- Regional approaches to protecting the marine environment have gathered momentum over the past 40 years. Pioneered by UNEP's Regional Seas Programme, such approaches have broadened their remit from pollution prevention to the conservation of biodiversity, promoting management tools such as networks of marine protected areas (MPAs).
- Formal intergovernmental approaches are increasingly complemented by a range of regional projects committed to ambitious targets to establish MPAs and Local Marine Managed Areas (LMMAs). These regional efforts have been inspired by political leaders, non-governmental organizations, coastal communities and committed individuals.
- Regional networks of MPA managers have drawn together professionals to share good practice and further develop management tools. They focus on partnerships and capacity building opportunities with support from international donors and implementing agencies.
- Collective ecosystem-based management delivered using a regional approach is identified as a preferred solution to environmental challenges in polar regions. Crossing boundaries and fostering regional synergies can help ensure ecologically coherent regional networks and support resilience. There is also the potential to reap tangible rewards from applying such a regional approach in many other areas.
- Regional coherence of MPA network design, compliance and enforcement policies, and information sharing is an optimal way to understand and counter commercial and industrial resource extraction forces actively working against sustainable development.
- The World Heritage Convention provides the potential for a comprehensive policy framework that allows for identification, management, governance, and protection of the world ́s most outstanding natural marine areas.
- Benefits of World Heritage (WH) listing include increased international attention and technical cooperation, governmental support and improvements to management, and enhanced funding opportunities.
- There are currently only 46 (of 981 or 4.7%) World Heritage Sites (WHS) that have been inscribed for their outstanding marine values, and these marine WHS (mWHS) represent predominantly tropical as opposed to temperate and polar ecosystems.
- Forty-seven (76%) of the world's 62 nearshore biogeographic provinces do not contain any mWHS or contain a low (<1%) coverage that is unlikely to capture the full range of values and features present in these provinces. A large proportion of the world's offshore provinces, representing 40% of the global ocean, do not contain any mWHS.
- To fulfill the World Heritage Committee's Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List, States are encouraged to increase efforts to identify and nominate marine sites of potential Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), especially in biogeographic regions that are not yet represented, or underrepresented, on the WH List.
- However, as the criteria and guidance for the Convention are based primarily on terrestrial systems, further guidance on using them in the marine context is provided here. It is proposed that physical oceanographic features be considered under criterion (viii) ‘geology and oceanography’, while biological oceanographic features be considered under criterion (ix) ‘ecological and biological processes’. Use of criteria (vii) ‘superlative phenomena’ and (x) ‘species’ can follow current guidance for terrestrial systems.
- Potential approaches that can help address gaps in biogeographic representation of marine WHS and create a more balanced and representative marine World Heritage List are outlined here.
- Creating representative networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) as part of an ecosystem-based management approach is generally advocated to protect the full spectrum of marine ecosystems and vulnerable species. Core objectives for designing MPA networks incorporate issues of scale, size and spacing. Ascertaining when such objectives have been met, and thus when a network can be judged to be ecologically coherent, presents an ongoing challenge. This paper presents a broad-scale approach to assess the degree of ecological coherence within one such network.
- In 2013 an independent ecological coherence assessment was requested by OSPAR, the Regional Seas Convention for the North-east Atlantic, of the ecological coherence of its regional MPA network. As is often the case in the marine environment, the data were not sufficiently comprehensive or spatially inclusive to allow for a thorough assessment for the entire region. Consequently two levels of testing were applied: (1) basic tests applied to the whole OSPAR maritime area; and (2) a more sophisticated second level of tests directed at specific OSPAR regions and subregions for which more complete datasets were available. The former considered major gaps based on basic distribution thresholds and representativity (both biogeographic and bathymetric). The latter focused on broad-scale habitat presence to determine replication, adequacy and connectivity.
