For conservation science to effectively inform management, research must focus on creating the scientific knowledge required to solve conservation problems. We identified research questions that, if answered, would increase the effectiveness of conservation and natural resource management practice and policy in Oceania's small-island developing states. We asked conservation professionals from academia, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations across the region to propose such questions and then identify which were of high priority in an online survey. We compared the high-priority questions with research questions identified globally and for other regions. Of 270 questions proposed by respondents, 38 were considered high priority, including: What are the highest priority areas for conservation in the face of increasing resource demand and climate change? How should marine protected areas be networked to account for connectivity and climate change? What are the most effective fisheries management policies that contribute to sustainable coral reef fisheries? High-priority questions related to the particular challenges of undertaking conservation on small-island developing states and the need for a research agenda that is responsive to the sociocultural context of Oceania. Research priorities for Oceania relative to elsewhere were broadly similar but differed in specific issues relevant to particular conservation contexts. These differences emphasize the importance of involving local practitioners in the identification of research priorities. Priorities were reasonably well aligned among sectoral groups. Only a few questions were widely considered answered, which may indicate a smaller-than-expected knowledge-action gap. We believe these questions can be used to strengthen research collaborations between scientists and practitioners working to further conservation and natural resource management in this region.
The Arctic Ocean and its surrounding shelf seas are warming much faster than the global average, which potentially opens up new distribution areas for temperate-origin marine phytoplankton. Using over three decades of continuous satellite observations, we show that increased inflow and temperature of Atlantic waters in the Barents Sea resulted in a striking poleward shift in the distribution of blooms of Emiliania huxleyi, a marine calcifying phytoplankton species. This species’ blooms are typically associated with temperate waters and have expanded north to 76°N, five degrees further north of its first bloom occurrence in 1989. E. huxleyi's blooms keep pace with the changing climate of the Barents Sea, namely ocean warming and shifts in the position of the Polar Front, resulting in an exceptionally rapid range shift compared to what is generally detected in the marine realm. We propose that as the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean further atlantifies and ocean temperatures continue to rise, E. huxleyi and other temperate-origin phytoplankton, could well become resident bloom formers in the Arctic Ocean.
Mortality of fish has been reported in tide pools during warm days. That means that tide pools are potential ecological traps for coastal organisms, which happen when environmental changes cause maladaptive habitat selection. Heat-waves are predicted to increase in intensity, duration and frequency, making it relevant to investigate the role of tide pools as traps for coastal organisms. However, heat waves can also lead to acclimatization. If organisms undergo acclimatization prior to being trapped in tide pools, their survival chances may increase. Common tide pool species (46 species in total) were collected at a tropical and a temperate area and their upper thermal limits estimated. They were maintained for 10 days at their mean summer sea surface temperature +3°C, mimicking a heat-wave. Their upper thermal limits were estimated again, after this acclimation period, to calculate each species’ acclimation response. The upper thermal limits of the organisms were compared to the temperatures attained by tide pool waters to investigate if 1) tide pools could be considered ecological traps and 2) if the increase in upper thermal limits elicited by the acclimation period could make the organisms less vulnerable to this threat. Tropical tide pools were found to be ecological traps for an important number of common coastal species, given that they can attain temperatures higher than the upper thermal limits of most of those species. Tide pools are not ecological traps in temperate zones. Tropical species have higher thermal limits than temperate species, but lower acclimation response, that does not allow them to survive the maximum habitat temperature of tropical tide pools. This way, tropical coastal organisms seem to be, not only more vulnerable to climate warming per se, but also to an increase in the ecological trap effect of tide pools.
