The implications of plastic pollution, including microplastics, on marine ecosystems and species are increasingly seen as an environmental disaster. Yet few reports focus on filter-feeding megafauna in regions heavily impacted by plastic pollution, such as Indonesia in the Coral Triangle, a global marine biodiversity hotspot. Here, we evaluate plastic abundance and characterize debris from feeding grounds for manta rays Mobula alfredi and whale sharks Rhincodon typus in three coastal locations in Indonesia: Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area, Komodo National Park, and Pantai Bentar, East Java. A 200 μm plankton net was used to sample the top 0.5 m of the water column (‘trawl survey’) and floating plastics were assessed along ∼440 m long transects (‘visual survey’) during the Indonesian north-west (wet) and south-east (dry) monsoon seasons during 2016–2018. Microplastics were identified visually, measured and categorized from trawl samples, and larger floating plastics were counted and categorized visually from boats. Plastic abundance ranged widely from 0.04 to 0.90 pieces m–3 (trawl survey) and 210 to 40,844 pieces km–2 (visual survey). Results from linear models showed significant seasonal and location differences in estimated plastic abundance for trawl and visual surveys in Nusa Penida and Komodo. Plastic abundance was up to ∼ 44 times higher in the wet than the dry season, with the largest seasonal effect observed in Nusa Penida. Overall, small pieces < 5 mm (≥ 78%), films and fragments (> 50% combined) were the most prevalent plastics. Theoretical plastic ingestion rates were calculated using estimated filtration volumes of manta rays and whale sharks and the mean plastic abundance in their feeding grounds. Upper plastic ingestion estimates for manta rays were ∼63 and 25 pieces h–1 for Nusa Penida and Komodo locations, respectively, and ∼137 pieces h–1 for whale sharks in Java. Analysis of manta ray egested material confirmed plastic ingestion, the consequences of which might include exposure to toxic plastic additives and adhered persistent organic pollutants. Communicating this information to communities who stand to benefit from healthy megafauna populations might help local governments as they work toward reducing plastics in the marine environment.
There has been wide interest in Marine Heatwaves and their ecological consequences in recent years. Most analyses have focused on remotely sensed sea surface temperature data due to the temporal and spatial coverage it provides in order to establish the presence and duration of Heatwaves. Using hydrographic data from a variety of sources, we show that an advective Marine Heatwave was initiated by an event in late December of 2016 south of New England, with temperature anomalies measuring up to 6°C and salinity anomalies exceeding 1 PSU. Similar features were observed off of New Jersey in February 2017, and are associated with the Shelfbreak Front migrating from its normal position to mid-shelf or further onshore. Shelf water of 34 PSU was observed just north of Cape Hatteras at the 30 m isobath and across the continental shelf in late April 2017. These observations reveal that the 2017 Marine Heatwave was associated with a strong positive salinity anomaly, that its total duration was approximately 4 months, and its advective path extended roughly 850 km along the length of the continental shelf in the Middle Atlantic Bight. The southward advective velocity implied by the arrival north of Cape Hatteras is consistent with previous estimates of alongshelf velocity for the region. The origin of this Marine Heatwave is likely related to cross-shelf advection driven by the presence of a Warm Core Ring adjacent to the shelfbreak south of New England.
Background: Commercial shipping is identified as a major source of anthropogenic underwater noise in several ecologically sensitive areas. Any development project likely to increase marine traffic can thus be required to assess environmental impacts of underwater noise. Therefore, project holders are increasingly engaging in underwater noise modeling relying on ships' underwater noise source levels published in the literature. However, a lack of apparent consensus emerges from the scientific literature as discrepancies up to 30 dB are reported for ships' broadband source levels belonging to the same vessel class and operating under similar conditions. We present a statistical meta-analysis of individual ships' broadband source levels available in the literature so far to identify which factors likely explain these discrepancies.
Methods: We collated ships' source levels from the published literature to construct our dataset. A Generalized Linear Mixed Model was applied to the dataset to statistically assess the contribution of intrinsic (i.e., related to ships' static and dynamic attributes) and extrinsic factors (i.e., related to both the protocol for hydroacoustic data acquisition and the noise data reduction procedure) to the reported broadband source levels.
