Marine spatial planning (MSP) is becoming increasingly used in the sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems. However, limitations on time and resources often restrict the data available for MSP and limit public engagement and participation in the MSP process. While citizen science is being increasingly used to provide fine-scale environmental data across large terrestrial planning areas, there has been little uptake in MSP to date. This paper demonstrates how consistent citizen observations can be used to identify hotspots of good and poor environmental health across a MSP region, and where environmental health has improved or degraded in the past five years; information that is difficult to obtain by other means. The study demonstrates how citizen science provides valuable insight into environmental health across a MSP region, while fostering a supportive space for the public to contribute their own observations and participate in the planning process.
Table of Contents:
White: Communicating Science in the Coral Triangle
Piazza: Freshwater Network
Ulfelder: When to Say No
Smith: Data and Models
Tallis: Applied Science
Drinking from the Fire Hose:
Announcement: SNAP Proposals
New Conservancy-Authored Publications
Anthropogenic climate change is predicted to decrease oceanic oxygen (O2) concentrations, with potentially significant effects on marine ecosystems. Geologically recent episodes of abrupt climatic warming provide opportunities to assess the effects of changing oxygenation on marine communities. Thus far, this knowledge has been largely restricted to investigations using Foraminifera, with little being known about ecosystem-scale responses to abrupt, climate-forced deoxygenation. We here present high-resolution records based on the first comprehensive quantitative analysis, to our knowledge, of changes in marine metazoans (Mollusca, Echinodermata, Arthropoda, and Annelida; >5,400 fossils and trace fossils) in response to the global warming associated with the last glacial to interglacial episode. The molluscan archive is dominated by extremophile taxa, including those containing endosymbiotic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (Lucinoma aequizonatum) and those that graze on filamentous sulfur-oxidizing benthic bacterial mats (Alia permodesta). This record, from 16,100 to 3,400 y ago, demonstrates that seafloor invertebrate communities are subject to major turnover in response to relatively minor inferred changes in oxygenation (>1.5 to <0.5 mL⋅L−1 [O2]) associated with abrupt (<100 y) warming of the eastern Pacific. The biotic turnover and recovery events within the record expand known rates of marine biological recovery by an order of magnitude, from <100 to >1,000 y, and illustrate the crucial role of climate and oceanographic change in driving long-term successional changes in ocean ecosystems.
Most current cost−benefit analyses of climate change policies suggest an optimal global climate policy that is significantly less stringent than the level required to meet the internationally agreed 2 °C target. This is partly because the sum of estimated economic damage of climate change across various sectors, such as energy use and changes in agricultural production, results in only a small economic loss or even a small economic gain in the gross world product under predicted levels of climate change. However, those cost−benefit analyses rarely take account of environmental tipping points leading to abrupt and irreversible impacts on market and nonmarket goods and services, including those provided by the climate and by ecosystems. Here we show that including environmental tipping point impacts in a stochastic dynamic integrated assessment model profoundly alters cost−benefit assessment of global climate policy. The risk of a tipping point, even if it only has nonmarket impacts, could substantially increase the present optimal carbon tax. For example, a risk of only 5% loss in nonmarket goods that occurs with a 5% annual probability at 4 °C increase of the global surface temperature causes an immediate two-thirds increase in optimal carbon tax. If the tipping point also has a 5% impact on market goods, the optimal carbon tax increases by more than a factor of 3. Hence existing cost−benefit assessments of global climate policy may be significantly underestimating the needs for controlling climate change.
Citizen science – public participation of non-scientists in scientific research – has become an important tool for monitoring and evaluating local and global environmental change. Citizen science projects have been shown to enable large-scale data collection, increase scientific literacy, and monitor environmental quality. However, few studies have examined the individual-level motivations and impacts of citizen science participation. We employ an exploratory multi-method approach (on-line surveys, a focus-group session, informal interviews, and descriptive statements) to evaluate the experiences of citizen scientists volunteering with two conservation organizations based in Bangalore, India. Our findings suggest that citizen science may contribute to increased environmental awareness among the general public. In particular, we identify a three-step process whereby highly motivated individuals, or environmental opinion leaders, seek out citizen science opportunities due to an interest in one or more environmental issues; gain expertise through citizen science participation; and diffuse acquired skills and knowledge to peers through social networks, education of other non-scientist Indian citizens, and/or changes in career or education trajectories. As a result, citizen scientists in India promote environmental principles through an active environmental advocacy network.
