05) lower within MPAs, with 79% and 83% of MPAs reporting smaller populations of these groups, respectively. Conversely, in kelp/algal habitats, where habitat-forming macroalgae are beneficial, no statistical differences were found in either algal coverage or herbivore density, however, 70% of MPAs reported lower densities of urchins. Finally, we found that the literature conveyed a significant negative relationship between grazer density effect sizes and macroalgal coverage effect sizes. Our results indicate that the tropho-dynamics of recovering fish populations in disparate habitats is likely to be more complex than initially thought, and partly driven by differential fisheries and habitat effects. This study highlights the importance of selecting MPAs based on the processes that assist in the recovery of ecosystems in the aftermath of fishing, in addition to habitat quality and representativeness.
Seascape ecology is an emerging discipline focused on understanding how features of the marine habitat influence the spatial distribution of marine species. However, there is still a gap in the development of concepts and techniques for its application in the marine pelagic realm, where there are no clear boundaries delimitating habitats. Here we demonstrate that pelagic seascape metrics defined as a combination of hydrographic variables and their spatial gradients calculated at an appropriate spatial scale, improve our ability to model pelagic fish distribution. We apply the analysis to study the spawning locations of two tuna species: Atlantic bluefin and bullet tuna. These two species represent a gradient in life history strategies. Bluefin tuna has a large body size and is a long-distant migrant, while bullet tuna has a small body size and lives year-round in coastal waters within the Mediterranean Sea. The results show that the models performance incorporating the proposed seascape metrics increases significantly when compared with models that do not consider these metrics. This improvement is more important for Atlantic bluefin, whose spawning ecology is dependent on the local oceanographic scenario, than it is for bullet tuna, which is less influenced by the hydrographic conditions. Our study advances our understanding of how species perceive their habitat and confirms that the spatial scale at which the seascape metrics provide information is related to the spawning ecology and life history strategy of each species.
The marine managed areas (MMAs) of the U.S. Caribbean are summarized and specific data-rich cases are examined to determine their impact upon fisheries management in the region. In this region, the productivity and connectivity of benthic habitats such as mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs is essential for many species targeted by fisheries. A minority of the 39 MMAs covering over 4000 km2 serve any detectable management or conservation function due to deficiencies in the design, objectives, compliance or enforcement. Fifty percent of the area within MMA boundaries had no-take regulations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while Puerto Rico only had 3%. Six case studies are compared and contrasted to better understand the potential of these MMAs for fisheries management. Signs of success were associated with including sufficient areas of essential fish habitat (nursery, spawning and migration corridors), year-round no-take regulations, enforcement and isolation. These criteria have been identified as important in the conservation of marine resources, but little has been done to modify the way MMAs are designated and implemented in the region. Site-specific monitoring to measure the effects of these MMAs is needed to demonstrate the benefits to fisheries and gain local support for a greater use as a fisheries management tool.
As the number of marine protected areas (MPAs) increases globally, so does the need to assess if MPAs are meeting their management goals. Integral to this assessment is usually a long-term biological monitoring program, which can be difficult to develop for large and remote areas that have little available fine-scale habitat and biological data. This is the situation for many MPAs within the newly declared Australian Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR) network which covers approximately 3.1 million km2 of continental shelf, slope, and abyssal habitat, much of which is remote and difficult to access. A detailed inventory of the species, types of assemblages present and their spatial distribution within individual MPAs is required prior to developing monitoring programs to measure the impact of management strategies. Here we use a spatially-balanced survey design and non-extractive baited video observations to quantitatively document the fish assemblages within the continental shelf area (a multiple use zone, IUCN VI) of the Flinders Marine Reserve, within the Southeast marine region. We identified distinct demersal fish assemblages, quantified assemblage relationships with environmental gradients (primarily depth and habitat type), and described their spatial distribution across a variety of reef and sediment habitats. Baited videos recorded a range of species from multiple trophic levels, including species of commercial and recreational interest. The majority of species, whilst found commonly along the southern or south-eastern coasts of Australia, are endemic to Australia, highlighting the global significance of this region. Species richness was greater on habitats containing some reef and declined with increasing depth. The trophic breath of species in assemblages was also greater in shallow waters. We discuss the utility of our approach for establishing inventories when little prior knowledge is available and how such an approach may inform future monitoring efforts within the CMR network.