Results: Amongst intrinsic factors, ships' speed-over-ground (15.39 dB ×log10[v1 knot], p−value < 0.001)(15.39 dB ×log10[v1 knot], p−value < 0.001), ships' width (12.03 dB ×log10[b1 m];p−value < 0.001)(12.03 dB ×log10[b1 m];p−value < 0.001), and ships' class (−6.07 to 2.08 dB; p-value ∈ [< 0.001 to 0.036]) have shown the strongest correlations with broadband source levels. The hydrophone-to-source closest point of approach (−4.83dB×[CPA1nmi];p−value<0.001)(−4.83 dB ×[CPA1 nmi];p−value < 0.001) and the correction for surface-image reflections (21.73 dB; p-value = 0.002) contribute the most to explain the reported ships' broadband source levels' variability amongst extrinsic factors.
Conclusions: Our meta-analysis confirms a consensus that speed regulation can effectively reduce instantaneous ships' source levels. Neglecting Lloyd's mirror effects through the abuse of non-corrected spreading laws for propagation loss directly leads to a generalized under-estimation of the ships' source levels retrieved from the literature. This could eventually be addressed by a wider adoption of standardized methods of hydrophone-based sound recordings and of data processing to homogenize results and facilitate their interpretation to conduct environmental impact assessment.
Marine heatwaves (MHWs), or prolonged periods of anomalously warm sea water temperature, have been increasing in duration and intensity globally for decades. However, there are many coastal, oceanic, polar, and sub-surface regions where our ability to detect MHWs is uncertain due to limited high quality data. Here, we investigate the effect that short time series length, missing data, or linear long-term temperature trends may have on the detection of MHWs. We show that MHWs detected in time series as short as 10 years did not have durations or intensities appreciably different from events detected in a standard 30 year long time series. We also show that the output of our MHW algorithm for time series missing less than 25% data did not differ appreciably from a complete time series, and that the level of allowable missing data could cautiously be increased to 50% when gaps were filled by linear interpolation. Finally, linear long-term trends of 0.10°C/decade or greater added to a time series caused larger changes (increases) to the count and duration of detected MHWs than shortening a time series to 10 years or missing more than 25% of the data. The long-term trend in a time series has the largest effect on the detection of MHWs and has the largest range in added uncertainty in the results. Time series length has less of an effect on MHW detection than missing data, but adds a larger range of uncertainty to the results. We provide suggestions for best practices to improve the accuracy of MHW detection with sub-optimal time series and show how the accuracy of these corrections may change regionally.
With globally accelerating rates of environmental disturbance, coastal marine ecosystems are increasingly prone to non-linear regime shifts that result in a loss of ecosystem function and services. A lack of early-detection methods, and an over reliance on limits-based approaches means that these tipping points manifest as surprises. Consequently, marine ecosystems are notoriously difficult to manage, and scientists, managers, and policy makers are paralyzed in a spiral of ecosystem degradation. This paralysis is caused by the inherent need to quantify the risk and uncertainty that surrounds every decision. While progress toward forecasting tipping points is ongoing and important, an interim approach is desperately needed to enable scientists to make recommendations that are credible and defensible in the face of deep uncertainty. We discuss how current tools for developing risk assessments and scenario planning, coupled with expert opinions, can be adapted to bridge gaps in quantitative data, enabling scientists and managers to prepare for many plausible futures. We argue that these tools are currently underutilized in a marine cumulative effects context but offer a way to inform decisions in the interim while predictive models and early warning signals remain imperfect. This approach will require redefining the way we think about managing for ecological surprise to include actions that not only limit drivers of tipping points but increase socio-ecological resilience to yield satisfactory outcomes under multiple possible futures that are inherently uncertain.
