Marine spatial planning (MSP) is increasingly being used as a mechanism to manage the marine environment. Human activities can impact biophysical ecosystem features, reducing resilience and potentially impacting ecosystem services, which can affect the environmental, socio-economic and cultural benefits derived by coastal communities. Central to MSP is the collection and collation of baseline data on biophysical ecosystem features and ecosystem services to inform decision making and target management measures. The data collection process should be a structured, transparent process to ensure adequate data and metadata collation to enable it to be effectively used in MSP. This data should be subject to stakeholder consultation, producing quality assured information and mapping. The resources required to undertake data collection should not be underestimated. Recognition should be given to the limits of knowledge of the marine environment and its complexity. Planners and developers should exercise caution when using and interpreting the results of mapping outputs.
The Marine Strategy Framework (Directive 2008/56/EC, MSFD) came into force in 2008, confirming the increased political interest in the oceans observed in recent years, and the change in the philosophy of environmental management, which has resulted in the development of many initiatives to guide the conservation, protection and sustainable management of marine ecosystems. This Directive is the key environmental instrument of the European Union (EU) maritime policy, and establishes that Member States shall adopt the necessary measures to achieve or maintain the Good Environmental Status of the marine environment by 2020. The central part of the MSFD is formed by the ‘marine strategies’, which have to be developed by the Member States for the marine waters under their jurisdiction. The implementation of the MSFD represents a demanding task in the integrative assessment of marine ecosystems. Here we describe the implementation process, and we discuss the institutional framework and the main difficulties and challenges encountered so far, with emphasis on the Spanish context.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is increasingly being recognised as an important tool in the sustainable management of marine ecosystems. In preparation for the development of MSP across Scotland, the Scottish Government, via Marine Scotland, first piloted regional marine planning in 2006, through the Scottish Sustainable Marine Environment Initiative (SSMEI). The overarching aim of SSMEI was to develop and test the effectiveness of differing management approaches to deliver sustainable development in Scotland׳s coastal and marine environment. The Shetland Islands׳ Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) was first developed under the SSMEI programme, and in 2014 the Shetland Islands Council is intending to adopt the fourth edition of the SMSP on a statutory basis as Supplementary Guidance to its Local Development Plan. Using Geographic Information Systems (GISs) the SMSP has incorporated spatial data on existing marine and coastal environmental, socio-economic and cultural features and activities into the decision making process, and is an example of place based management. This has required collecting and collating 127 data sets from a range of data sources, and has utilised local stakeholders to verify evidence. This process has required significant resources by a dedicated marine spatial planning team, as well as by local stakeholders. The data within the SMSP has also been used to develop spatially-specific policies to guide the future development of Shetland׳s coastal and marine environment. It has been used by a range of users including developers and decision makers in planning and assessing areas for development, allowing potential conflicts to be avoided or mitigated early in the development process.
Threats to the marine environment are multiple and growing and the Baltic Sea is no stranger to them. Numerous human activities have put its ecosystems under severe pressure and it has become one of the most polluted seas in the world. In order to safeguard species and habitats, and to recover the healthy status of the sea, one of the most widely recognized and effective tools to address the activities affecting marine and coastal ecosystems is needed: a network of well‑managed marine protected areas (MPAs). Such a network, if it is well designed, can help curb the loss of marine resources and recover entire ecosystems by providing protection and decreasing the loss of endangered marine species and habitats, and restoring depleted fish stocks.
Today about 12% of the Baltic Sea is covered by MPAs, but despite this relatively high figure, the management of these sites remains poor and uneven.
This report provides an overview of MPAs and the quality of their management in the Baltic Sea and Kattegat, covering the EU’s Natura 2000 sites, HELCOM Baltic Sea Protected Areas (BSPAs), and MPAs under national law. The status of MPA management plans, including possible fisheries measures, was reviewed to the extent that information was available. Data was collected using EU (Standard Data Forms, SDF) and HELCOM BSPA databases. Because some of these are not consistently updated and contain some outdated data that fails to reflect the most accurate situation, we also approached national authorities directly. Information was obtained from all countries except the Russian Federation. The European Environment Agency and European Commission Directorate‑General for the Environment (DG ENVI) were consulted as well.