Nutrient load reductions are needed to improve the state of the Baltic Sea, but it is still under debate how they should be implemented. In this paper, we use data from an environmental valuation study conducted in all nine Baltic Sea states to investigate public preferences of relevance to three of the involved decision-dimensions: First, the roles of nitrogen versus phosphorus reductions causing different eutrophication effects; second, the role of time – the lag between actions to reduce nutrient loads and perceived improvements; and third; the spatial dimension and the roles of actions targeting the coastal and open sea environment and different sub-basins. Our findings indicate that respondents view and value the Baltic Sea environment as a whole, and are not focussed only on their local sea area, or a particular aspect of water quality. We argue that public preferences concerning these three perspectives should be one of the factors guiding marine policy. This requires considering the entire range of eutrophication effects, in coastal and open sea areas, and including long-term and short-term measures.
The dissolution of anthropogenically emitted excess carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the world's ocean water. The larvae of mass spawning marine fishes may be particularly vulnerable to such ocean acidification (OA), yet the generality of earlier results is unclear. Here we show the detrimental effects of OA on the development of a commercially important fish species, the Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus). Larvae were reared at three levels of CO2: today (0.0385 kPa), end of next century (0.183 kPa), and a coastal upwelling scenario (0.426 kPa), under near-natural conditions in large outdoor tanks. Exposure to elevated CO2 levels resulted in stunted growth and development, decreased condition, and severe tissue damage in many organs, with the degree of damage increasing with CO2 concentration. This complements earlier studies of OA on Atlantic cod larvae that revealed similar organ damage but at increased growth rates and no effect on condition.
Ocean acidification, often referred to as the “other CO2 problem”, is a direct result of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, cement production and other human activities. As atmospheric CO2 increases, more enters the ocean across the sea surface. This process has significant societal benefits: by absorbing around a quarter of the total human production of CO2, the ocean has substantively slowed climate change. But it also has less desirable consequences, since the dissolved CO2 affects seawater chemistry, with a succession of potentially adverse impacts on marine biodiversity, ecosystem services and human society.
The starting point for such changes is an increase in seawater acidity, resulting from the release of hydrogen ions (H+). Acidity is measured on the logarithmic pH scale, with H+ concentrations* at pH 7.0 being ten times greater than at pH 8.0. Since preindustrial times, the mean pH in the surface ocean has dropped by 0.1 units, a linear-scale increase in acidity of ~26%. Unless CO2 emissions are rapidly curtailed, mean surface pH is projected – with a high degree of certainty – to fall by a further ~0.3 units by 2100, representing an acidity increase of around 170% compared to pre-industrial levels. The actual change will depend on future CO2 emissions, with both regional and local variations in the oceanic response (Chapter 3).
Very many scientific studies in the past decade have unequivocally shown that a wide range of marine organisms are sensitive to pH changes of such magnitude, affecting their physiology, fitness and survival, mostly (but not always) in a negative way. The consequences of ocean acidification for marine food webs, ecosystems, biogeochemistry and the human use of marine resources are, however, much less certain. In particular, ocean acidification is not the only environmental change that organisms will experience in future, since it will occur in combination with other stressors (e.g., increasing temperature and deoxygenation). The biological effects of multiple stressors occurring together cannot be assumed to be additive; instead, due to interactions, their combined impacts may be amplified (through synergism) or diminished (antagonism). Furthermore, there is now evidence that some – but not necessarily all – organisms may show genetically mediated, adaptive responses to ocean acidification.
