Plastic pollution is a modern tragedy of the commons, with hundreds of species affected by society's waste. Birds in particular mistake plastic for prey, and millions of wild birds carry small plastic loads in their stomach and are exposed to potential toxicological effects. It is currently unknown how severely the toxicological and endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastic affect avian development, reproduction and endocrine function. To address this question, we conducted multi-generational plastic feeding experiments to test the toxicological consequences of plastic ingestion at environmentally relevant loads in Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, investigating parental and two filial generations. Contrary to expectations, we found no evidence of lasting toxicological effects on mortality, adult body weight, organ histology, hormone levels, fertility, hatch rates and eggshell strength in birds experimentally fed plastic. However, we found plastic ingestion causes higher frequencies of male reproductive cysts and minor delays in chick growth and sexual maturity, though without affecting ultimate survival or reproductive output. We report that although plastic ingestion causes detectable endocrine effects in our model species, our lack of finding mortality, morbidity and adverse reproductive outcomes may challenge the common hypothesis of severe toxicological harm and population-level effects when environmentally relevant loads of plastic are ingested.
Comparisons of six selected Mediterranean MPAs were conducted to find similarities and site-specific differences in coastline fluxes and sources of plastic marine litter. Output from the recently developed 2D Lagrangian model for the Mediterranean was post-processed to study (1) the National Park of ses Salines d’Eivissa i Formentera, (2) Nature Reserve of Bouches de Bonifacio, (3) North-East Malta MPA, (4) Specially Protected Area of Porto Cesareo, (5) Community Importance Site of Torre Guaceto, and (6) Ethniko Thalassio Parko Alonnisou Voreion Sporadon. Model coastline fluxes of plastic ranged from 0.4 to3.6 kg (km day)−1, which is relatively low compared to the average flux of 6.2 ± 0.8 kg (km day)−1 calculated over the Mediterranean 2013–2017. Shipping was identified as a major source of plastic litter in all MPAs studied, contributing 55%–88% of total plastic. Site-specific rankings of the top 5 land-based plastic sources revealed that sea surface kinematics control plastic drift.
Ocean acidification (OA) is a major emergent stressor of marine ecosystems with global implications for biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and economic prosperity. International action is imperative for addressing it. This paper builds a science-based governing framework, identifying three overarching policy objectives and six areas for action that should be pursued so as to minimise this global problem. No unifying OA treaty or legal instrument with the explicit task of addressing OA currently exists and it looks highly unlikely that any will eventuate. A more pragmatic approach is to use existing multilateral agreements. However, taking on OA as a unified problem seems to be beyond the scope of existing agreements, due to structural limitations and the willingness of Parties. Given this, it is more likely that OA will be addressed by a network of agreements, each responding to discrete elements of the problem of OA within their capabilities. However, it is unclear how existing MEA capabilities extend to addressing OA. This paper therefore offers an analytical framework through existing governance structures can be explored for their capabilities to respond to OA.
Mangroves provide many benefits to human welfare, but they are disappearing rapidly; Ecuador and countries within the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) region have lost over 40% of their mangrove coverage in the last 40 years. One reason for this destruction is that the benefits of mangroves have not been valued in a way that policymakers and markets can understand. Here, we present the first economic valuation of multiple ecosystem services (ES) for Ecuador and the TEP using the Galapagos mangroves as a case study. We focused on three ES of high value and policy relevance: carbon storage, support for small-scale fisheries, and mangrove-based tourism. Our data suggest that over 778,000 tons of carbon are stored in Galapagos mangroves, with mean belowground carbon being 211.03 ± 179.65 Mg C/ha, valued at $2940/ha or $22,838/ha depending on the valuation methodology. We identified mangrove-dependent fish targeted by the local finfish fishery, with net benefits of $245 ha−1, making this fishery the second most profitable in the Archipelago. The value of mangrove-based recreation was estimated at $16,958/ha, contributing $62 million to the industry. By accounting for stakeholders and existing property rights, our results allow for the discussion of institutionalizing ES payments for the Galapagos Islands.
The territorial waters and the EEZ of the Netherlands form a part of the southern North Sea. The area is intensely used and for several of these uses considerable growth is forecast. For years, industrial freedom and market forces prevailed during discussions on marine spatial planning in the Netherlands. But in 2005 it became clear that this might lead to increasing conflicts with the environment and between users. The introduction of a new spatial planning framework was in response to an increasing interest in new developments and a growing demand for governmental coordination of these developments. During the years after, societal demands changed rapidly, especially with regard to renewable energy and demand for sand to strengthen the coast. At a regular interval of 6 years, revised Marine Spatial Plans have been developed which are adapted to the new knowledge and experience acquired and the new societal demands. Each cycle has a strong stakeholder involvement, both informal and formal.