- On the basis of these tests it was concluded that while the OSPAR MPA network as a whole is not ecologically coherent, nonetheless significant progress towards global targets, such as protection of 10% of marine and coastal environments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been made. Gaps in the distribution of MPAs were identified, particularly under-representation of certain biogeographic provinces and bathymetric zones of depths greater than 75 m including bathyal (200–3000 m) and abyssal (3000–6000 m) depths.
- To address such gaps, a cooperative region by region approach will be required by the OSPAR Parties to identify where positioning new MPAs can enhance ecological coherence.
- A limitation of the 2013 assessment was that it did not consider which MPAs are designated and managed for the protection of specific features; rather, it assumed that all features that fall within an MPA are protected. With a redevelopment of the OSPAR MPA database underway it is hoped that reporting of such details by Parties will improve, allowing for more specificity in future analyses. However, as the first such assessment of its kind our two-level approach serves as a case study of a pragmatic example of how assessments of ecologically coherent networks might be undertaken using GIS to contribute to systematic conservation planning.
- In 2010, Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the so-called ‘Aichi targets’ in order to achieve global biodiversity conservation. Target 11 specifically provides that ‘by 2020 (…) at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas (…) are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures’. This objective is currently far from being reached since less than 3% of the ocean has been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs).
- In areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) in particular, with less than 0.5% protected, there is no mechanism aimed at creating internationally-recognized MPAs and the initiatives launched by regional organizations, although promising, have limitations.
- ABNJ are nevertheless facing increasing human pressures and it is therefore appropriate and pressing to designate a comprehensive and representative network of MPAs in these areas. This paper analyses the current efforts conducted to better conserve marine biodiversity in ABNJ and identifies enabling conditions for meeting the Aichi Target 11.
- The adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, along with the 20 Aichi Targets, is a strong political endorsement for integrating biodiversity strategy across the entire United Nations system. Aichi Targets represent specific, time-bound drivers for governments to safeguard both marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
- For the marine environment, Aichi Target 11 represents a call to effectively conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. The core indicator to measure Aichi Target 11 is the extent of protected area coverage, and therefore it is essential that MPA data used to calculate this metric are robust.
- The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the authoritative source of data for measuring Aichi Target coverage progress. The WDPA assimilates global protected areas data as officially reported by the UN Member States themselves.
- Analysis of the WDPA (August 2014) calculated that MPAs now cover approximately 12,300,000 km2 or 3.41% of the world's ocean. Only 0.59% of the global ocean area (2 163 661 km2 within 1124 areas) is protected in no-take areas.
- Only gathering and using State-sanctioned information may affect the accuracy of the WDPA MPA data. However, it is essential to first and foremost recognize national sovereignty and the rights of the Member State data providers in order to maintain a comprehensive approach to data gathering while ensuring international support for the resulting coverage figures that are used to measure global environmental targets.
- Further improvements could be made to the MPA data, for example by refining current MPA attributes and working with Member States and conventions to reduce or remove point data in the system. Moreover, broadening the scope of the WDPA to allow the inclusion of clearly marked non-State-sanctioned sites would complement existing official data and facilitate dialogue between Member States and other data providers towards MPA data improvement.
- The Aichi Biodiversity Targets were designed to promote and implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by providing a framework for action to save biodiversity and enhance its benefits for people. Specifically, Target 11 aims to protect 10% of all seas by 2020. The percentage of the world's oceans that are protected has increased steadily in recent years, mainly due to very large marine protected areas (MPAs).
- The issue of making major gains in achieving protection targets through ‘going big’ has brought added scrutiny to the subject of MPAs. There is economy in scale, but several people have called into question whether going large will protect representative habitat and result in true protection, or whether it is merely a politically expedient way for some nations to attain targets by creating paper parks, while avoiding tough conservation decisions.
- The recent creation of large MPAs has greatly enhanced the chance of achieving global protection targets. Large areas typically contain several ecosystems and habitats that interact ecologically, and allow for more holistic conservation. The interactions between ecosystems in large MPAs occur without many of the problems associated with networks of smaller MPAs, where the connectivity between sites is often affected by human activities.
