Marine protected areas (MPAs) are essential to human well-being and usually part of spatial planning processes for managing coastal and marine areas. In Brazil, national-level spatial planning processes are still incipient. This article offers a systematic review through a comparative meta-analysis of the literature on MPAs and spatial planning based on the following questions: (I) What topics are investigated in spatial planning in MPAs worldwide? and (II) What are the advances and trends of these topics in Brazilian MPAs? Specific goals of this study are (I) to identify studies on Brazil; and (II) to compare and contrast these with studies performed elsewhere. The PRISMA report was used to select literature, with a focus on three spatial contexts (I) outside Brazil, analyzing studies from other countries; (II) in Brazil; and (III) a case study in Brazil that focuses on a sustainable-use area in northeastern Pará. Studies outside Brazil showed three major groups of themes: (I) planning and tools; (II) stakeholders; and (III) the ecology of non-human species. For the Brazilian context, studies were grouped into five major themes: (I) small-scale fishing practices and conflicts; (II) participation in protected areas; (III) technical aspects of the planning process, (IV) zoning; and (V) mapping. The local case study investigates socio-cultural sustainability and tourism. All identified studies relate to use, but have a greater focus on conservation and, especially abroad, on species and ecosystems. There are few reviews or comparative studies that could help to draw parallels between the different spatial planning settings. We conclude that synthesis work on spatial management strategies worldwide is needed, including the elaboration of frameworks to develop measures to address the widespread lack of data and spatial planning expertise. Collaborative networks of researchers and practitioners are needed for this. The novelty in our study is that it examines MPAs and spatial planning research at three spatial contexts with innovative methodologies to represent the current state of the spatial planning discourse in coastal and marine conservation.
An important technique used by climate modelers to isolate the impacts of increasing greenhouse gasses on Earth System processes is to simulate the impact of an abrupt increase in carbon dioxide. The spatial pattern of change provides a “fingerprint” that is generally much larger than natural variability. Insofar as the response to radiative forcing is linear (the impact of quadrupling CO2 is twice the impact of doubling CO2) this fingerprint can then be used to estimate the impact of historical greenhouse gas forcing. However, the degree to which biogeochemical cycles respond linearly to radiative forcing has rarely been tested. In this paper, we evaluate which ocean biogeochemical fields are likely to respond linearly to changing radiative forcing, which ones do not, and where linearity breaks down. We also demonstrate that the representation of lateral mixing by mesoscale eddies, which varies significantly across climate models, plays an important role in modulating the breakdown of linearity. Globally integrated surface rates of biogeochemical cycling (primary productivity, particulate export) respond in a relatively linear fashion and are only moderately sensitive to mixing. By contrast, the habitability of the interior ocean (as determined by hypoxia and calcite supersaturation) behaves non-linearly and is very sensitive to mixing. This is because the deep ocean, as well as certain regions in the surface ocean, are very sensitive to the magnitude of deep wintertime convection. The cessation of convection under global warming is strongly modulated by the representation of eddy mixing.
Coral reefs are widely regarded as one of the top science and conservation priorities globally, as previous research has demonstrated that these ecosystems harbor an extraordinary biodiversity, myriad ecosystem services, and are highly vulnerable to human stressors. However, most of this knowledge is derived from studies on nearshore and shallow-water reefs, with coral reef ecosystems remaining virtually unstudied in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), commonly known as the high seas. We reviewed information on the spatial distribution of reef-building corals throughout their depth range, and compiled a total of 537,782 records, including 116 unique records from ABNJ at depths between 218–5,647 m. The majority of reef-building coral records in ABNJ were in association with geomorphological features that have steep topographies. These habitats, which include escarpments, seamounts, and submarine ridges accounted for >74% of the records in international waters. Such geomorphological features, particularly those that occur within close proximity to the sea surface, should be prioritized for future scientific exploration. The majority of the reef-building coral records in ABNJ (>77%) were recorded in unprotected waters, and this study discusses the challenges and opportunities for protecting marine biodiversity in ABNJ. Finally, this study offers a definition of high seas coral reefs, and provides a framework to better understand and conserve these fragile ecosystems.