Long-distance (>40-km) dispersal from marine reserves is poorly documented; yet, it can provide essential benefits such as seeding fished areas or connecting marine reserves into networks. From a meta-analysis, we suggest that the spatial scale of marine connectivity is underestimated due to the limited geographic extent of sampling designs. We also found that the largest marine reserves (>1000 km2) are the most isolated. These findings have important implications for the assessment of evolutionary, ecological, and socio-economic long-distance benefits of marine reserves. We conclude that existing methods to infer dispersal should consider the up-to-date genomic advances and also expand the spatial scale of sampling designs. Incorporating long-distance connectivity in conservation planning will contribute to increase the benefits of marine reserve networks.
This research examines the donation behavior of tourists who are asked to donate to coastal conservation aimed at addressing a bundled mix of land and sea issues. Historically, the governance and financing of land and sea conservation have been separated; yet coastal tourism directly involves a mix of activities and development challenges which link land and sea together on the coast. Marine parks, and numerous studies examining their funding schemes, have typically focused on mandatory user fees targeting specific types of activities. For example, many studies focus only on scuba divers' willingness to pay (WTP) for marine conservation. Alternative funding mechanisms, such as voluntary contributions, may be preferred, or even necessary, to traditional government imposed fees, but much less is known about effective implementation. Relatively few studies focus on bundled cross-boundary conservation activities (i.e., land and sea conservation) from all visitors of a marine park (i.e., beachgoers, surfers, boaters, snorkelers) and its encompassing coastal area. In this study we target tourists visiting a popular island and employ field experimental methods to explore the optimal donation request mechanism and pricing levels that influence real voluntary payments for conservation. The field experiment examines voluntary payments under the treatment conditions: open-ended, a set of several suggested donation amounts, and default opt-in and opt-out at two price levels. The field experiment was conducted with tourists on the island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Results reveal that tourists are willing to donate to bundled land-sea conservation issues and that there is a significantly higher propensity to donate in all treatment conditions compared to the open-ended condition. The default opt-out conditions garnered the highest rate of donations at 75% and 62% respectively for the lower and higher set amounts. The mean donation amount was largest in the higher default opt-out condition. Our results suggest that the optimal method of requesting voluntary donations is a set default amount requiring users to opt-out if they do not wish to donate. Implementing a default opt-out eco-donation targeting all types of visitors represents a significant source of funding and illustrates the potential for donations to finance land and sea conservation efforts, an important avenue for future investigation in many interconnected systems that have been historically governed and financed separately.
Assessing coral reef resilience is an increasingly important component of coral reef management. Existing coral reef resilience assessments are not practical, especially for developing countries. South-east Asian countries have been using line-intercept-transect (LIT) in coral reef monitoring for a long time. The present study proposes an index for assessing coral reef resilience based on data collected from the LIT method. The resilience index formula was modified from an existing resilience index for soil communities developed by Orwin and Wardle. We used an ideal resilient coral reef community as a reference point for the index. The ideal coral reef was defined from data collected from 1992 to 2009. Six variables were statistically selected for the resilience indicators: coral functional group (CFG), coral habitat quality (CHQ), sand-silt cover (SSC), coral cover (COC), coral small-size number (CSN), and algae-other-fauna (AOF) cover. Maximum values of five variables were determined as the best state, while the maximum value of CSN was determined from 1240 data-sets of Indonesian reefs. The resilience index performed well in relation to changes in COC, AOF, and SSC variables. Managers can use this tool to compare coral reef resilience levels among locations and times. This index would be applicable for global coral reef resilience assessment.
Implementing a governance transformation entails the creation of a new institutional system when ecological, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable. It involves building capacities, establishing viable formal and informal institutions, and triggering major societal changes. Early assessments (EAs) provide a mechanism to fine-tune and support institutional learning processes, which are needed to provide legitimacy and political acceptability of transformational change. We performed an EA of a governance transformation aimed at implementing ecosystem-based, multilevel participatory fisheries management in Chile. We performed individual interviews and workshops and synthesized existing reports to assess the main challenges of the institutionalization of the new policy. Results showed that successful implementation of the governance transformation would need to address key issues related to building trust and improving transparency, including clear protocols for cocreating knowledge and securing resources and capacities. The EA allowed us to define specific recommendations associated with legal reforms, issuing of new executive orders to clarify implementation, and improvement in operational standards by government agencies. EAs provide a fundamental tool that helps build legitimacy and sustainability of new governance systems. They bring a sense of reality, informed by social science, that allows us to understand progress in the implementation of governance transformations, by identifying rigidities that fail to accommodate emerging realities.