Overall we have found out that more than half of the MPAs in the Baltic Seaand Kattegat have management plans, but they often fail to offer any concrete measures or solutions, remaining protected only on paper. To protect against threats to the marine environment and reverse the decreasing biodiversity trend, proper management measures are needed. The first crucial step is to identify the threats facing MPAs in the region so as to be able to target the plans effectively. Next, management plans addressing all human activities and threats, including strict measures, should be developed for all existing MPAs. In addressing fishing activities, these plans should include restrictions where needed, as well as better monitoring, control and surveillance of these activities, including recreational fisheries. The precautionary approach should be applied in all cases where a lack of information occurs.
The sustainable management of fisheries and marine living resources is a societal challenge of global dimensions. No single institution or country can tackle this challenge alone. The European Union’s programme for e-infrastructures and data infrastructures has been the pathway to integrating services and tools in a seamless way increasingly at large scale. As a data infrastructure, iMarine ensures computational resources, specific tools and services are open to many different actors and complementary initiatives. The iMarine Board provides a governance framework, which is important for shaping new directions. The Board plays a dual role: 1) it brings expertise from the fisheries, biodiversity and environmental domains, including requirements to shape the tools and services within iMarine and 2) it helps in defining the business cases.
The challenge now lies in defining an effective sustainability plan for the iMarine data infrastructure in the short term and in identifying future opportunities to shape the infrastructure. iMarine has set itself two goals. One goal focuses on defining baseline sustainability to remain operational when funding ends. The other goal centres on a plan for growth.
This fiscal year 2012 year-end report summarizes activities carried out under DOE Water Power task 2.1.7, Permitting and Planning. Activities under Task 2.1.7 address the concerns of a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in the development of the MHK industry, including regulatory and resource management agencies, tribes, NGOs, and industry. Objectives for 2.1.7 are the following:
- To work with stakeholders to streamline the MHK regulatory permitting process.
- To work with stakeholders to gather information on needs and priorities for environmental assessment of MHK development.
- To communicate research findings and directions to the MHK industry and stakeholders.
- To engage in spatial planning processes in order to further the development of the MHK industry.
These objectives are met through three subtasks, each of which are described in this report:
- 126.96.36.199—Regulatory Assistance
- 188.8.131.52—Stakeholder Outreach
- 184.108.40.206—Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning
As the MHK industry works with the regulatory community and stakeholders to plan, site, permit and license MHK technologies they have an interest in a predictable, efficient, and transparent process. Stakeholders and regulators have an interest in processes that result in sustainable use of ocean space with minimal effects to existing ocean users. Both stakeholders and regulators have an interest in avoiding legal challenges by meeting the intent of federal, state, and local laws that govern siting and operation of MHK technologies. The intention of work under 2.1.7 is to understand these varied interests, explore mechanisms to reduce conflict, identify efficiencies, and ultimately identify pathways to reduce the regulatory costs, time, and potential environmental impacts associated with developing, siting, permitting, and deploying MHK systems.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is actively engaged in the Arctic, providing science, service, and stewardship to this rapidly changing region, its inhabitants, and the Nation. Through its broad range of activities, NOAA is well prepared to make significant contributions, to the extent possible within existing resources, to all three lines of effort in the recently released U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region (May 2013) and its subsequent Implementation Plan (January 2014). As described in its 2011 Arctic Vision and Strategy, NOAA has six strategic goals in the Arctic, each of which directly supports the National Strategy.
Advancing U.S. security interests in the Arctic requires improved maritime domain awareness, for which NOAA’s weather and sea ice forecasts are critically important. NOAA’s sea ice research strengthens forecasts of both ice and weather conditions as well as building a better understanding of the direct links between sea ice and climate. As a result of this research, the complicated linkages among melting sea ice, changing climate, and weather patterns in the Arctic and around the globe are becoming more apparent and allow better planning to cope with Arctic change.
NOAA plays a key role in pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship. Foundational science enables better understanding of Arctic ecosystems, the atmosphere, climate, and their dynamic interconnections. NOAA’s fisheries research and management programs are likewise vital, particularly for the economically important U.S. Bering Sea fisheries. Research and stewardship of marine ecosystems and protected species like marine mammals promote sustainable use, conservation, and protection from potential impacts of offshore development, increased shipping, and environmental degradation. NOAA provides important services to coastal communities by improving safe Arctic maritime access with mapping and charting as well as increasing preparedness and communities’ resilience to intensifying weather. NOAA is also an important partner in hazard response and mitigation (e.g., providing scientific support to the U.S. Coast Guard after oil spills). Research relevant to oil spills, sea ice, and marine ecosystems will help to prepare for and to protect against potential environmental disasters in the Arctic.