Ocean acidification is a threat to the net growth of tropical and deep-sea coral reefs, due to gradual changes in the balance between reef growth and loss processes. Here we go beyond identification of coral dissolution induced by ocean acidification and identify a mechanism that will lead to a loss of habitat in cold-water coral reef habitats on an ecosystem-scale. To quantify this, we present in situ and year-long laboratory evidence detailing the type of habitat shift that can be expected (in situ evidence), the mechanisms underlying this (in situ and laboratory evidence), and the timescale within which the process begins (laboratory evidence). Through application of engineering principals, we detail how increased porosity in structurally critical sections of coral framework will lead to crumbling of load-bearing material, and a potential collapse and loss of complexity of the larger habitat. Importantly, in situ evidence highlights that cold-water corals can survive beneath the aragonite saturation horizon, but in a fundamentally different way to what is currently considered a biogenic cold-water coral reef, with a loss of the majority of reef habitat. The shift from a habitat with high 3-dimensional complexity provided by both live and dead coral framework, to a habitat restricted primarily to live coral colonies with lower 3-dimensional complexity represents the main threat to cold-water coral reefs of the future and the biodiversity they support. Ocean acidification can cause ecosystem-scale habitat loss for the majority of cold-water coral reefs.
Reversing the decline of coastal marine ecosystems will rely extensively on ecological restoration. This will in turn rely on ensuring adequate supply and survival of propagules — for the main habitat-forming taxa of coastal marine ecosystems these are mainly fruits, seeds, viviparous seedlings, zoospores or larvae. The likelihood of propagule survival — and so restoration success — depends on species- and context-specific knowledge to guide choices about appropriate methods to use. Here, we briefly review life-histories of the main habitat-forming taxa of six coastal marine ecosystems: mangrove forests, tidal marshes, seagrass meadows, kelp forests, coral reefs and bivalve reefs. Restoration of several of these ecosystems has long harnessed the unique properties of propagules, sometimes because they are simple to use (for example, planting propagules of some mangroves), and sometimes because we can draw on knowledge gained from other applications (for example using knowledge of oyster culture to restore bivalve reefs). For other ecosystems, like seagrass meadows, kelp forests and coral reefs, propagules have not yet been widely used, but there is compelling evidence that they can be. Most restoration efforts have used relatively simple techniques, such as manual collection and direct planting or seeding. Some approaches use more complex techniques which include a stage in which propagules are reared in nurseries or aquaria to a size or age at which they are viable, when they are then planted or released at the site to be restored. Other approaches use minimal intervention, and focus instead on providing the conditions that will promote growth from naturally dispersed propagules (such as restoring hydrological conditions to facilitate mangrove recruitment). Future approaches could incorporate knowledge applied from other fields, such as genetics and agriculture, and harness the possibilities provided by technology. Understanding the importance of propagule quality will likely also yield insights, as will effective use of models to help refine restoration methods for testing. Deeper partnerships between practitioners and researchers will help test and develop better methods so that we can learn from each other and strive to improve. Propagules offer multiple promising avenues to expand coastal marine restoration efforts and help achieve global ambitions.
The deep sea is the largest biome on Earth but the least explored. Our knowledge of it comes from scattered sources spanning different spatial and temporal scales. Implementation of marine policies like the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and support for Blue Growth in the deep sea are therefore hindered by lack of data. Integrated assessments of environmental status require tools to work with different and disaggregated datasets (e.g. density of deep-sea habitat-forming species, body-size distribution of commercial fishes, intensity of bottom trawling) across spatial and temporal scales. A feasibility study was conducted as part of the four-year ATLAS project to assess the effectiveness of the open-access Nested Environmental status Assessment Tool (NEAT) to assess deep-sea environmental status. We worked at nine selected study areas in the North Atlantic focusing on five MSFD descriptors (D1-Biodiversity, D3-Commercial fish and shellfish, D4-Food webs, D6-Seafloor integrity, D10-Marine litter). The objectives of the present study were to i) explore and propose indicators that could be used in the assessment of deep-sea environmental status, ii) evaluate the performance of NEAT in the deep sea, and iii) identify challenges and opportunities for the assessment of deep-sea status. Based on data availability, data quality and expert judgement, in total 24 indicators (one for D1, one for D3, seven for D4, 13 for D6, two for D10) were used in the assessment of the nine study areas, their habitats and ecosystem components. NEAT analyses revealed differences among the study areas for their environmental status ranging from “poor” to “high”. Overall, the NEAT results were in moderate to complete agreement with expert judgement, previous assessments, scientific literature on human-pressure gradients and expected management outcomes. We suggest that the assessment of deep-sea environmental status should take place at habitat and ecosystem level (rather than at species level) and at relatively large spatial scales, in comparison to shallow-water areas. Limited knowledge across space (e.g. distribution of habitat-forming species) and the scarcity of long-term data sets limit our knowledge about natural variability and human impacts in the deep sea preventing a more systematic assessment of habitat and ecosystem components in the deep sea. However, stronger cross-sectoral collaborations, the use of novel technologies and open data-sharing platforms will be critical for establishing environmental baseline indicator values in the deep sea that will contribute to the science base supporting the implementation of marine policies and stimulating Blue Growth.