Over the past decade, marine/maritime spatial planning (MSP) has matured from a concept to a practical approach in advancing sustainable development and management of marine space . However, MSP still remains a relatively novel and complex process which involves various disciplines, procedures and engagement with multiple interests within differing governance arrangements and legal settings at different spatial scales in a dynamic system. MSP, therefore, requires marine planning practitioners and their institutions to be adequately equipped to address all of these and emerging challenges. Europe has invested in capacity building for MSP over the years with the adoption of the MSP Directive  being the main driver for implementation in some Member States alongside those where MSP had already been initiated. This paper provides an overview of experience, practical challenges, and lessons learnt from capacity building initiatives to do with education and training courses, establishing a national planning body, and cross-border projects, mainly from Europe. The paper broadly considers the skills, training and knowledge required for the MSP process. It stresses the importance of developing capacity at all levels, prioritising resources for capacity building and ensuring effective partnerships between the different actors and institutions. Finally, recommendations, potential next steps and priorities are suggested for furthering MSP capacity building.
The assessment and mapping of ecosystem services (ES) has become an increasingly important instrument for environmental management and conservation priority-setting. As such, this practice can be used in ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). MSP is recognized as an opportunity to achieve socio-economic and ecological goals simultaneously, to suggest solutions for sustainable management of marine environment and its resources. In this study, we propose an operational approach that includes novel spatial analysis in the marine field to quantify and map supporting ecosystem services. Such approach spans the 3D-dimension of the marine environment, considering all marine domains (sea surface, water column, seabed) separately. Our approach is focused on mapping supporting ES of the Adriatic Sea, to grant their preservation in order to guarantee the delivery of all other ES. Supporting ES provision in the Adriatic was quantified through the use of indicators that denote ES delivery and that are specifically related to the three marine domains. We identified areas of elevated provisioning levels of multiple supporting ES in the Adriatic, which is hypothesized to be priority areas of conservation. Our results confirm the importance of explicitly including the pelagic domain in planning and conservation processes. Areas that provide the lowest levels of supporting ES delivery were also mapped, to indicate possible ‘sacrificial areas’ for industrial or intensive use. The spatial coincidence of the determined hotspots areas of ES delivery associated with particular marine areas that are and are not under conservation regimes was analysed. This approach led us to test the applicability of the method for identifying marine areas for conservation purposes. Our methodological approach aims at producing relevant scientific knowledge for prioritizing marine conservation and sustainable management actions, to be used in MSP and marine management.
Marine ecosystems are changing rapidly as the oceans warm and become more acidic. The physical factors and the changes to ocean chemistry that they drive can all be measured with great precision. Changes in the biological composition of communities in different ocean regions are far more challenging to measure because most biological monitoring methods focus on a limited taxonomic or size range. Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis has the potential to solve this problem in biological oceanography, as it is capable of identifying a huge phylogenetic range of organisms to species level. Here we develop and apply a novel multi-gene molecular toolkit to eDNA isolated from bulk plankton samples collected over a five-year period from a single site. This temporal scale and level of detail is unprecedented in eDNA studies. We identified consistent seasonal assemblages of zooplankton species, which demonstrates the ability of our toolkit to audit community composition. We were also able to detect clear departures from the regular seasonal patterns that occurred during an extreme marine heatwave. The integration of eDNA analyses with existing biotic and abiotic surveys delivers a powerful new long-term approach to monitoring the health of our world’s oceans in the context of a rapidly changing climate.
Although movement has always played an important role in fisheries science, movement patterns are changing with changing ocean conditions. This affects availability to capture, the spatial scale of needed governance, and our food supply. Technological advances make it possible to track marine fish (and fishermen) in ways not previously possible and tracking data is expected to grow exponentially over the next ten years – the bio-logging decade. In this article, we identify fisheries management data needs that tracking data can help fill, ranging from: improved estimates of natural mortality and abundance to providing the basis for short-term fisheries closures (i.e. dynamic closures) and conservation of biodiversity hotspots and migratory corridors. However, the sheer size of the oceans, lack of GPS capability, and aspects of marine fish life history traits (e.g., adult/offspring size ratios, high mortality rates) create challenges to obtaining this data. We address these challenges and forecast how they will be met in the next 10 years through increased use of drones and sensor networks, decreasing tag size with increased sensor capacity trends, the ICARUS initiative to increase satellite tracking capacity, and improved connectivity between marine and terrestrial movement researchers and databases.