Global change has been acknowledged as one of the main threats to the biosphere and its provision of ecosystem services, especially in marine ecosystems. Seagrasses play a critical ecological role in coastal ecosystems, but their responses to ocean acidification (OA) and climate change are not well understood. There have been previous studies focused on the effects of OA, but the outcome of interactions with co-factors predicted to alter during climate change still needs to be addressed. For example, the impact of higher CO2 and different hydrodynamic regimes on seagrass performance remains unknown. We studied the effects of OA under different current velocities on productivity of the seagrass Zostera noltei, using changes in dissolved oxygen as a proxy for the seagrass carbon metabolism, and release of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in a four-week experiment using an open-water outdoor mesocosm. Under current pH conditions, increasing current velocity had a positive effect on productivity, but this depended on shoot density. However, this positive effect of current velocity disappeared under OA conditions. OA conditions led to a significant increase in gross production rate and respiration, suggesting that Z. noltei is carbon-limited under the current inorganic carbon concentration of seawater. In addition, an increase in non-structural carbohydrates was found, which may lead to better growing conditions and higher resilience in seagrasses subjected to environmental stress. Regarding DOC flux, a direct and positive relationship was found between current velocity and DOC release, both under current pH and OA conditions. We conclude that OA and high current velocity may lead to favourable growth scenarios for Z. noltei populations, increasing their productivity, non-structural carbohydrate concentrations and DOC release. Our results add new dimensions to predictions on how seagrass ecosystems will respond to climate change, with important implications for the resilience and conservation of these threatened ecosystems.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an authoritative and influential source of reports on climate change. The lead authors of IPCC reports include scientists from around the world, but questions have been raised about the dominance of specific disciplines in the report and the disproportionate number of scholars from the Global North. In this paper, we analyze the as-yet-unexamined issue of gender and IPCC authorship, looking at changes in gender balance over time and analyzing women’s views about their experience and barriers to full participation, not only as women but also at the intersection of nationality, race, command of English, and discipline. Over time, we show that the proportion of female IPCC authors has seen a modest increase from less than 5% in 1990 to more than 20% in the most recent assessment reports. Based on responses from over 100 women IPCC authors, we find that many women report a positive experience in the way in which they are treated and in their ability to influence the report, although others report that some women were poorly represented and heard. We suggest that an intersectional lens is important: not all women experience the same obstacles: they face multiple and diverse barriers associated with social identifiers such as race, nationality, command of English, and disciplinary affiliation. The scientific community benefits from including all scientists, including women and those from the Global South. This paper documents barriers to participation and identifies opportunities to diversify climate science.
To design effective marine reserves and support fisheries, more information on fishing patterns and impacts for targeted species is needed, as well as better understanding of their key habitats. However, fishing impacts vary geographically and are difficult to disentangle from other factors that influence targeted fish distributions. We developed a set of fishing effort and habitat layers at high resolution and employed machine learning techniques to create regional-scale seascape models and predictive maps of biomass and body length of targeted reef fishes for the main Hawaiian Islands. Spatial patterns of fishing effort were shown to be highly variable and seascape models indicated a low threshold beyond which targeted fish assemblages were severely impacted. Topographic complexity, exposure, depth, and wave power were identified as key habitat variables which influenced targeted fish distributions and defined productive habitats for reef fisheries. High targeted reef fish biomass and body length were found in areas not easily accessed by humans, while model predictions when fishing effort was set to zero showed these high values to be more widely dispersed among suitable habitats. By comparing current targeted fish distributions with those predicted when fishing effort was removed, areas with high recovery potential on each island were revealed, with average biomass recovery of 517% and mean body length increases of 59% on Oahu, the most heavily fished island. Spatial protection of these areas would aid recovery of nearshore coral reef fisheries.
Plastic preproduction pellets are found in environmental samples all over the world and their presence is often linked to spills during production and transportation. To better understand how these pellets end up in the environment we assessed the release of plastic pellets from a polyethylene production site in a case study area on the Swedish west coast. The case study encompasses; field measurements to evaluate the level of pollution and pathways, models and drifters to investigate the potential spread and a revision of the legal framework and the company permits. This case study show that millions of pellets are released from the production site annually but also that there are national and international legal frameworks that if implemented could help prevent these spills. Bearing in mind the negative effects observed by plastic pollution there is an urgent need to increase the responsibility and accountability of these spills.