Understanding social-ecological system dynamics is a major research priority for sustainable management of landscapes, ecosystems and resources. But the lack of multi-decadal records represents an important gap in information that hinders the development of the research agenda. Without improved information on the long-term and complex interactions between causal factors and responses, it will be difficult to answer key questions about trends, rates of change, tipping points, safe operating spaces and pre-impact conditions. Where available long-term monitored records are too short or lacking, palaeoenvironmental sciences may provide continuous multi-decadal records for an array of ecosystem states, processes and services. Combining these records with conventional sources of historical information from instrumental monitoring records, official statistics and enumerations, remote sensing, archival documents, cartography and archaeology produces an evolutionary framework for reconstructing integrated regional histories. We demonstrate the integrated approach with published case studies from Australia, China, Europe and North America.
Projections of climate change impacts on coral reefs produced at the coarse resolution (~1°) of Global Climate Models (GCMs) have informed debate but have not helped target local management actions. Here, projections of the onset of annual coral bleaching conditions in the Caribbean under Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 are produced using an ensemble of 33 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase-5 models and via dynamical and statistical downscaling. A high-resolution (~11 km) regional ocean model (MOM4.1) is used for the dynamical downscaling. For statistical downscaling, sea surface temperature (SST) means and annual cycles in all the GCMs are replaced with observed data from the ~4-km NOAA Pathfinder SST dataset. Spatial patterns in all three projections are broadly similar; the average year for the onset of annual severe bleaching is 2040–2043 for all projections. However, downscaled projections show many locations where the onset of annual severe bleaching (ASB) varies 10 or more years within a single GCM grid cell. Managers in locations where this applies (e.g., Florida, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, among others) can identify locations that represent relative albeit temporary refugia. Both downscaled projections are different for the Bahamas compared to the GCM projections. The dynamically downscaled projections suggest an earlier onset of ASB linked to projected changes in regional currents, a feature not resolved in GCMs. This result demonstrates the value of dynamical downscaling for this application and means statistically downscaled projections have to be interpreted with caution. However, aside from west of Andros Island, the projections for the two types of downscaling are mostly aligned; projected onset of ASB is within ±10 years for 72% of the reef locations.
A changing climate is not only a phenomenon addressing the natural world. Social aspects are also a cause of and are affected by climate change, for which reason social dynamics must be considered in climate change adaptation. Being key factors in creating and solving the challenges of climate change, end users, decision makers and local residents need to be addressed and appreciated by those seeking acceptance for adaptation measures and taking action.
In their book "Social Dimensions of Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Regions", Grit Martinez (Ecologic Institute), Peter Fröhle and Hans-Joachim Meier address such often overlooked but key societal aspects which influence stakeholders to or not to engage in adapting to a changing climate. Hence the sociocultural and environmental dimensions of adaptation to climate change in coastal regions and beyond take centre stage in this edited volume which authors come from a wide range of disciplines embracing humanities, social and natural sciences, engineering and practitioners working in coastal regions. Bound by the German Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) five year initiative KLIMZUG (“Regions adapt to climate change”), the contributions are unanimous that humans in their capacity as end-users, decision makers and local residents are key factors in creating and solving the challenges of climate change and hence are the ones who need to be addressed and appreciated when seeking acceptance and taking action.
Since President Obama created America’s first National Ocean Policy in 2010, Federal agencies have made tremendous progress to meet its objectives – working every day with communities across the Nation and stakeholders on the ground to improve the health of our oceans, support our economy, bolster safety and security, and better understand how our activities impact the ocean.
Today, we are releasing the first Report on the Implementation of the National Ocean Policy, which highlights the progress we’ve made since we released an action plan last year. From supporting the ocean economy to ensuring the security of our ports and waterways, and from improving coastal and ocean resilience to providing local communities with tools to plan for a better future, we’ve made tremendous strides in undertaking our role as responsible stewards of this Nation’s great oceans.
Among the activities described are a host of steps to promote sustainable energy development and aquaculture practices—including ensuring that permitting processes for these activities are efficient and streamlined as possible; advancing research and monitoring activities to help protect people and communities from harmful algal blooms; developing data-driven tools to map the extent of sea-ice and to assist emergency responders and environmental resources managers in dealing with incidents in the Arctic region that may harm the environment; and issuing step-by-step guidance to help coastal communities asses vulnerabilities and develop plans to cope with the impacts of climate change, extreme weather, and ocean acidification.
Our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes provide us with rich cultural, recreational, and commercial opportunities. Collectively, these treasured waters support tens of millions of jobs and contribute trillions of dollars a year to the national economy. The actions underway across Federal agencies and in collaboration with states, regions, and communities will ensure that our oceans resources remain safe and healthy, and that our ocean economy continues to thrive for the benefit of all Americans.