- The disadvantages of large MPAs include difficulties of surveillance, enforcement and monitoring of vast offshore areas, as well as high total costs. While the cost per unit area may be lower for large MPAs, conducting surveillance and monitoring in such vast areas requires much more expensive technologies.
- Large MPAs complement and add to existing management and conservation measures. Decision makers should consider designating them as one of a suite of possible protection measures. Besides greatly enhancing the chance of reaching agreed biodiversity targets, large MPAs improve the quality of conservation.
Effective marine conservation requires protection and management of functional seascapes, but seascape-level conservation is challenging because it needs to capture complex physical and ecological features that characterize dynamic populations and their habitats. And since populations are spatially and temporally bounded by combinations of natural heterogeneities in the marine environment (environmental boundaries) and associated species' responses (population boundaries), marine protection mechanisms need to take such boundaries into account in a spatially and temporally explicit framework. Therefore, improved understanding of these population and environmental boundaries and the processes driving them over multiple scales is essential for developing effective marine spatial planning (MSP). This kind of comprehensive approach for MSP is especially relevant in the face of global climate change, as conservation targets will shift in space, and phenological relationships will be confounded, thereby diminishing the significance of the original conservation strategies.
Oceanic islands are structurally more vulnerable to disturbances: their small size and isolation reduces spatial options for persistence of biodiversity. The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) is considered essential for conserving the marine environment and biodiversity. However, a number of natural and social factors influence the planning process for MPAs, with effects on the exact conservation strategy adopted. Sometimes social interests dominate and the final zoning of the MPA fails to meet the initial conservation criteria, which were recommended on the basis of scientific results. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), with their derived and specific applications, provide new opportunities for zoning and management of the marine environment. These tools facilitate analysis of large datasets and allow integration of more information into the MPA planning process. There is already a database full of geo-referenced information about marine habitat distribution, communities, endangered species and human activities, around La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain). We analyzed this information, using GIS tools and the algorithm Marxan, and presented seven alternative MPA zones in the sublittoral environment around La Palma. This is the first time that an objective and systematic process, combining knowledge about human activities as well as conservation status, has been used to establish the suitable placement of MPAs in the Canary Islands. The zoning recommended by this study differs significantly from that currently in place. We suggest there is a need to redesign La Palma’s outdated conservation strategies by redefining the size, shape and location of its MPAs.
Human-induced changes in flows of water, nutrients, and sediments have impacts on marine ecosystems. Quantifying these changes to systematically allocate management actions is a priority for many areas worldwide. Modeling nutrient and sediment loads and contributions from subcatchments can inform prioritization of management interventions to mitigate the impacts of land-based pollution on marine ecosystems. Among the catchment models appropriate for large-scale applications, N-SPECT and SedNet have been used to prioritize areas for management of water quality in coastal-marine ecosystems. However, an assessment of their relative performance, parameterization, and utility for regional-scale planning is needed. We examined how these considerations can influence the choice between the two models and the areas identified as priorities for management actions. We assessed their application in selected catchments of the Gulf of California, where managing land-based threats to marine ecosystems is a priority. We found important differences in performance between models. SedNet consistently estimated spatial variations in runoff with higher accuracy than N-SPECT and modeled suspended sediment (TSS) loads mostly within the range of variation in observed loads. N-SPECT overestimated TSS loads by orders of magnitude when using the spatially-distributed sediment delivery ratio (SDR), but outperformed SedNet when using a calibrated SDR. Differences in subcatchments' contribution to pollutant loads were principally due to explicit representation of sediment sinks and particulate nutrients by SedNet. Improving the floodplain extent model, and constraining erosion estimates by local data including gully erosion in SedNet, would improve results of this model and help identify effective management responses. Differences between models in the patterns of modeled pollutant supply were modest, but significantly influenced the prioritization of subcatchments for management.