All of NOAA’s Arctic activities are united in one aspect: leveraging national and international partnerships and collaborating to support common Arctic goals. NOAA strengthens international cooperation through the Arctic Council, joint research opportunities, and provision of services. NOAA also has many successful Arctic national partnerships, within and outside the Federal Government. Existing partnerships will be strengthened and new ones developed in the coming years as NOAA continues its work to address the Nation’s challenges in the Arctic.
Global fish production has grown steadily in the last five decades (Figure 1), withfood fish supply increasing at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, outpacing world population growth at 1.6 percent. World per capita apparent fish consumption increased from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 19.2 kg in 2012 (preliminary estimate) (Table 1 and Figure 2, all data presented are subject to rounding). This impressive development has been driven by a combination of population growth, rising incomes and urbanization, and facilitated by the strong expansion of fish production and more efficient distribution channels.
China has been responsible for most of the growth in fish availability, owing to the dramatic expansion in its fish production, particularly from aquaculture. Its per capita apparent fish consumption also increased an average annual rate of 6.0 percent in the period 1990–2010 to about 35.1 kg in 2010. Annual per capita fish supply in the rest of the world was about 15.4 kg in 2010 (11.4 kg in the 1960s and 13.5 kg in the 1990s).
Despite the surge in annual per capita apparent fish consumption in developing regions (from 5.2 kg in 1961 to 17.8 kg in 2010) and low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) (from 4.9 to 10.9 kg), developed regions still have higher levels of consumption, although the gap is narrowing. A sizeable and growing share of fish consumed in developed countries consists of imports, owing to steady demand and declining domestic fishery production. In developing countries, fish consumption tends to be based on locally and seasonally available products, with supply driving the fish chain. However, fuelled by rising domestic income and wealth, consumers in emerging economies are experiencing a diversification of the types of fish available owing to an increase in fishery imports.
Table of Contents:
- Canada’s Roadmap to 2020
- Key elements of MPA network planning
- Part 1 – What has Canada achieved compared to other countries?
- A Global Comparison
- New international trend – establishing huge MPAs
- Getting to 10% by 2020 and beyond
- Canada’s International Commitments
- Canada’s Progress
- Part 2 – What can Canada learn from other jurisdictions?
- Jurisdictional contexts
- Political leadership
- Timeline and milestones
- Guidelines for MPA network design
- Open and transparent process
- Dedicated and ongoing funding
- Socio-economic analysis
- Science and decision support tools
- MPA network planning in the context of comprehensive marine planning
- Jurisdictional contexts
- Part 3 – Update on individual MPA sites in Canada – Building blocks towards a network
- Appendix: Data for Charts 32
The Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the most comprehensive and relevant analysis of our changing climate. It provides the scientific fact base that will be used around the world to formulate climate policies in the coming years.
This document is one of a series synthesizing the most pertinent findings of AR5 for specific economic and business sectors. It was born of the belief that the fisheries & aquaculture sector could make more use of AR5, which is long and highly technical, if it were distilled into an accurate, accessible, timely, relevant and readable summary.
Although the information presented here is a ‘translation’ of the key content relevant to this sector from AR5, this summary report adheres to the rigorous scientific basis of the original source material. Grateful thanks are extended to all reviewers from both the science and business communities for their time, effort and invaluable feedback on this document.
The basis for information presented in this overview report can be found in the fully-referenced and peer-reviewed IPCC technical and scientific background reports at: www.ipcc.ch
The first in situ exploration of deep-sea coral habitat in the central Aleutian Islands in 2002 confirmed expectations that had been based on fishery bycatch and research survey records which indicate corals are widespread, diverse, and abundant. This paper reports observations from analysis of video collected during 2003 and 2004 in a study area that expanded the range of earlier observations to depths beyond current fishing activities (~1000 m) and encompassed the entire central Aleutian Island region. Video of the seafloor was collected at 17 sites with a manned submersible to depths of 365 m and a remotely operated vehicle to 2947 m. Corals, sponges, and other emergent epifauna were widely distributed throughout the study area and present at all depths. Changes in density and species richness were observed at depths of 400–700 m, with abundance and diversity increasing as depth decreased. The distribution of individual fishes, crabs, and octopods was examined relative to emergent epifauna: 63% of the fishes, crabs, and octopods were found in the same sampled video frames as were corals, 69% of them were found in the same frames with sponges, and 55% of them were found in the same frames with “other” emergent epifauna. Most species at depths <1000 m were observed near emergent epifauna, and evidence indicates that epifauna may be essential to some taxa. The extensive closures implemented in 2006 as part of the Aleutian Islands Habitat Conservation Area provide important protection to much coral and sponge habitat that may serve as a source of recruits to nearby disturbed habitats, but observations made during this study indicate that the majority of garden habitat in the study area may currently remain open to bottom trawling.