Developing and implementing effective legislation to combat plastic litter in the marine environment has proven a significant challenge. This is in large part due to an incomplete understanding of the sources and transport pathways of plastic litter and is manifested in Europe’s current disjointed legislation that governs the aquatic environment. In this article, the authors present the perspective that marine plastic pollution in European waters cannot be mitigated without increased regional integration between the dominant legislative structures and must provide specific considerations for the role rivers and land-based activities play in the accumulation of plastic litter in the marine environment.
Shallow water coral reefs and deep sea coral communities are sensitive to current and future environmental stresses, such as changes in sea surface temperatures (SST), salinity, carbonate chemistry, and acidity. Over the last half-century, some reef communities have been disappearing at an alarming pace. This study focuses on the Gulf of Mexico, where the majority of shallow coral reefs are reported to be in poor or fair condition. We analyze the RCP8.5 ensemble of the Community Earth System Model v1.2 to identify monthly-to-decadal trends in Gulf of Mexico SST. Secondly, we examine projected changes in ocean pH, carbonate saturation state, and salinity in the same coupled model simulations. We find that the joint impacts of predicted higher temperatures and changes in ocean acidification will severely degrade Gulf of Mexico reef systems by the end of the twenty-first century. SSTs are likely to warm by 2.5–3°C; while corals do show signs of an ability to adapt toward higher temperatures, current coral species and reef systems are likely to suffer major bleaching events in coming years. We contextualize future changes with ancient reefs from paleoclimate analogs, periods of Earth's past that were also exceptionally warm, specifically rapid “hyperthermal” events. Ancient analog events are often associated with extinctions, reef collapse, and significant ecological changes, yet reef communities managed to survive these events on evolutionary timescales. Finally, we review research which discusses the adaptive potential of the Gulf of Mexico's coral reefs, meccas of biodiversity and oceanic health. We assert that the only guaranteed solution for long-term conservation and recovery is substantial, rapid reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Humpback whales rely on acoustic communication to mediate social interactions. The distance to which these social signals propagate from the signaller defines its communication space, and therefore communication network (number of potential receivers). As humpback whales migrate along populated coastlines, they are likely to encounter noise from vessel traffic which will mask their social signals. Since no empirical data exist on baleen whale hearing, the consequences of this are usually assumed, being the modelled reduction in their communication space. Here, the communication space and network of migrating humpback whales was compared in increasing wind-dominated and vessel-dominated noise. Behavioural data on their social interactions were then used to inform these models. In typical wind noise, a signaller's communication space was estimated to extend to 4 km, which agreed with the maximum separation distance between groups that socially interacted. An increase in vessel noise reduced the modelled communication area, along with a significant reduction in group social interactions, probably due to a reduction in their communication network. However, signal masking did not fully explain this change in social behaviour, implying there was also an additional effect of the physical presence of the vessel on signaller and receiver behaviour. Though these observed changes in communication space and social behaviour were likely to be short term and localized, an increase in vessel activity due to tourism and coastal population growth may cause more sustained changes along the humpback whale migration paths.
The Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM) paradigm encourages managers to base their decisions on the strongest available evidence, but it has been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the choice of study design method without considering the types of questions that are being addressed as well as other relevant factors such as how well a study is implemented. Here we review the objectives of Australia’s Marine Park network, and identify the types of questions and data analysis that would address these objectives. Critically, we consider how the design of a monitoring program influences our ability to adequately answer these questions, using the strength of evidence hierarchy from the EBDM paradigm to assess the adequacy of different design strategies and other sources of information. It is important for conservation managers to recognize that the types of questions monitoring programs are able to answer depends on how they are designed and how the collected data are analyzed. The socio-political process that dictates where protected areas are placed typically excludes the strongest types of evidence, Random Controlled Trials (RCTs), for certain questions. Evidence bases that are stronger than ones commonly employed to date, however, could be used to provide a causal inference, including for those questions where RCTs are excluded, but only if appropriate designs such as cohort or case-control studies are used, and supported where relevant by appropriate sample frames. Randomized, spatially balanced sampling, together with careful selection of control sites, and more extensive use of propensity scores and structured elicitation of expert judgment, are also practical ways to improve the evidence base for answering the questions that underlie marine park objectives and motivate long-term monitoring programs.