In 2011, the global human population reached 7 billion and medium variant projections indicate that it will exceed 9 billion before 2045. Theoretical and empirical perspectives suggest that this growth could lead to an increase in the likelihood of adverse events (e.g., food shortages, climate change, etc.) and/or the severity of adverse events (e.g., famines, natural disasters, etc.). Several scholars have posited that the size to which the global population grows and the extent to which this growth increases the likelihood of adverse outcomes will largely be shaped by individuals’ decisions (in households, organizations, governments, etc.). In light of the strong relationship between perceived risk and decision behaviors, it is surprising that there remains a dearth of empirical research that specifically examines the perceived risks of population growth and how these perceptions might influence related decisions. In an attempt to motivate this important strand of research, this article examines the major risks that may be exacerbated by global population growth and draws upon empirical work concerning the perception and communication of risk to identify potential directions for future research. The article also considers how individuals might perceive both the risks and benefits of population growth and be helped to better understand and address the related issues. The answers to these questions could help humanity better manage the emerging consequences of its continuing success in increasing infant survival and adult longevity.
The need to adapt to climate change is now widely recognised as evidence of its impacts on social and natural systems grows and greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Yet efforts to adapt to climate change, as reported in the literature over the last decade and in selected case studies, have not led to substantial rates of implementation of adaptation actions despite substantial investments in adaptation science. Moreover, implemented actions have been mostly incremental and focused on proximate causes; there are far fewer reports of more systemic or transformative actions. We found that the nature and effectiveness of responses was strongly influenced by framing. Recent decision-oriented approaches that aim to overcome this situation are framed within a “pathways” metaphor to emphasise the need for robust decision making within adaptive processes in the face of uncertainty and inter-temporal complexity. However, to date, such “adaptation pathways” approaches have mostly focused on contexts with clearly identified decision-makers and unambiguous goals; as a result, they generally assume prevailing governance regimes are conducive for adaptation and hence constrain responses to proximate causes of vulnerability. In this paper, we explore a broader conceptualisation of “adaptation pathways” that draws on ‘pathways thinking’ in the sustainable development domain to consider the implications of path dependency, interactions between adaptation plans, vested interests and global change, and situations where values, interests, or institutions constrain societal responses to change. This re-conceptualisation of adaptation pathways aims to inform decision makers about integrating incremental actions on proximate causes with the transformative aspects of societal change. Case studies illustrate what this might entail. The paper ends with a call for further exploration of theory, methods and procedures to operationalise this broader conceptualisation of adaptation.
Protecting and promoting recovery of species at risk of extinction is a critical component of biodiversity conservation. In Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determines whether species are at risk of extinction or extirpation, and has conducted these assessments since 1977. We examined trends in COSEWIC assessments to identify whether at-risk species that have been assessed more than once tended to improve, remain constant, or deteriorate in status, as a way of assessing the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in Canada. Of 369 species that met our criteria for examination, 115 deteriorated, 202 remained unchanged, and 52 improved in status. Only 20 species (5.4%) improved to the point where they were ‘not at risk’, and five of those were due to increased sampling efforts rather than an increase in population size. Species outcomes were also dependent on the severity of their initial assessment; for example, 47% of species that were initially listed as special concern deteriorated between assessments. After receiving an at-risk assessment by COSEWIC, a species is considered for listing under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), which is the primary national tool that mandates protection for at-risk species. We examined whether SARA-listing was associated with improved COSEWIC assessment outcomes relative to unlisted species. Of 305 species that had multiple assessments and were SARA-listed, 221 were listed at a level that required identification and protection of critical habitat; however, critical habitat was fully identified for only 56 of these species. We suggest that the Canadian government should formally identify and protect critical habitat, as is required by existing legislation. In addition, our finding that at-risk species in Canada rarely recover leads us to recommend that every effort be made to actively prevent species from becoming at-risk in the first place.