This study presents a comprehensive and generic framework that provides a typology for the identification and selection of consistently defined ecosystem-based management measures and allows a coherent evaluation of these measures based on their performance to achieve policy objectives. The performance is expressed in terms of their reduction of risk of an adverse impact on the marine ecosystem. This typology consists of two interlinked aspects of a measure, i.e. the “Focus” and the “Type”. The “Focus” is determined by the part of the impact chain (Driver–Pressure–State) the measure is supposed to mitigate or counteract. The “Type” represents the physical measure itself in terms of how it affects the impact chain directly; we distinguish Spatio-temporal distribution controls, Input and Output controls, Remediation and Restoration measures. The performance of these measures in terms of their reduction in risk of adverse impacts was assessed based on an explicit consideration of three time horizons: past, present and future. Application of the framework in an integrated management strategy evaluation of a suite of measures, shows that depending on the time horizon, different measures perform best. “Past” points to measures targeting persistent pressures (e.g. marine litter) from past activities. “Present” favors measures targeting a driver (e.g. fisheries) that has a high likelihood of causing adverse impacts. “Future” involves impacts that both have a high likelihood of an adverse impact, as well as a long time to return to pre-impacted condition after the implementation of appropriate management, e.g. those caused by permanent infrastructure or persistent pressures such as marine litter or specific types of pollution.
The 2012 National Research Council report Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative highlighted the challenges of increasing national resilience in the United States. One finding of the report was that "without numerical means of assessing resilience, it would be impossible to identify the priority needs for improvement, to monitor changes, to show that resilience had improved, or to compare the benefits of increasing resilience with the associated costs." Although measuring resilience is a challenge, metrics and indicators to evaluate progress, and the data necessary to establish the metric, are critical for helping communities to clarify and formalize what the concept of resilience means for them, and to support efforts to develop and prioritize resilience investments. One of the recommendations from the 2012 report stated that government entities at federal, state, and local levels and professional organizations should partner to help develop a framework for communities to adapt to their circumstances and begin to track their progress toward increasing resilience.
To build upon this recommendation and begin to help communities formulate such a framework, the Resilient America Roundtable of the National Academies convened the workshop Measures of Community Resilience: From Lessons Learned to Lessons Applied on September 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The workshop's overarching objective was to begin to develop a framework of measures and indicators that could support community efforts to increase their resilience. The framework will be further developed through feedback and testing in pilot and other partner communities that are working with the Resilient America Roundtable. This report is a summary of the one-day workshop, which consisted of a keynote address and two panel sessions in the morning and afternoon breakout sessions that began the discussion on how to develop a framework of resilience measures.
International and regional policies aimed at managing ocean ecosystem health need quantitative and comprehensive indices to synthesize information from a variety of sources, consistently measure progress, and communicate with key constituencies and the public. Here we present the second annual global assessment of the Ocean Health Index, reporting current scores and annual changes since 2012, recalculated using updated methods and data based on the best available science, for 221 coastal countries and territories. The Index measures performance of ten societal goals for healthy oceans on a quantitative scale of increasing health from 0 to 100, and combines these scores into a single Index score, for each country and globally. The global Index score improved one point (from 67 to 68), while many country-level Index and goal scores had larger changes. Per-country Index scores ranged from 41–95 and, on average, improved by 0.06 points (range -8 to +12). Globally, average scores increased for individual goals by as much as 6.5 points (coastal economies) and decreased by as much as 1.2 points (natural products). Annual updates of the Index, even when not all input data have been updated, provide valuable information to scientists, policy makers, and resource managers because patterns and trends can emerge from the data that have been updated. Changes of even a few points indicate potential successes (when scores increase) that merit recognition, or concerns (when scores decrease) that may require mitigative action, with changes of more than 10–20 points representing large shifts that deserve greater attention. Goal scores showed remarkably little covariance across regions, indicating low redundancy in the Index, such that each goal delivers information about a different facet of ocean health. Together these scores provide a snapshot of global ocean health and suggest where countries have made progress and where a need for further improvement exists.