The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management has been commissioned to prepare Sweden's forthcoming marine spatial planning. We have done this by collating knowledge of the waters around us and by examining how other countries work with marine spatial planning.
In this current status description, SwAM has compiled information regarding the utilisation of marine resources, current conditions, and possible future demands. Our ambition is to convey a cross-sectoral perspective as a starting point for the first phase of national marine spatial planning.
The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 makes provision for the designation of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (hereafter MPAs). In response to this Marine Scotland established the Scottish MPA Project to develop the Scottish MPA network. Here we consider relevant habitat modelling methods and available survey data to help inform identification of MPAs for four charismatic megafaunal species: Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris), minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus). Our aims were to:
- review the appropriate habitat modelling techniques for the identification of marine protected areas,
- evaluate the quality, quantity and relevance of both the available dependent and explanatory data in evaluating Scottish MPAs (at different spatio-temporal scales),
- recommend appropriate modelling techniques for each species given the available data, and
- consider methods for delineating MPAs given the potential results.
- Preparing sightings data and explanatory covariate data for habitat modelling will take considerable time, even building upon efforts stemming from the Joint Cetacean Protocol (JCP) project. The cost in time and effort to organise these data should be considered along with benefits that might be derived from additional data.
- The following currently available dependent data should be considered:
- Risso’s dolphin: available data collated to inform the JCP project from Scottish territorial waters possibly augmented with JCP data from the Isle of Man. If only the west coast is of interest for this species then data should be restricted to this spatial extent.
- White-beaked dolphin: available data collated to inform the JCP project from Scottish territorial waters initially. If the influence of sandeel presence is negligible (i.e. sandeel presence is not chosen as a predictor), then Scottish shelf waters (i.e. to 200 m depth) should be considered. Sandeel data are not available for the entire shelf.
- Minke whale: available data collated to inform the JCP project from Scottish territorial waters but omitting winter data.
- Basking shark: available data provided for the JCP project (where basking shark were recorded) from Scottish territorial waters, augmented with the Speedie data, possibly additionally augmented with data from the Isle of Man but omitting winter data.
- In all cases a small buffer zone may be applied to the area from which input data are collated, to avoid edge effects in the predictions.
- Additional data from Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit (CRRU), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and Hebridean Wildlife and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) may prove useful although some work will be required to integrate these data sets into the existing JCP data resource framework.
- GAMs should be used to create predicted relative density surfaces. It is likely that mixed model GAMs or GEE-GAMs will be used to manage the presumed spatial correlation in the data. It is possible for the data-sparse species (i.e. Risso’s dolphin) that a model cannot be fitted, in which case an empirical approach to the identification of regions of relatively higher density could be undertaken.
- Delineation of MPA proposals could be performed by drawing polygons using predicted relative animal densities for individual species. The resulting areas can then be considered by SNH alongside other contextual information (e.g. on behaviour) to inform their advice on areas to be considered for designation as Nature Conservation MPAs.
ISPRA, on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Environment, carried out the initial assessment of environmental quality status of the 3 Italian subregions (Mediterranean Sea Region) on Descriptor 9. The approach adopted to define the GES started to verify that contaminants in fish and other seafood for human consumption did not exceed levels established by Community legislation (Reg. 1881/2006 and further updates). As the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires to use health tools to assess the environment, Italy decided to adopt a statistical range of acceptance of thresholds identified by national (D.Lgs. 152/2006 concerning water quality required for mussel farms) and international legislation (Reg. 1881/2006 and further updates), which allowed to use the health results and to employ them for the assessment of environmental quality. Italy proposed that Good Environmental Status (GES) is achieved when concentrations are lower than statistical range of acceptance, estimated on samples of fish and fishery products coming from only national waters. GIS-based approach a to perform different integration levels for station, cell’s grid and years, was used; the elaborations allowed to judge the environmental quality good.