The South Pacific bay scallop Argopecten purpuratus represents a high-value species harvested along the Peruvian and Chilean coastline for more than 60 years. Following the strong El Niño event of 1983/84, both countries experienced a boom in scallop fisheries, but catches dropped as soon as environmental conditions normalized. Aquaculture production began in Chile, which dominated the Latin American scallop market in the 1990s. Peruvian production remained small until the early 2000s, but has increased dramatically ever since, with a single location in northern Peru, Sechura Bay, contributing most (50%) to the Latin American scallop production. We review the historical trends of this species’ production and analyse the ecological and socio-economic factors that have favoured Sechura Bay's progress, and largely displaced Chilean production through dominance of the market. Advantageous environmental conditions in Sechura Bay (e.g. low water depths, higher temperatures, high natural seed supply) result in improved scallop growth and production, and the socio-economic factors, causing lower operational costs than those of the Chilean production favoured this development. The bottom-up initiation of aquaculture operations by small-scale producers likely created a personal incentive for the long-term sustainable use, which differs from the more industrialized aquaculture activities in Chile.
We review the status of marine shellfish ecosystems formed primarily by bivalves in Australia, including: identifying ecosystem-forming species, assessing their historical and current extent, causes for decline and past and present management. Fourteen species of bivalves were identified as developing complex, three-dimensional reef or bed ecosystems in intertidal and subtidal areas across tropical, subtropical and temperate Australia. A dramatic decline in the extent and condition of Australia’s two most common shellfish ecosystems, developed by Saccostrea glomerata and Ostrea angasi oysters, occurred during the mid-1800s to early 1900s in concurrence with extensive harvesting for food and lime production, ecosystem modification, disease outbreaks and a decline in water quality. Out of 118 historical locations containing O. angasi-developed ecosystems, only one location still contains the ecosystem whilst only six locations are known to still contain S. glomerata-developed ecosystems out of 60 historical locations. Ecosystems developed by the introduced oyster Crasostrea gigas are likely to be increasing in extent, whilst data on the remaining 11 ecosystem-forming species are limited, preventing a detailed assessment of their current ecosystem-forming status. Our analysis identifies that current knowledge on extent, physical characteristics, biodiversity and ecosystem services of Australian shellfish ecosystems is extremely limited. Despite the limited information on shellfish ecosystems, a number of restoration projects have recently been initiated across Australia and we propose a number of existing government policies and conservation mechanisms, if enacted, would readily serve to support the future conservation and recovery of Australia’s shellfish ecosystems.
The siting of protected areas to achieve management and conservation objectives draws heavily on biogeographic concepts of the spatial distribution and connectivity of species. However, the marine protected area (MPA) literature rarely acknowledges how biogeographic theories underpin MPA and MPA network design. We review which theories from biogeography have been incorporated into marine spatial planning and which relevant concepts have yet to be translated to inform the next generation of design principles. This biogeographic perspective will only become more relevant as climate change amplifies these spatial and temporal dynamics, and as species begin to shift in and out of existing MPAs. The scale of climate velocities predicted for the 21st century dwarfs all but the largest MPAs currently in place, raising the possibility that in coming decades many MPAs will no longer contain the species or assemblages they were established to protect. We present a number of design elements that could improve the success of MPAs and MPA networks in light of biogeographic processes and climate change. Biogeographically informed MPA networks of the future may resemble the habitat corridors currently being considered for many terrestrial regions.