The integration of ecological and evolutionary data is highly valuable for conservation planning. However, it has been rarely used in the marine realm, where the adequate design of marine protected areas (MPAs) is urgently needed. Here, we examined the interacting processes underlying the patterns of genetic structure and demographic strucuture of a highly vulnerable Mediterranean habitat-forming species (i.e. Paramuricea clavata (Risso, 1826)), with particular emphasis on the processes of contemporary dispersal, genetic drift, and colonization of a new population. Isolation by distance and genetic discontinuities were found, and three genetic clusters were detected; each submitted to variations in the relative impact of drift and gene flow. No founder effect was found in the new population. The interplay of ecology and evolution revealed that drift is strongly impacting the smallest, most isolated populations, where partial mortality of individuals was highest. Moreover, the eco-evolutionary analyses entailed important conservation implications for P. clavata. Our study supports the inclusion of habitat-forming organisms in the design of MPAs and highlights the need to account for genetic drift in the development of MPAs. Moreover, it reinforces the importance of integrating genetic and demographic data in marine conservation.
The frequently observed positive relationship between fish population abundance and spatial distribution suggests that changes in distribution can be indicative of trends in abundance. If contractions in spatial distribution precede declines in spawning stock biomass (SSB), spatial distribution reference points could complement the SSB reference points that are commonly used in marine conservation biology and fisheries management. When relevant spatial distribution information is integrated into fisheries management and recovery plans, risks and uncertainties associated with a plan based solely on the SSB criterion would be reduced. To assess the added value of spatial distribution data, we examine the relationship between SSB and four metrics of spatial distribution intended to reflect changes in population range, concentration, and density for 10 demersal populations (9 species) inhabiting the Scotian Shelf, Northwest Atlantic. Our primary purpose is to assess their potential to serve as indices of SSB, using fisheries independent survey data. We find that metrics of density offer the best correlate of spawner biomass. A decline in the frequency of encountering high density areas is associated with, and in a few cases preceded by, rapid declines in SSB in 6 of 10 populations. Density-based indices have considerable potential to serve both as an indicator of SSB and as spatially based reference points in fisheries management.
South American coastal habitats include a wide range of benthic ecosystems, many of which are unique and constitute hotspots of biodiversity. Marine protected areas (MPAs), instituted mostly during the second half of the twentieth Century, are considered a key management tool to conserve regional biodiversity, prevent overexploitation, and generate economic benefits. Educational actions to promote changes in basic values, principles, and attitudes – although considered also as a main objective – frequently have a poor conceptual basis. In conjunction with the evaluation of their effectiveness by long-term, site-based ecological and socio-economic research, in Brazil MPAs are aiming to implement a holistic approach. This will allow the development and testing of environmental practices that integrate ecology, economy, ethics, and conflict resolution in the different uses of marine space. However, ecological long-term studies, socio-economic long-term evaluation, and the integration of education and ethics are still incipient. With the recent creation of some independent networks in different South American countries related to the assessment of biological communities, marine biologists of this continent are now focusing more on: (1) sharing methodologies and data to allow comparative and integrated continental analyses, and (2) integrating social components, including not only economic but also ethical values and participatory approaches. Toward this aim, the Chilean Long Term Socio- Ecological Research network (LTSER-Chile) has developed a Field Environmental Philosophy program that could be adapted to MPAs educational programs, and also contribute to the integration of ecology and ethics in theory and praxis for an Earth Stewardship initiative.
The temperate waters of the North-Eastern Atlantic have a long history of maritime resource richness and, as a result, the European Union is endeavouring to maintain regional productivity and biodiversity. At the intersection of these aims lies potential conflict, signalling the need for integrated, cross-border management approaches. This paper focuses on the marine megafauna of the region. This guild of consumers was formerly abundant, but is now depleted and protected under various national and international legislative structures. We present a meta-analysis of available megafauna datasets using presence-only distribution models to characterise suitable habitat and identify spatially-important regions within the English Channel and southern bight of the North Sea. The integration of studies from dedicated and opportunistic observer programmes in the United Kingdom and France provide a valuable perspective on the spatial and seasonal distribution of various taxonomic groups, including large pelagic fishes and sharks, marine mammals, seabirds and marine turtles. The Western English Channel emerged as a hotspot of biodiversity for megafauna, while species richness was low in the Eastern English Channel. Spatial conservation planning is complicated by the highly mobile nature of marine megafauna, however they are important components of the marine environment and understanding their distribution is a first crucial step toward their inclusion into marine ecosystem management.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being considered and used for the management of fisheries targeting mobile fish populations. Here, the recent modelling literature on MPA effects for mobile fish populations and their fisheries is reviewed. Modelling studies conducted since 2011 have filled a considerable number of knowledge gaps on the impacts of MPAs for species exhibiting home-range behaviour, nomadic movements or behavioural polymorphism, and on the effects of “targeted MPAs”, which aim to protect relatively small areas where migratory fishes spend an inordinate fraction of time or are highly vulnerable to fishing (e.g., nursery or spawning zones). Also, in recent years, two studies investigated the consequences of MPAs targeting highly migratory (tuna-like) fish populations for the first time in the history of MPA modelling. Recent modelling studies found that MPAs aimed at protecting mobile species may have positive conservation effects under a relatively wide range of situations, but may generate long-term fisheries benefits only under a very limited set of conditions. In particular, MPAs were not found to be beneficial for the fisheries targeting highly migratory populations. Strategies producing both conservation and fisheries benefits were identified, which depend on fish movement patterns and numerous aspects of fish life history and fisheries dynamics. However, in view of the diversity of fish movement patterns in MPA systems and current dynamics in resource management, it is clear that additional modelling work is needed to fully understand how protected areas affect mobile fish populations and their fisheries and to be able to implement pertinent MPAs. In particular, future modelling studies should systematically assess the effects of MPAs in relation to other management tools to find strategies that are most effective in meeting management objectives, and explore the impacts of “dynamic” MPAs that follow highly migratory fish populations in space and time.