This work aimed to study the effects of recreational diving and snorkeling on the distribution, diversity, and abundance of surgeonfishes in six northern islands, different in their diving and snorkeling load, at the Hurghada area in the Egyptian Red Sea waters. SCUBA diving survey was conducted in summer 2019 using transect technique in the reef flat and reef slope in the study sites to compare total and single surgeonfish species census among sites and microhabitats. A total of six species of surgeonfish belonging to three genera were recorded during the current survey, including Zebrasoma xanthurum, Zebrasoma desjardinii, Acanthurus gahhm, Acanthurus sohal, Naso lituratus, and Naso unicornis. Z. desjardinii was the most abundant species, recording 41.2% relative abundance, followed by Acanthurus sohal (19%). In all sites, surgeonfish species diversity and average/total abundance in reef flat was always higher than that recorded in the reef slope. Meanwhile, the recreational effect results showed that, in reef flat habitats, surgeonfishes total/average abundance was inversely related to the numbers of divers and snorkelers across survey sites. In contrast, deeper habitat at the opened reef edge exhibited inverse distribution pattern, whereas, the obtained results showed that surgeonfish preferred the reef edge when the diving activities load increased.
Microplastics (MPs) can be ingested by marine organisms directly or indirectly through trophic transfer from contaminated prey. In the marine ecosystem, zooplankton are an important link between phytoplankton and higher trophic levels in the marine food web. Among them, copepods and gelatinous species have been recently reported to ingest MPs, but no potential MP transfer has been verified yet. In this study, a simplified two-level trophic chain – formed by nauplii of the Tigriopus fulvus copepod as prey, and the ephyrae stage of Aurelia sp. as predator – was selected to investigate MP trophic transfer. The experimental setup consisted in feeding ephyrae with nauplii previously exposed to fluorescent 1–5 μm polyethylene MPs and evaluating two ecotoxicological end-points: jellyfish immobility and pulsation frequency. After 24 h, the jellyfish ingested nauplii contaminated with MPs; however, neither immobility nor behavior was affected by MP transfer. These findings show that MPs can be transported at different trophic levels, but more research is needed to identify their potential effects on the marine food web.
Marine turtles are of conservation concern throughout their range, with past population declines largely due to exploitation through both legal and illegal take, and incidental capture in fisheries. Whilst much research effort has been focused on nesting beaches and elaborating migratory corridors, these species spend the vast majority of their life-cycle in foraging grounds, which are, in some species, quite discrete. To understand and manage these populations, empirical data are needed on distribution, space-use, and habitats to best inform design of protective measures. Here we describe space-use, occupancy, and wide-ranging movements derived from conventional flipper tagging and satellite tracking of sub-adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) within the coastal waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI; 2011–2017). 623 turtles were fitted with flipper tags, with 69 subsequently recaptured, five of which in international waters. Sixteen individual turtles of between 63 and 81 cm curved carapace length were satellite tracked for a mean 226 days (range: 38–496). Data revealed extended periods of occupancy in the shallow coastal waters within a RAMSAR protected area. Satellite tracking and flipper tagging showed wide-ranging movements, with flipper tag recaptures occurring in waters off Nicaragua (n = 4), and Venezuela (n = 1). Also, four of 16 satellite tracked turtles exhibiting directed movements away (displaced >450 km) from TCI waters traveling through nine geo-political zones within the Caribbean-Atlantic basin, as well as on the High Seas. One turtle traveled to the Central American coast before settling on inshore habitat in Colombia’s waters for 162 days before transmission ceased, indicating ontogenetic dispersal to a distant foraging habitat. These data highlight connectivity throughout the region, displaying key linkages between countries that have previously only been linked by genetic evidence. This study also provides evidence of the importance of the Turks and Caicos Islands marine protected area network and importance of effective management of the sea turtle fishery for regional green turtle populations.