Offshore wind farms (OWF) form an important part of many countries strategy for responding to the threat of climate change, their development can conflict with other offshore activities. Static gear fisheries targeting sedentary benthic species are particularly affected by spatial management that involves exclusion of fishers. Here we investigate the ecological effect of a short-term closure of a European lobster (Homarus gammarus (L.)) fishing ground, facilitated by the development of the Westermost Rough OWF located on the north-east coast of the United Kingdom. We also investigate the effects on the population when the site is reopened on completion of the construction. We find that temporary closure offers some respite for adult animals and leads to increases in abundance and size of the target species in that area. Reopening of the site to fishing exploitation saw a decrease in catch rates and size structure, this did not reach levels below that of the surrounding area. Opening the site to exploitation allows the fishery to recuperate some of the economic loss during the closure. We suggest that our results may indicate that temporary closures of selected areas may be beneficial and offer a management option for lobster fisheries.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is defined as an integrated and comprehensive approach to ocean governance. Planning has the potential to ensure ecosystem and biodiversity conservation and establish rational use of marine space, combining activities relating to extraction industries, maritime transport, fisheries and related services and infrastructure. This article looks at what part transnational and national marine spatial planning can play in the Arctic. There is no international convention on marine spatial planning, and there are no requirements under international law that marine plans, as such, should be prescribed by law. MSP-regulation in different jurisdictions is diversified. It is difficult to claim that the international rights and obligations of a state under UNCLOS, CBD or regional instruments such as OSPAR, need to be fulfilled through the instrument of marine spatial planning. The comprehensive EU approach to marine planning is thus of particular interest. The EU members Denmark, Finland and Sweden do not have coastlines bordering the Arctic. EU has no direct influence over the regulation of marine spatial planning in Arctic marine areas through its relationship to Greenland or Norway, states with a close connection to the EU. The status of marine spatial planning in the European Arctic is thus dependent on the policies of Norway, Greenland and Russia. It is an open question whether spatial planning will be used for preventive and precautionary purposes in the Arctic, before the area is overwhelmed by marine activities and spatial conflicts.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) can serve as effective tools for the management and conservation of exploited marine species. The Gilbert Bay MPA in coastal Labrador was created to protect a genetically distinct population of Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua); however, decreases in abundance continue to occur potentially due to exploitation outside the MPA. We developed a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) panel to identify Gilbert Bay cod in areas outside MPA boundaries where mixing with offshore cod occurs. In total, 361 individuals from Gilbert Bay, surrounding areas, and offshore were genotyped for 10,913 SNPs. Using FST rankings and guided regularized random forest, we selected 23 SNPs that together generate 100% accuracy in individual assignment and accurately estimate the proportion of Gilbert Bay cod in fishery samples from sites outside MPA boundaries: on average, fishery samples included 17.3% Gilbert Bay cod. Estimates of effective population size for the Gilbert Bay population ranged from 655 to 1,114. Our findings demonstrate the power of using genomic approaches for management of an exploited marine species and enhancing the design of MPAs.
In remote and data-limited situations such as encountered in Arctic regions, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is an important and valuable information source. TEK from local fishers (fishers knowledge, FK) is highly relevant to fisheries management. The integration of FK in fisheries assessments remains complicated by the lack of tools to combine scientific and FK observations. This study implements a productivity-susceptibility analysis (PSA) for assessing the risk from fishing to fish stocks and incorporate FK in the assessment process. The PSA method consists of scoring productivity attributes of fish populations and susceptibility attributes affecting fisheries exposure and intensity. The method can be adapted to incorporate FK on two levels: (1) in the validation of biological data (indirect inclusion); and (2) in the definition and scoring of independent FK attributes (direct inclusion). Risk scores measured along the productivity-susceptibility gradient serve to identify areas and populations most vulnerable to fishing activities and formulate science advice for prioritisation and management. We apply the method to small-scale fisheries for Arctic char Salvelinus alpinus in Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island, Nunavut. These fisheries are key to food security and economic growth in Canada's Arctic territories, yet management remains complicated by data paucity; by the widespread distribution and biological complexity of Arctic char stocks; and by growing uncertainties related to climate change impacts on Arctic fish and ecosystems. This paper demonstrates the usefulness of the method for combining science and FK information to improve management advice for Arctic char stocks, and applicability to other small-scale, data-limited fisheries.