Occupancy models using incidence data collected repeatedly at sites across the range of a population are increasingly employed to infer patterns and processes influencing population distribution and dynamics. While such work is common in terrestrial systems, fewer examples exist in marine applications. This disparity likely exists because the replicate samples required by these models to account for imperfect detection are often impractical to obtain when surveying aquatic organisms, particularly fishes. We employ simultaneous sampling using fish traps and novel underwater camera observations to generate the requisite replicate samples for occupancy models of red snapper, a reef fish species. Since the replicate samples are collected simultaneously by multiple sampling devices, many typical problems encountered when obtaining replicate observations are avoided. Our results suggest that augmenting traditional fish trap sampling with camera observations not only doubled the probability of detecting red snapper in reef habitats off the Southeast coast of the United States, but supplied the necessary observations to infer factors influencing population distribution and abundance while accounting for imperfect detection. We found that detection probabilities tended to be higher for camera traps than traditional fish traps. Furthermore, camera trap detections were influenced by the current direction and turbidity of the water, indicating that collecting data on these variables is important for future monitoring. These models indicate that the distribution and abundance of this species is more heavily influenced by latitude and depth than by micro-scale reef characteristics lending credence to previous characterizations of red snapper as a reef habitat generalist. This study demonstrates the utility of simultaneous sampling devices, including camera traps, in aquatic environments to inform occupancy models and account for imperfect detection when describing factors influencing fish population distribution and dynamics.
Since the industrial revolution, anthropogenic CO2 emissions have caused ocean acidification, which particularly affects calcified organisms. Given the fan-like calcified fronds of the brown alga Padina pavonica, we evaluated the acute (short-term) effects of a sudden pH drop due to a submarine volcanic eruption (October 2011–early March 2012) affecting offshore waters around El Hierro Island (Canary Islands, Spain). We further studied the chronic (long-term) effects of the continuous decrease in pH in the last decades around the Canarian waters. In both the observational and retrospective studies (using herbarium collections of P. pavonica thalli from the overall Canarian Archipelago), the percent of surface calcium carbonate coverage of P. pavonica thalli were contrasted with oceanographic data collected either in situ (volcanic eruption event) or from the ESTOC marine observatory data series (herbarium study). Results showed that this calcified alga is sensitive to acute and chronic environmental pH changes. In both cases, pH changes predicted surface thallus calcification, including a progressive decalcification over the last three decades. This result concurs with previous studies where calcareous organisms decalcify under more acidic conditions. Hence, Padina pavonica can be implemented as a bio-indicator of ocean acidification (at short and long time scales) for monitoring purposes over wide geographic ranges, as this macroalga is affected and thrives (unlike strict calcifiers) under more acidic conditions.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted Louisiana's coastal estuaries physically, chemically, and biologically. To better understand the ecological consequences of this oil spill on Louisiana estuaries, we compared the abundance and size of two Gulf shrimp species (Farfantepeneus aztecus and Litopeneus setiferus) in heavily affected and relatively unaffected estuaries, before and after the oil spill. Two datasets were used to conduct this study: data on shrimp abundance and size before the spill were available from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Data on shrimp abundance and size from after the spill were independently collected by the authors and by LDWF. Using a Before-After-Control-Impact with Paired sampling (BACIP) design with monthly samples of two selected basins, we found brown shrimp to become more abundant and the mean size of white shrimp to become smaller. Using a BACIP with data on successive shrimp year-classes of multiple basins, we found both species to become more abundant in basins that were affected by the spill, while mean shrimp size either not change after the spill, or increased in both affected and unaffected basins. We conclude that following the oil spill abundances of both species increased within affected estuaries, whereas mean size may have been unaffected. We propose two factors that may have caused these results: 1) exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may have reduced the growth rate of shrimp, resulting in a delayed movement of shrimp to offshore habitats, and an increase of within-estuary shrimp abundance, and 2) fishing closures established immediately after the spill, may have resulted in decreased fishing effort and an increase in shrimp abundance. This study accentuates the complexities in determining ecological effects of oil spills, and the need of studies on the organismal level to reveal cause-and-effect relationships of such events.