The restoration and protection of “blue carbon” ecosystems – mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes – has potential to offset greenhouse gas emissions and improve coastal livelihoods. However, realisation of this potential relies on global investment in restoration and protection, which in turn relies on appropriate funding mechanisms that are currently impeded by multiple constraints. Constraints include commercial considerations by private investors (including reliable estimates of financial returns, risk quantification and management, and supply chain impacts), regulatory and legal uncertainty (such as the complexity of property rights in coastal areas, policy coordination across jurisdictions, and stable policy consistent with the duration of blue carbon projects). There are, however, opportunities to improve on current practices, including better stakeholder engagement (including social license to operate, and knowledge transfer to promote best practices), and targeted use of public and philanthropic funding (to subsidise demonstration projects, reduce financial risk through collaterals, and promote low-profit but high co-benefit projects). In this paper, a strategy for the realisation of potential benefits through commercially viable and scientifically robust blue carbon initiatives is presented alongside insights and guidance for the policy, research, civil society, and private sectors to achieve these important long-term outcomes.
Understanding the mechanisms which determine the capacity of any species to adapt to changing environmental conditions is one of the foremost requirements in accurately predicting which populations, species and clades are likely to survive ongoing, rapid climate change. The polar oceans are amongst the most rapidly changing environments on Earth with reduced regional sea ice duration and extent, and their fauna's expected sensitivity to warming and acidification. These changes potentially pose a significant threat to a number of polar fauna. There is, therefore, a critical need to assess the vulnerability of a wide range of species to determine the tipping points or weak links in marine assemblages. Knowledge of the effect of multiple stressors on polar marine fauna has advanced over the last 40 years, but there are still many data gaps. This study applies ecological risk assessment techniques to the increasing knowledge of polar species' physiological capacities to identify their exposure to climate change and their vulnerability to this exposure. This relatively rapid, semi-quantitative assessment provides a layer of vulnerability on top of climate envelope models, until such times as more extensive physiological data sets can be produced. The risk assessment identified more species that are likely to benefit from the near-future predicted change (the winners), especially predators and deposit feeders. Fewer species were scored at risk (the losers), although animals that feed on krill scored consistently as under the highest risk.
Microbial plankton respiration is the key determinant in the balance between the storage of organic carbon in the oceans or its conversion to carbon dioxide with accompanying consumption of dissolved oxygen. Over the past 50 years, dissolved oxygen concentrations have decreased in many parts of the world’s oceans, and this trend of ocean deoxygenation is predicted to continue. Yet despite its pivotal role in ocean deoxygenation, microbial respiration remains one of the least constrained microbial metabolic processes. Improved understanding of the magnitude and variability of respiration, including attribution to component plankton groups, and quantification of the respiratory quotient, would enable better predictions, and projections of the intensity and extent of ocean deoxygenation and of the integrative impact of ocean deoxygenation, ocean acidification, warming, and changes in nutrient concentration and stoichiometry on marine carbon storage. This study will synthesize current knowledge of respiration in relation to deoxygenation, including the drivers of its variability, identify key unknowns in our ability to project future scenarios and suggest an approach to move the field forward.
Marine carbon dioxide (CO2) system data has been collected from December 2014 to June 2018 in the Northern Salish Sea (NSS; British Columbia, Canada) and consisted of continuous measurements at two sites as well as spatially- and seasonally distributed discrete seawater samples. The array of CO2 observing activities included high-resolution CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) and pHT (total scale) measurements made at the Hakai Institute’s Quadra Island Field Station (QIFS) and from an Environment Canada weather buoy, respectively, as well as discrete seawater measurements of pCO2 and total dissolved inorganic carbon (TCO2) obtained during a number of field campaigns. A relationship between NSS alkalinity and salinity was developed with the discrete datasets and used with the continuous measurements to highly resolve the marine CO2 system. Collectively, these datasets provided insights into the seasonality in this historically under-sampled region and detail the area’s tendency for aragonite saturation state (Ωarag) to be at non-corrosive levels (i.e., Ωarag > 1) only in the upper water column during spring and summer months. This depth zone and time period of reprieve can be periodically interrupted by strong northwesterly winds that drive short-lived (∼1 week) episodes of high-pCO2, low-pH, and low-Ωarag conditions throughout the region. Interannual variability in summertime conditions was evident and linked to reduced northwesterly winds and increased stratification. Anthropogenic CO2 in NSS surface water was estimated using data from 2017 combined with the global atmospheric CO2 forcing for the period 1765 to 2100, and projected a mean value of 49 ± 5 μmol kg-1 for 2018. The estimated trend in anthropogenic CO2 was further used to assess the evolution of Ωarag and pHT levels in NSS surface water, and revealed that wintertime corrosive Ωaragconditions were likely absent pre-1900. The percent of the year spent above Ωarag = 1 has dropped from ∼98% in 1900 to ∼60% by 2018. Over the coming decades, winter pHT and spring and summer Ωarag are projected to decline to conditions below identified biological thresholds for select vulnerable species.