While the ubiquity and rising abundance of microplastic contamination is becoming increasingly well-known, there is very little empirical data for the scale of their historical inputs to the environment. For many pollutants, where long-term monitoring is absent, paleoecological approaches (the use of naturally-accumulating archives to assess temporal trends) have been widely applied to determine such historical patterns, but to date this has been undertaken only very rarely for microplastics, despite the enormous potential to identify the scale and extent of inputs as well as rates of change. In this paper, we briefly assess the long-term monitoring and paleoecological microplastic literature before considering the advantages and disadvantages of various natural archives (including lake and marine sediments, ice cores and peat archives) as a means to determine historical microplastic records, as well as the range of challenges facing those attempting to extract microplastics from them. We also outline some of the major considerations in chemical, physical and biological taphonomic processes for microplastics as these are critical to the correct interpretation of microplastic paleoecological records but are currently rarely considered. Finally, we assess the usefulness of microplastic paleoecological records as a stratigraphic tool, both as a means to provide potential chronological information, as well as a possible marker for the proposed Anthropocene Epoch.
In 2015, the Pacific marine heat wave, low river flows, and record high water temperatures in the Columbia River Basin contributed to a near-complete failure of the adult migration of endangered Snake River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka, NOAA Fisheries 2016). These extreme weather events may become the new normal due to anthropogenic climate change, with catastrophic consequences for endangered species. Existing anthropogenic pressures may amplify vulnerability to climate change, but these potential synergies have rarely been quantified. We examined factors affecting survival of endangered sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) and threatened Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) as they migrated upstream through eight dams and reservoirs to spawning areas in the Snake River Basin. Our extensive database included histories of 17,279 individual fish that migrated since 2004. A comparison between conditions in 2015 and daily temperatures and flows in a regulated basin forced by output from global climate models showed that 2015 did have many characteristics of projected future mean conditions. To evaluate potential salmon responses, we modeled migration timing and apparent survival under historical and future climate scenarios (2040s). For Chinook salmon, adult survival from the first dam encountered to spawning grounds dropped by 4-15%, depending on the climate scenario. For sockeye, survival dropped by ~80% from their already low levels. Through sensitivity analyses, we observed that the adult sockeye migration would need to shift more than 2 weeks earlier than predicted to maintain survival rates typical of those seen during 2008-2017. Overall, the greater impacts of climate change on adult sockeye compared with adult Chinook salmon reflected differences in life history and environmental sensitivities, which were compounded for sockeye by larger effect sizes from other anthropogenic factors. Compared with Chinook, sockeye was more negatively affected by a history of juvenile transportation and by similar temperatures and flows. The largest changes in temperature and flow were projected to be upstream from the hydrosystem, where direct mitigation through hydrosystem management is not an option. Unfortunately, Snake River sockeye have likely lost much of their adaptive capacity with the loss of the wild population. Further work exploring habitat restoration or additional mitigation actions is urgently needed.
In the Baltic Sea, water is stratified due to differences in density and salinity. The stratification prevents water from mixing, which could affect sinking rates of microplastics in the sea. We studied the accumulation of microplastics to halocline and thermocline. We sampled water with a 100 μm plankton net from vertical transects between halo- and thermocline, and a 30 L water sampler from the end of halocline and the beginning of thermocline. Thereafter, microplastics in the whole sample volumes were analyzed with imaging Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The plankton net results showed that water column between halo- and thermoclines contained on average 0.92 ± 0.61 MP m−3 (237 ± 277 ng/m−3; mean ± SD), whereas the 30 L samples from the end of halocline and the beginning of thermocline contained 0.44 ± 0.52 MP L−1 (106 ± 209 ng L−1). Hence, microplastics are likely to accumulate to thin layers in the halocline and thermocline. The vast majority of the found microplastics were polyethylene, polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, which are common plastic types. We did not observe any trend between the density of microplastics and the sampling depth, probably because biofilm formation affected the sinking rates of the particles. Our results indicate the need to sample deeper water layers in addition to surface waters at least in the stratified water bodies to obtain a comprehensive overview of the abundance of microplastics in the aquatic environment.
Ecological indicator approaches typically compare the prevailing state of an ecosystem component to a reference state reflecting good environmental conditions, i.e. the desirable state. However, defining the reference state is challenging due to a wide range of uncertainties related to natural variability and measurement error in data, as well as ecological understanding. This study propose a novel probabilistic approach combining historical monitoring data and ecological understanding to estimate the uncertainty associated with the boundary value of an ecological indicator between good and poor environmental states. Bayesian inference is used to estimate the epistemic uncertainty about the true state of an indicator variable during an historical reference period. This approach replaces the traditional boundary value with probability distribution, indicating the uncertainty about the boundary between environmental states providing a transparent safety margin associated with the risk of misclassification of the indicator’s state. The approach is demonstrated by applying it to a time-series of an ecological status indicator, ‘Abundance of coastal key fish species’, included in HELCOM’s Baltic Sea regional status assessment. We suggest that acknowledgement of the uncertainty behind the final classification leads to more transparent and better-informed decision-making processes.