This review provides an updated synthesis of the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity based upon current literature, including emerging research on the geological history of natural ocean acidification events, and the projected societal costs of future acidification. The report takes into consideration comments and feedback submitted by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, other Governments and organizations as well as experts who kindly peer-reviewed the report.
The manual outlines the rationale and project design for measuring blue carbon in the field and approaches for data analysis and reporting. Effort was made to ensure consistency with international standards, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines, and other relevant sourcebooks.
The manual is structured as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduces the role of blue carbon in climate change mitigation and outlines the manual’s purpose and objectives;
Chapter 2: Outlines the main steps to prepare a robust field measurement plan;
Chapter 3: Provides protocols and guidance for measuring organic carbon stocks found in the soils of all three ecosystems;
Chapter 4: Provides protocols and guidance for measuring organic carbon stocks, found in above- and belowground biomass, with specific protocols designed for each ecosystem;
Chapter 5: H ighlights methods for determining the changes in carbon stocks over time and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions;
Chapter 6: G ives an overview of remote sensing options and applications;
Chapter 7: Provides guidance on managing large data sets and data sharing; and
Appendices: T here are several appendices; they contain supplementary information, worked through examples, lists of equations, and more.
Climate change is unequivocal. There is ample evidence from around the globe that changes have already occurred. This reality is forcing decision-makers to evaluate the potential impacts, risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities that climate change presents. The development of adaptation plans and actions to adjust to this new reality requires decision-makers to increase their understanding of available climate information. The rapid advances in climate science and evolving understanding of the potential risks and opportunities arising from climate change impacts will require decision-makers to engage in more proactive and iterative management.
This guide is a tool for decision-makers to familiarize themselves with future climate information. It is aimed at all actors involved in climate change adaptation, from those in the early stages of climate change awareness to those involved in implementing adaptation measures. The guide consists of three main sections. The first categorizes climate information based on its use and on its level of complexity. The second section presents a catalogue of different ways in which climate information can be presented to decision-makers, such as planners, engineers, resource managers, and government. Finally, a third section outlines key climate modeling concepts that support a good understanding of climate information in general.
This document is not detailed enough to inform users on how to prepare different types of climate information, nor is it intended as a critical analysis of how the information is produced. Rather, it highlights the importance of working in collaboration with climate service providers to obtain climate information. The guide allows users to engage more easily with climate service providers and to become more critical of the information that is provided to them. It should be recognised that, at this point in time, the number of climate service providers is low relative to the demand for climate information.
Using this guide will allow decision-makers to become more familiar with climate information products and hence better evaluate what climate information best suits their needs. Key important messages emerging from the guide include:
- Climate information at different levels of complexity can be valuable, depending on the type of decision being made. More detailed information is not always necessary to inform better decisions
- Climate information can be tailored into formats that best match the level of expertise of the decision-makers;
- Decisions should be based on a range of plausible futures; a single best climate scenario does not exist;
- It is important to understand the limitations of the climate information used.
The heart of this Guide is the Matrix of 100 tools, divided into user categories (general public, resource manager, and technical expert) and subject areas. So whether you are a community planner who wants to see the potential cost/benefits of building a sea wall or a forest scientist who wants to work on species connectivity for many species simultaneously, you can quickly look up which tools might be appropriate for you.
All 100 tools are described in detail following the Matrix.
Things to note:
- We use a broad definition of tools, including anything that facilitated: 1) gathering and distributing relevant data (e.g. regional databases that support queries and downloads); 2) conducting analyses and modeling (e.g. vulnerability assessments); 3) visualizing data and analysis/modeling results (including current and potential future conditions); and, 4) integrating information into planning for conservation, land use, and land management.
- We place an emphasis on tools currently in use within the region.
- We do not include products that were simply guidelines, frameworks, or processes (but the Appendix does include some that seemed especially useful; for example, see TESSA).
- We mostly avoid tools that were geared to one state or province and those that could not be readily utilized throughout the region.
- We do not include tools that are more accurately described as services—in other words, those that required extensive and expensive—personalized set-up or customization.