Until the 1990s, beaked whales were one of the least understood groups of large mammals. Information on northern bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus) and Baird’s beaked whales (Berardius bairdii) was available from data collected during whaling, however, little information existed on the smaller species other than occasional data gleaned from beach-cast animals. Recent research advances have been plentiful. Increasing global survey effort, together with morphometric and genetic analyses have shown at least 22 species in this group. Longitudinal field studies of at least four species (H. ampullatus, B. bairdii, Ziphius cavirostris, Mesoplodon densirostris) have become established over the last three decades. Several long-term studies support photo-identification catalogs providing insights into life history, social structure and population size. Tag-based efforts looking at diving, movements and acoustics have provided detail on individual behavior as well as population structure and ranges. Passive acoustic monitoring has allowed long-term and seasonal monitoring of populations. Genetic studies have uncovered cryptic species and revealed contrasting patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity amongst the few species examined. Conservation concern for these species was sparked by mass strandings coincident with military mid-frequency sonar use. Fat and gas emboli have been symptomatic indicators of mortalities related to sonar exposure, suggesting that their vulnerability stems from the physiological exertion of extreme diving for medium-sized whales. Behavioral response experiments have now shown that beaked whales appear to cease foraging and delay their return to foraging and/or leave the area in association with exposure to mid-frequency signals at low acoustic levels. Future priorities for these species will be to (1) continue field-studies to better understand smaller-scale habitat use, vital rates and social structure; (2) develop better detection methods for larger-scale survey work; (3) improve methodology for monitoring energetics, individual body condition and health; (4) develop tools to better understand physiology; (5) use recent genetic advances with improved sample databanks to re-examine global and local beaked whale relationships; (6) further quantify anthropogenic impacts (both sonar and other noise) and their population consequences (7) apply acquired data for realistic mitigation of sonar and other anthropogenic impacts for beaked whale conservation.
Marine species with pelagic larvae typically exhibit little population structure, suggesting long distance dispersal and high gene flow. Directly quantifying dispersal of marine fishes is challenging but important, particularly for design of marine protected areas (MPAs). Here, we studied kelp rockfish (Sebastes atrovirens) sampled along ~25 km of coastline in a boundary current‐dominated ecosystem and used genetic parentage analysis to identify dispersal events and characterize them, since the distance between sedentary parents and their settled offspring is the lifetime dispersal distance. Large sample sizes and intensive sampling are critical for increasing the likelihood of detecting parent‐offspring matches in such systems and we sampled more than 6,000 kelp rockfish and analyzed them with a powerful set of 96 microhaplotype markers. We identified eight parent‐offspring pairs with high confidence, and they included two juvenile fish that were born inside MPAs and dispersed to areas outside MPAs, and four fish born in MPAs that dispersed to nearby MPAs. Additionally, we identified 25 full‐sibling pairs, which occurred throughout the sampling area and included all possible combinations of inferred dispersal trajectories. Intriguingly, these included two pairs of young‐of‐the‐year siblings with one member each sampled in consecutive years. These sibling pairs suggest monogamy, either intentional or accidental, which has not been previously demonstrated in rockfishes. This study provides the first direct observation of larval dispersal events in a current‐dominated ecosystem and direct evidence that larvae produced within MPAs are exported both to neighboring MPAs and proximate areas where harvest is allowed.
Resource subsidies across ecosystems can have strong and unforeseen ecological impacts. Marine-derived nutrients from Pacific salmon (Onchorhycus spp.) can be transferred to streams and riparian forests through diverse food web pathways, fertilizing forests and increasing invertebrate abundance, which may in turn affect breeding birds. We quantified the influence of salmon on the abundance and composition of songbird communities across a wide range of salmon-spawning biomass on 14 streams along a remote coastal region of British Columbia, Canada. Point-count data spanning two years were combined with salmon biomass and 13 environmental covariates in riparian forests to test for correlates with bird abundance, foraging guilds, individual species, and avian diversity. We show that bird abundance and diversity increase with salmon biomass and that watershed size and forest composition are less important predictors. This work provides new evidence for the importance of salmon to terrestrial ecosystems and information that can inform ecosystem-based management.