Fishing has been important in the Mediterranean region for many centuries and still has a central role in its economic importance and cultural heritage. A multitude of fishery-oriented marine managed areas have been implemented under a highly complex political and legislative framework to protect fishery resources and sensitive habitats from high impact uses. However, a review of the literature revealed that few data are available to support their effectiveness, except for a few studies on fishery reserves and marine reserves. In these cases, fish biomass has increased and some evidence of ecological and socioeconomic benefits has been documented. The environmental and geopolitical complexity of the Mediterranean region as well as the dominant top-down management approaches, constitute the weakest points in the spatial management of fisheries at regional level. A coordinating role of all national and supranational bodies present in the area is desirable in the near future.
The North Sea is one of the most economically important seas in the world due to productive fisheries, extensive oil and gas fields, busy shipping routes, marine renewable energy development and recreational activity. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the use of marine protected areas (here defined widely to include fisheries closed areas and no-take marine reserves) in its management has generated considerable controversy—particularly with regards to the design of a regional ecologically coherent MPA network to meet international obligations.
Drawing on three MPA processes currently occurring in the UK North Sea, we examine the real-world problems that make the designation of MPA networks challenging. The political problems include: disagreement among (and within) sectors over policy objectives and priorities, common access to fisheries resources at the EU level increasing the scale at which decisions have to be made and lack of an integrated strategy for implementing protected areas in the North Sea. The scientific problems include the patchy knowledge of benthic assemblages, limited knowledge of fishing gear–habitat interactions, and the increased risk of unforeseen externalities if human activity (predominantly fishing) is displaced from newly protected sites. Diverging stakeholder attitudes to these problems means that there is no consensus on what ecological coherence actually means.
Ultimately, we caution against ‘quick-fix’ solutions that are based on advocacy and targets, as they create confusion and undermine trust in the planning process. We argue for a more pragmatic approach to marine protection that embraces the complexity of the social and political arena in which decisions are made.
The Republic of Kiribati's Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), located in the equatorial central Pacific, is the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage site on earth. Created in 2008, it was the first Marine Protected Area (MPA) of its kind (at the time of inception, the largest in the world) and includes eight low-lying islands, shallow coral reefs, submerged shallow and deep seamounts and extensive open-ocean and ocean floor habitat. Due to their isolation, the shallow reef habitats have been protected de facto from severe exploitation, though the surrounding waters have been continually fished for large pelagics and whales over many decades. PIPA was created under a partnership between the Government of Kiribati and the international non-governmental organizations—Conservation International and the New England Aquarium. PIPA has a unique conservation strategy as the first marine MPA to use a conservation contract mechanism with a corresponding Conservation Trust established to be both a sustainable financing mechanism and a check-and-balance to the oversight and maintenance of the MPA. As PIPA moves forward with its management objectives, it is well positioned to be a global model for large MPA design and implementation in similar contexts. The islands and shallow reefs have already shown benefits from protection, though the pending full closure of PIPA (and assessments thereof) will be critical for determining success of the MPA as a refuge for open-ocean pelagic and deep-sea marine life. As global ocean resources are continually being extracted to support a growing global population, PIPA's closure is both timely and of global significance.
The magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef and its worthiness of extraordinary efforts to protect it from whatever threats may arise are unquestioned. Yet almost four decades after the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia's most expensive and intensely researched Marine Protected Area, the health of the Reef is reported to be declining alarmingly. The management of the suite of threats to the health of the reef has clearly been inadequate, even though there have been several notable successes. It is argued that the failure to prioritise correctly all major threats to the reef, coupled with the exaggeration of the benefits of calling the park a protected area and zoning subsets of areas as ‘no-take’, has distracted attention from adequately addressing the real causes of impact. Australia's marine conservation efforts have been dominated by commitment to a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. In so doing, Australia has displaced the internationally accepted primary priority for pursuing effective protection of marine environments with inadequately critical adherence to the principle of having more and bigger marine parks. The continuing decline in the health of the Great Barrier Reef and other Australian coastal areas confirms the limitations of current area management for combating threats to marine ecosystems. There is great need for more critical evaluation of how marine environments can be protected effectively and managed efficiently.