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is a potential antidote to the alleviation of multiple stressors in highly-valued and contested marine environments. An understanding of the magnitude and drivers of past ecosystem changes can inform the development of realistic ecological and social outcomes for different places. These goals should aim to increase the ecological health and resilience of coastal ecosystems and their connected land- and sea-scapes by minimising anthropogenic disturbances. To address knowledge gaps, we present a marine historical synthesis of the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand's South Island. These rias are strongly coupled to the surrounding land and inland river catchments. We took an integrated approach by examining effects of land use change on coastal ecosystems, along with case studies of the effects of exploitation on foundational marine species. We found that ecosystems have gone through a series of transformations since Māori settlement ca. 700 years ago, with localised extirpations of marine megafauna, overharvesting of exploited species, and disruption to ecological functioning through ongoing clearfelling of terrestrial and marine biogenic communities since European settlement in the 1800s. There has been a decline from great abundance of marine life to relative scarcity, which is currently evident to local people in increased effort and reduced allowable catches of fish and shellfish. Recovery of biodiversity in the short-term within the Marlborough Sounds is uncertain, given ongoing multiple and interacting stressors from unsustainable land-use and over-exploitation of marine life. Lifting baselines are possible but will require significant changes to land and marine management to restore ecological health and enhance resilience in the face of climate change. Increased marine protection, regeneration of biodiverse biogenic habitats, spatial fishing measures to increase predators of sea urchins, stricter regulation of plantation forestry and a replanting prohibition in critical erosion source areas, are all needed within an EBM framework. Large experimental areas are proposed to develop, test and integrate different management techniques, and to facilitate community understanding, participation, and support for the transition to EBM.
Depredation of sea turtle nests, where a nest is either partially or completely predated by a predator, is particularly detrimental to the reproductive output of sea turtles and consequently a concern for sea turtle conservation efforts globally. To minimize depredation of sea turtle nests, several protective strategies have been trialed against different predators. However, although information on their effectiveness exists, information on the effectiveness of strategies aiming to mitigate depredation by coyotes, which is an issue at loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, nesting beaches in Florida and globally is inexistent. To inform future management of sea turtle nest depredation by coyotes, this study evaluated the effectiveness of three nest protection strategies (self-releasing metal cage, self-releasing plastic cage, and self-releasing metal screen). Further, to obtain insights into coyote behavior during depredation activities and inform management strategies, we used infrared camera surveillance to monitor sea turtle nests. Self-releasing plastic cages were found to be the most effective strategy at mitigating coyote depredation on loggerhead nests. Our findings provide important information for consideration when developing depredation mitigation strategies in the region and globally.
Spatial patterns of coral reef benthic communities vary across a range of broad-scale biogeographical levels to fine-scale local habitat conditions. This study described spatial patterns of coral reef benthic communities spanning across the 536-km coast of Kenya. Thirty-eight reef sites representing different geographical zones within an array of habitats and management levels were assessed by benthic cover, coral genera and coral colony size classes. Three geographical zones were identified along the latitudinal gradient based on their benthic community composition. Hard coral dominated the three zones with highest cover in the south and Porites being the most abundant genus. Almost all 15 benthic variables differed significantly between geographical zones. The interaction of habitat factors and management levels created a localised pattern within each zone. Four habitats were identified based on their similarity in benthic community composition; 1. Deep-Exposed Patch reef in Reserve areas (DEPR), 2. Deep-Exposed Fringing reefs in Unprotected areas (DEFU), 3. Shallow Fringing and Lagoon reefs in Protected and Reserve areas (SFLPR) and 4. Shallow Patch and Channel reefs (SPC). DEPR was found in the north zone only and its benthic community was predominantly crustose coralline algae. DEFU was found in central and south zones mainly dominated by soft corals, Acropora, Montipora, juvenile corals and small colonies of adult corals. SFLPR was dominated by macroalgae and turf algae and was found in north and central zones. SPC was found across all geographical zones with a benthic community dominated by hard corals of mostly large colonies of Porites and Echinopora. The north zone exhibits habitat types that support resistance properties, the south supports recovery processes and central zone acts as an ecological corridor between zones. Identifying habitats with different roles in reef resilience is useful information for marine spatial planning and supports the process of designing effective marine protected areas.