Coastal urbanization has led to large-scale transformation of estuaries, with artificial structures now commonplace. Boat moorings are known to reduce seagrass cover, but little is known about their effect on fish communities. We used underwater video to quantify abundance, diversity, composition and feeding behaviour of fish assemblages on two scales: with increasing distance from moorings on fine scales, and among locations where moorings were present or absent. Fish were less abundant in close proximity to boat moorings, and the species composition varied on fine scales, leading to lower predation pressure near moorings. There was no relationship at the location with seagrass. On larger scales, we detected no differences in abundance or community composition among locations where moorings were present or absent. These findings show a clear impact of moorings on fish and highlight the importance of fine-scale assessments over location-scale comparisons in the detection of the effects of artificial structures.
Sea-level rise and climatic change threaten the existence of atoll nations. Inundation and erosion are expected to render islands uninhabitable over the next century, forcing human migration. Here we present analysis of shoreline change in all 101 islands in the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu. Using remotely sensed data, change is analysed over the past four decades, a period when local sea level has risen at twice the global average (~3.90 ± 0.4 mm.yr−1). Results highlight a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5 ha (2.9%), despite sea-level rise, and land area increase in eight of nine atolls. Island change has lacked uniformity with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. Results challenge perceptions of island loss, showing islands are dynamic features that will persist as sites for habitation over the next century, presenting alternate opportunities for adaptation that embrace the heterogeneity of island types and their dynamics.
Microplastic pollution can impact filter-feeding marine megafauna, namely mobulid rays, filter-feeding sharks, and baleen whales. Emerging research on these flagship species highlights potential exposure to microplastic contamination and plastic-associated toxins. Research and its wide communication are needed to understand the magnitude of the issue and improve marine stewardship.
This study sought to develop a simple index for ranking birds' environmental sensitivity to oil in which birds are used as biological indicators. The study area consisted of both the Santos Estuarine System (SES), and the Laje de Santos Marine State Park (LSMSP), located in Southeastern Brazil. Information on the bird species and their feeding and nesting behaviors were obtained from the literature and were the basis of the sensitivity index created. The SES had a higher number of species, but only about 30% were found to be highly sensitive. The LSMSP presented a much lower number of species, but all of them were considered to be highly sensitive to oil. Due to its simplicity, this index can be employed worldwide as a decision-making tool that may be integrated into other management tools, particularly when robust information on the biology of birds is lacking.
Marine litter, in particular plastic debris, poses a serious threat to marine life, human health and the economy. In order to reduce its impact, marine litter collections such as beach clean-ups are frequently conducted. This paper presents a systematic review of temporal developments, geographical distribution, quantities and waste treatment pathways of collected marine litter. Results from over 130 studies and projects highlight the worldwide increase in collection efforts. Many of these are in wealthy countries that do not primarily contribute to the problem. Over 250 thousand tonnes, have already been removed, but there is little or no information available regarding how this waste is treated or used post collection. This paper highlights the need for a whole-system quantitative assessment for the collection and waste treatment of marine litter, and identifies the challenges associated with utilising this waste in the future.
Sea shipping routes have become very crowded and this, coupled with an always increasing demand of oil based products, contributes to the increase in maritime traffic density, as a consequence pollution risks have increased. Therefore, it is important to have information systems capable of detecting and monitoring environmental endangering situations like oil spills at sea. In this paper, a Marine Information System, acting as an integrated and inter-operable monitoring tool is proposed and discussed. The discussion focuses on a system that is able to integrate different data acquired from various electronic sensors, and that is inter-operable among marine operators and ship traffic authorities. The available data on the system are all geo-referenced, and flows seamlessly through the system, where they are integrated in a consistent and usable manner. An important result of this integration is the capability to produce a collection of proactive services such as Decision Support ones, which can be used to improve the functionalities and facilities concerned in an intervention operation. Through the implementation of these services, we aim to demonstrate how an efficient environmental management system could benefit from being supported by a Marine Information System that can provide the dynamic links between different data, models and actors.