Although iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, bioavailable iron limits marine primary production in about one third of the ocean. This lack of iron availability has implications in climate change because the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by phytoplankton requires iron. Using literature values for global fish biomass estimates, and elemental composition data we estimate that fish biota store between 0.7–7×1011 g of iron. Additionally, the global fish population recycles through excretion between 0.4–1.5×1012 g of iron per year, which is of a similar magnitude as major recognized sources of iron (e.g. dust, sediments, ice sheet melting). In terms of biological impact this iron could be superior to dust inputs due to the distributed deposition and to the greater solubility of fecal pellets compared to inorganic minerals. To estimate a loss term due to anthropogenic activity the total commercial catch for 1950 to 2010 was obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Marine catch data were separated by taxa. High and low end values for elemental composition were obtained for each taxonomic category from the literature and used to calculate iron per mass of total harvest over time. The marine commercial catch is estimated to have removed 1–6×109 g of iron in 1950, the lowest values on record. There is an annual increase to 0.7–3×1010 g in 1996, which declines to 0.6–2×1010 g in 2010. While small compared to the total iron terms in the cycle, these could have compounding effects on distribution and concentration patterns globally over time. These storage, recycling, and export terms of biotic iron are not currently included in ocean iron mass balance calculations. These data suggest that fish and anthropogenic activity should be included in global oceanic iron cycles.
Many marine populations exhibit high variability in the recruitment of young into the population. While environmental cycles and oceanography explain some patterns of replenishment, the role of other growth-related processes in influencing settlement and recruitment is less clear. Examination of a 65-mo. time series of recruitment of a common coral reef fish, Stegastes partitus, to the reefs of the upper Florida Keys revealed that during peak recruitment months, settlement stage larvae arriving during dark lunar phases grew faster as larvae and were larger at settlement compared to those settling during the light lunar phases. However, the strength and direction of early trait-mediated selective mortality also varied by settlement lunar phase such that the early life history traits of 2–4 week old recruit survivors that settled across the lunar cycle converged to more similar values. Similarly, within peak settlement periods, early life history traits of settling larvae and selective mortality of recruits varied by the magnitude of the settlement event: larvae settling in larger events had longer PLDs and consequently were larger at settlement than those settling in smaller pulses. Traits also varied by recruitment habitat: recruits surviving in live coral habitat (vs rubble) or areas with higher densities of adult conspecifics were those that were larger at settlement. Reef habitats, especially those with high densities of territorial conspecifics, are more challenging habitats for young fish to occupy and small settlers (due to lower larval growth and/or shorter PLDs) to these habitats have a lower chance of survival than they do in rubble habitats. Settling reef fish are not all equal and the time and location of settlement influences the likelihood that individuals will survive to contribute to the population.
The drastic decline in the abundance of Caribbean acroporid corals (Acropora cervicornis, A. palmata) has prompted the listing of this genus as threatened as well as the development of a regional propagation and restoration program. Using in situ underwater nurseries, we documented the influence of coral genotype and symbiont identity, colony size, and propagation method on the growth and branching patterns of staghorn corals in Florida and the Dominican Republic.
Individual tracking of> 1700 nursery-grown staghorn fragments and colonies from 37 distinct genotypes (identified using microsatellites) in Florida and the Dominican Republic revealed a significant positive relationship between size and growth, but a decreasing rate of productivity with increasing size. Pruning vigor (enhanced growth after fragmentation) was documented even in colonies that lost 95% of their coral tissue/skeleton, indicating that high productivity can be maintained within nurseries by sequentially fragmenting corals. A significant effect of coral genotype was documented for corals grown in a common-garden setting, with fast-growing genotypes growing up to an order of magnitude faster than slow-growing genotypes. Algal-symbiont identity established using qPCR techniques showed that clade A (likely Symbiodinium A3) was the dominant symbiont type for all coral genotypes, except for one coral genotype in the DR and two in Florida that were dominated by clade C, with A- and C-dominated genotypes having similar growth rates.
The threatened Caribbean staghorn coral is capable of extremely fast growth, with annual productivity rates exceeding 5 cm of new coral produced for every cm of existing coral. This species benefits from high fragment survivorship coupled by the pruning vigor experienced by the parent colonies after fragmentation. These life-history characteristics make A. cervicornis a successful candidate nursery species and provide optimism for the potential role that active propagation can play in the recovery of this keystone species.