Data on the occurrence and abundance of meso and microplastics for the South Pacific are limited and there is urgent need to fill this knowledge gap. The main aim of the study was to apply a rapid screening method, based on the fluorescence tagging of polymers using Nile red, to determine the concentration of meso and microplastics in biota, sediment and surface waters near the capital cities of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. A spatial investigation was carried out for sediment, biota and water as well as a temporal assessment for sediment for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018). Accumulation zones for microplastics were identified supported by previous hydrodynamic models. Microplastics were detected for all environmental compartments investigated indicating their widespread presence for Vanuatu and Solomons Islands. This method was in alignment with previous recommendations that the Nile red method is a promising approach for the largescale mapping of microplastics in a monitoring context.
Chile has one of the largest coastlines in the world with at least 50% of the world cetacean species occurring within its jurisdictional waters. However, little is known regarding the health status and main causes of death in cetaceans off continental Chile. In this report, we summarize the major pathological findings and most likely causes of death of 15 cetaceans stranded along the Chilean coast between 2010 and 2019. Drowning, due to fishing gear entanglement, was the most likely cause of death in 3 Burmeister’s porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis), a Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and a short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Additionally, the 3 Burmeister’s porpoises had mild to moderate eosinophilic and histiocytic pneumonia with pulmonary vasculitis associated with the nematode Pseudalius inflexus. A fourth Burmeister’s porpoise died of drowning after stranding alive at a sandy beach. Two fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) died most likely of trauma associated with large vessel collision. A long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and an Orca (Orcinus orca) stranded most likely due to traumatic intra/interspecific interaction with other odontocete although for the pilot whale, osteoporosis with loss of alveolar bone and all teeth could have played a role. For a Strap-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon layardi), Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), Southern right-whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii), Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) and a dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus), the cause of stranding could not be determined. This study shows, despite the small number of examined carcasses that in Chile, human related trauma is an important cause of single cetacean stranding events.
Indo-Pacific lionfish have become invasive throughout the western Atlantic. Their predatory effects have been the focus of much research and are suggested to cause declines in native fish abundance and diversity across the invaded range. However, little is known about their non-consumptive effects, or their effects on invertebrates. Lionfish use shelters on the reef, thus there is potential for competition with other shelter-dwelling organisms. We demonstrate similar habitat associations between invasive lionfish, native spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) and native long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antillarum), indicating the potential for competition. We then used a laboratory experiment to compare activity and shelter use of each species when alone and when lionfish were paired with each native species. Spiny lobsters increased their activity but did not change their shelter use in the presence of a lionfish, whilst long-spined sea urchins changed neither their activity nor shelter use. However, lionfish reduced their shelter use in the presence of spiny lobsters and long-spined sea urchins. This study highlights the importance not only of testing for the non-consumptive effects of invasive species, but also exploring whether native species exert non-consumptive effects on the invasive.
Spearfishing is currently the primary approach for removing invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) to mitigate their impacts on western Atlantic marine ecosystems, but a substantial portion of lionfish spawning biomass is beyond the depth limits of SCUBA divers. Innovative technologies may offer a means to target deepwater populations and allow for the development of a lionfish trap fishery, but the removal efficiency and potential environmental impacts of lionfish traps have not been evaluated. We tested a collapsible, non-containment trap (the ‘Gittings trap’) near artificial reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico. A total of 327 lionfish and 28 native fish (four were species protected with regulations) recruited (i.e., were observed within the trap footprint at the time of retrieval) to traps during 82 trap sets, catching 144 lionfish and 29 native fish (one more than recruited, indicating detection error). Lionfish recruitment was highest for single (versus paired) traps deployed <15 m from reefs with a 1-day soak time, for which mean lionfish and native fish recruitment per trap were approximately 5 and 0.1, respectively. Lionfish from traps were an average of 19 mm or 62 grams larger than those caught spearfishing. Community impacts from Gittings traps appeared minimal given that recruitment rates were >10X higher for lionfish than native fishes and that traps did not move on the bottom during two major storm events, although further testing will be necessary to test trap movement with surface floats. Additional research should also focus on design and operational modifications to improve Gittings trap deployment success (68% successfully opened on the seabed) and reduce lionfish escapement (56% escaped from traps upon retrieval). While removal efficiency for lionfish demonstrated by traps (12–24%) was far below that of spearfishing, Gittings traps appear suitable for future development and testing on deepwater natural reefs, which constitute >90% of the region’s reef habitat.