California responded to concerns about overfishing in the 1990s by implementing a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) through two science-based decision-making processes. The first process focused on the Channel Islands, and the second addressed California's entire coastline, pursuant to the state's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). We review the interaction between science and policy in both processes, and lessons learned. For the Channel Islands, scientists controversially recommended setting aside 30–50% of coastline to protect marine ecosystems. For the MLPA, MPAs were intended to be ecologically connected in a network, so design guidelines included minimum size and maximum spacing of MPAs (based roughly on fish movement rates), an approach that also implicitly specified a minimum fraction of the coastline to be protected. As MPA science developed during the California processes, spatial population models were constructed to quantify how MPAs were affected by adult fish movement and larval dispersal, i.e., how population persistence within MPA networks depended on fishing outside the MPAs, and how fishery yields could either increase or decrease with MPA implementation, depending on fishery management. These newer quantitative methods added to, but did not supplant, the initial rule-of-thumb guidelines. In the future, similar spatial population models will allow more comprehensive evaluation of the integrated effects of MPAs and conventional fisheries management. By 2011, California had implemented 132 MPAs covering more than 15% of its coastline, and now stands on the threshold of the most challenging step in this effort: monitoring and adaptive management to ensure ecosystem sustainability.
Ancient Hawaiians developed a sophisticated natural resource management system that included various forms of spatial management. Today there exists in Hawai‘i a variety of spatial marine management strategies along a range of scales, with varying degrees of effectiveness. State-managed no-take areas make up less than 0.4% of nearshore waters, resulting in limited ecological and social benefits. There is increasing interest among communities and coastal stakeholders in integrating aspects of customary Hawaiian knowledge into contemporary co-management. A network of no-take reserves for aquarium fish on Hawai‘i Island is a stakeholder-driven, adaptive management strategy that has been successful in achieving ecological objectives and economic benefits. A network of large-scale no-take areas for deepwater (100–400 m) bottomfishes suffered from a lack of adequate data during their initiation; however, better technology, more ecological data, and stakeholder input have resulted in improvements and the ecological benefits are becoming clear. Finally, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) is currently the single largest conservation area in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. It is considered an unqualified success and is managed under a new model of collaborative governance. These case studies allow an examination of the effects of scale on spatial marine management in Hawai‘i and beyond that illustrate the advantages and shortcomings of different management strategies. Ultimately a marine spatial planning framework should be applied that incorporates existing marine managed areas to create a holistic, regional, multi-use zoning plan engaging stakeholders at all levels in order to maximize resilience of ecosystems and communities.
From a fisheries perspective, the declaration of a 640,000 km2 “no-take” Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago in 2010 was preceded by inadequate consideration of the scientific rationale for protection. The entire area was already a highly regulated zone which had been subject to a well-managed fisheries licensing system. The island of Diego Garcia, the only area where there is evidence of overfishing has, because of its military base, been excluded from the MPA. The no-take mandate removes the primary source of sustenance and economic sustainability of any inhabitants, thus effectively preventing the return of the original residents who were removed for political reasons in the 1960s and 1970s. The principles of natural resource conservation and use have been further distorted by forcing offshore fishing effort to other less well-managed areas where it will have a greater negative impact on the well-being of the species that were claimed to be one of the primary beneficiaries of the declaration. A failure to engage stakeholders has resulted in challenges in both the English courts and before an international tribunal.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) are surrounded by oceans that are species-rich, have high levels of biodiversity, important endemism and which also support large aggregations of charismatic upper trophic level species. Spatial management around these islands is complex, particularly in the context of commercial fisheries that exploit some of these living resources. Furthermore, management is especially complicated as local productivity relies fundamentally upon biological production transported from outside the area. The MPA uses practical management boundaries, allowing access for the current legal fisheries for Patagonian toothfish, mackerel icefish and Antarctic krill. Management measures developed as part of the planning process designated the whole SGSSI Maritime Zone as an IUCN Category VI reserve, within which a number of IUCN Category I reserves were identified. Multiple-use zones and temporal closures were also designated. A key multiple-use principle was to identify whether the ecological impacts of a particular fishery threatened either the pelagic or benthic domain.