- We avoid tools that were no longer maintained as well as most tools still under development. Because tools often become obsolete and new ones frequently emerge, this guide should be updated periodically.
The Background section of this guide lists the Necessary and Desired Attributes of the tools included in the Matrix.
We have selected 11 tools from the Matrix that we describe as a “toolkit” that can support many of the NPLCC’s needs. Each of these tools also had widespread interest among NPLCC partners and/or applicability to multiple functions in the Matrix. This guide takes an in-depth look at these 11 Featured Tools, covering what they do best, how they work, their data requirements, key outputs, computer and software requirements, training requirements, and costs. A “snapshot” of each featured tool gives a brief description, examples of use, and an “at-a-glance” table that shows the tools in a matrix format.
We chose four tools to explore further via Case Studies. These are here to provide a more nuanced look at how tools have actually been applied, especially where the application experience yielded important Lessons Learned and Helpful Hints. The case studies from the region will also promote national and international awareness of NPLCC work on landscape-level conservation in the face of climate change.
Finally, the Appendix lists other potentially useful resources that did not qualify as one of our “Matrix tools” but that may assist you with your work—for example, by helping you use the tools more effectively.
This is a short guide to governance for protected/conserved areas that briefly summarizes the points in the full-length report, Governance of Protected Areas.
Coral reefs have largely declined across multiple spatial scales due to a combination of local-scale anthropogenic impacts, and due to regional-global climate change. This has resulted in a significant loss of entire coral functional groups, including western Atlantic Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) biotopes, and in a net decline of coral reef ecosystem resilience, ecological functions, services and benefits. Low-tech coral farming has become one of the most important tools to help restore depleted coral reefs across the Wider Caribbean Region. We tested a community-based, low-tech coral farming approach in Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, aimed at adapting to climate change-related impacts through a two-year project to propagate A. cervicornis under two contrasting fishing management conditions, in coastal areas experimenting significant land use changes. Extreme rainfall events and recurrent tropical storms and hurricanes had major site-and method-specific impacts on project outcome, particularly in areas adjacent to deforested lands and subjected to recurrent impacts from land-based source pollution (LBSP) and runoff. Overall, coral survival rate in “A frame” units improved from 73% during 2011-2012 to 81% during 2012-2013. Coral survival rate improved to 97% in horizontal line nurseries (HLN) incorporated during 2012-2013. Percent tissue cover ranged from 86% to 91% in “A frames”, but reached 98% in HLN. Mean coral skeletal extension was 27 cm/y in “A frames” and 40 cm/y in HLN. These growth rates were up to 545% to 857% faster than previous reports from coral farms from other parts of the Caribbean, and up to 438% faster than wild colonies. Branch production and branchiness index (no. harvestable branches > 6 cm) increased by several orders of magnitude in comparison to the original colonies at the beginning of the project. Coral mortality was associated to hurricane physical impacts and sediment-laden runoff impacts associated to extreme rainfall and deforestation of adjacent lands. This raises a challenging question regarding the impact of chronic high sea surface temperature (SST), in combination with recurrent high nutrient pulses, in fostering increased coral growth at the expense of coral physiological conditions which may compromise corals resistance to disturbance. Achieving successful local management of reefs and adjacent lands is vital to maintain the sustained net production in coral farms and of reef structure, and the provision of the important ecosystem services that they provide. These measures are vital for buying time for reefs while global action on climate change is implemented. Adaptive community-based strategies are critical to strengthen institutional management efforts. But government agencies need to transparently build local trust, empower local stakeholders, and foster co-management to be fully successful. Failing to achieve that could make community-based coral reef rehabilitation more challenging, and could potentially drive rapidly declining, transient coral reefs into the slippery slope to slime.