The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs), particularly of no-take areas, is often viewed as a conflict between conservation and fishing. Partially protected areas (PPAs) that restrict some extractive uses are often regarded as a balance between biodiversity conservation and socio-economic viability. Few attempts have been made to generalize the ecological effects of PPAs. We synthesized the results of empirical studies that compared PPAs to (i) no-take reserves (NTRs) and (ii) to open access (Open) areas, to assess the potential benefits of different levels of protection for fish populations. Response to protection was examined in relation to MPA parameters and the exploitation status of fish. Our syntheses suggest that while PPAs significantly enhance density and biomass of fish relative to Open areas, NTRs yielded significantly higher biomass of fish within their boundaries relative to PPAs. The positive response to protection was primarily driven by target species. There was a large degree of variability in the magnitude of response to protection, although the size of the PPA explained some of this variability. The protection regime within the PPA provided useful insights into the effectiveness of partial MPAs. We conclude that MPAs with partial protection confer advantages, such as enhanced density and biomass of fish, compared to areas with no restrictions, although the strongest responses occurred for areas with total exclusion. Thus, MPAs with a combination of protection levels are a valuable spatial management tool particularly in areas where exclusion of all activities is not a socio-economically and politically viable option.
Environmental Education for Sustainable Societies and Global Responsibility (EESS) is aimed at transforming society and its negative impacts on the environment by way of financial and political emancipation, whence ecotourism becomes one of the best options towards environmental sustainability. This study aimed at evaluating social actors' conceptions on Environmental Education and ecotourism, in order to base the development of future marine-ecotourism activities in the Marine Environmental Protection Area of Armação de Búzios (MEPAAB). Sampling involved 73 respondents interested in the implementation of marine ecotourism in the area. Their concepts, as regards ecotourism and EESS, were analyzed according to individual profiles. The sample was mainly composed of Argentine and Brazilian tourists from the cities of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, when visiting MEPAAB. Since most of the concepts were limited to environmental conservation and public awareness, these were considered entirely or not entirely adequate. The results could not be significantly associated with the age of respondents or any other factor (Kruskal-Wallis, p>0.05). The concept of ecotourism was the better known. Even so, significant differences were observed only among the different classes by income. There were clear indications of the urgent application of EESS in the coastal environment, as a plausible management tool for the littoral municipalities of Rio de Janeiro State.
Many pelagic species (species that live in the water column), including herring and krill, aggregate to form schools, shoals, or swarms (hereafter simply “schools,” although the words are not synonyms). Schools provide benefits to individual members, including locomotory economy  and protection from predators that prey on individuals , but paradoxically make schooling species energetically viable and commercially attractive targets for predators of groups  and for fishers. Large schools are easier to find and yield greater prey/catch than small schools, and there is a requirement from fields as diverse as theoretical ecology and fisheries management to understand whether and how aggregation sizes change with changing population size. We collated data from vertical echosounder surveys of taxonomically diverse pelagic stocks from geographically diverse ecosystems [4, 5 and 6]. The data contain common significant positive linear stock-biomass to school-number relationships. They show that the numbers of schools in the stocks change with changing stock biomass and suggest that the distributions of school sizes do not change with stock biomass. New data that we collected using a multibeam sonar , which can image entire schools, contained the same stock-biomass to school-number relationship and confirm that the distribution of school sizes is not related to changing stock size: put simply, as stocks decline, individuals are distributed among fewer schools, not smaller schools. Since school characteristics affect catchability (the ease or difficulty with which fishers can capture target species)  and availability of prey to predators , our findings have commercial and ecological implications, particularly within the aspirational framework of ecosystem-based management of marine systems [9 and 10].