Ecological network models and analyses are recognized as valuable tools for understanding the dynamics and resiliency of ecosystems, and for informing ecosystem-based approaches to management. However, few databases exist that can provide the life history, demographic and species interaction information necessary to parameterize ecological network models. Faced with the difficulty of synthesizing the information required to construct models for kelp forest ecosystems along the West Coast of North America, we developed an online database (http://kelpforest.ucsc.edu/) to facilitate the collation and dissemination of such information. Many of the database's attributes are novel yet the structure is applicable and adaptable to other ecosystem modeling efforts. Information for each taxonomic unit includes stage-specific life history, demography, and body-size allometries. Species interactions include trophic, competitive, facilitative, and parasitic forms. Each data entry is temporally and spatially explicit. The online data entry interface allows researchers anywhere to contribute and access information. Quality control is facilitated by attributing each entry to unique contributor identities and source citations. The database has proven useful as an archive of species and ecosystem-specific information in the development of several ecological network models, for informing management actions, and for education purposes (e.g., undergraduate and graduate training). To facilitate adaptation of the database by other researches for other ecosystems, the code and technical details on how to customize this database and apply it to other ecosystems are freely available and located at the following link (https://github.com/kelpforest-cameo/databaseui).
Dredged material dumping is one of the most important human activities to be considered in coastal zone management. Searching for a new site for depositing the sediment dredged from the entrance of the navigation channel of Rouen harbour in the Seine estuary is complicated because of the combined natural heritage and anthropogenic constraints. This paper presents the intricate background and the collaborative efforts of the Seine estuary tripartite authority (National Government-Rouen Harbour-Scientific Committee) to initiate an ecosystem approach for managing waste. The selection of a future potential dumping area stems from a consideration of economic and logistic factors, both marine and environmental, as well as various natural and anthropogenic constraints in the complex ecosystem of the Seine estuary. It appears that a site with fine-to-medium clean sand situated offshore from the mouth of the Seine estuary would be a good candidate from the biological and economic points of view. Additional procedures on two experimental sites will be necessary before the French government can give a final decision to authorize the Rouen harbour to exploit this new deposit location.
In fisheries management, social and institutional sustainability factors have proven difficult to incorporate into planning and are often traded off in support of ecological and economic factors. Thus, there has been little support for institutional innovation such as adaptive co-management. The literature on legal pluralism indicates one constraint on innovative institutions. In response, Bavinck and Gupta suggest ‘institutional bricolage’ to bridge underlying value differences. However, value conflicts may prevent institutions from moving towards ‘mutual support’.
While efforts to meet international commitments to counter biodiversity declines by establishing networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) continue, assessments of MPAs rarely take into account measures of effectiveness of different categories of protection, or other design principles (size, spacing, governance considerations). We carried out a meta-analysis of ecological effectiveness of IUCN Categories I–II (no-take), IV and VI (MPAs) compared to unprotected areas. We then applied our ecological effectiveness estimates – the added benefit of marine protection over and above conventional fisheries management – to a gap analysis of existing MPAs, and MPAs proposed by four indigenous groups on the Central Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Additionally, we assessed representation, size, spacing, and governance considerations against MPA design criteria outlined in the literature. We found significant differences in response ratios for IUCN Categories IV and VI MPAs compared to no-take reserves and areas open to fishing, although variability in responses was high. By rescaling the predicted ecological effectiveness ratios (including confidence estimates), we found that, compared to no-take reserves (biodiversity conservation effectiveness 100%) and open fishing areas (0% additional biodiversity contribution over and above conventional fisheries management), IUCN Category IV had a predicted effectiveness score of 60%, ranging between 34% and 89% (95% lower and upper confidence intervals, respectively), and IUCN Category VI had a predicted effectiveness score of 24% (ranging between −12% and 72% for the 95% lower and upper confidence intervals, respectively). We found that the existing MPAs did poorly when compared against most MPA design criteria, whereas the proposed MPA network achieved many of the best practices identified in the literature, and could achieve all if some additional sites were added. By using the Central Coast of British Columbia as a case study, we demonstrated a method for applying empirically-based ecological effectiveness estimates to an assessment of MPA design principles for an existing and proposed network of MPAs.