What happens on the coast, does not stay on the coast. Stakeholder power to shape decisions, agendas, and interests have a wide array of global consequences. Coastal management literature, however, pays relatively little attention to discussions of how power is used among stakeholders, limiting the inquiry to elitist and pluralist perspectives — who has the power and makes decisions. Consequently, power on the coast remains understudied. In political science, power has generated a considerable amount of debate. By contrast, research in environmental politics has tended to drift away from political theories. In turn, we use two power theories to fill the gap — non-decisions and consent to domination. We employed semi-structured interviews (thirty-one in total), archival histories, and participant observations to collect rich, thick data and to compare two case studies — Eilat (Israel) and Aqaba (Jordan). Our findings suggest that questioning coastal agendas through non-decisions can be a meaningful coastal planning tool. Further, we find that building consent to domination with regards to coastal interests is very difficult, if not impossible in Eilat. Yet, in Aqaba, sustainable development rhetoric conceals contested stakeholder interests about the greater good, coral reef loss, and other development impacts. Finally, we show that stakeholders in both cities indicate mainly tangible challenges on the coast. That is, power was not seen as a threat to future coastal management efforts. In sum, we expand the explanatory limits of the chosen theories and indicate the need to research intangible challenges on the coast. In particular, how agendas and interests are shaped through non-decisions and consent to domination?
Pollution by marine litter is raising major concerns due to its potential impact on marine biodiversity and, above all, on endangered mega-fauna species, such as cetaceans and sea turtles. The density and distribution of marine litter and mega-fauna have been traditionally monitored through observer-based methods, yet the advent of new technologies has introduced aerial photography as an alternative monitoring method. However, to integrate results produced by different monitoring techniques and consider the photographic method a viable alternative, this ‘new’ methodology must be validated. This study aims to compare observations obtained from the concurrent application of observer-based and photographic methods during aerial surveys. To do so, a Partenavia P-68 aircraft equipped with an RGB sensor was used to monitor the waters off the Spanish Mediterranean coast along 12 transects (941 km). Over 10000 images were collected and checked manually by a photo-interpreter to detect potential targets, which were classified as floating marine macro-litter, mega-fauna and seabirds. The two methods allowed the detection of items from the three categories and proved equally effective for the detection of cetaceans, sea turtles and large fish on the sea surface. However, the photographic method was more effective for floating litter detection and the observer-based method was more effective for seabird detection. These results provide the first validation of the use of aerial photography to monitor floating litter and mega-fauna over the marine surface.
Understanding the factors influencing community acceptance of renewable energy projects such as offshore wind farms is important for achieving a transition to low carbon energy sources. However, to date community acceptance research has concentrated on responses to actual proposals, seeking to explain local objections. ‘Upstream’ research that investigates the ‘place-technology fit’ of a potential renewable energy project before it is proposed is scarce, yet can inform technology deployment by taking local knowledge and preferences into account. We address this gap in a study conducted in Guernsey, Channel Islands. Data was collected using a survey (n = 468) co-designed with island policy makers presenting technical, economic and locational details of a potential offshore wind project. Results show that acceptance of the same project design differed significantly across alternative development locations. Regression analyses compared the roles of personal, context and project-related factors in explaining acceptance for each site. Support for using wind energy for local electricity supply was the most important predictor of acceptance, and this variable mediated the relationship between island energy security and community acceptance. We conclude that place matters for community acceptance and that security and autonomy are co-benefits of local renewable energy projects that deserve further research.
The Common Fisheries Policy in the Mediterranean has been so far based on technical measures that have been relatively stable for a long time, and it did not prevent the efficiency increase in both vessels and gears that have counterbalanced the fleet reduction. The new Multiannual Plan for Demersal fish stocks in the western Mediterranean Sea introduces a fishing effort regime as a new approach to reduce significantly fishing time, allowing stocks to approach MSY in the medium term. However, different approaches to reduce fishing time may have different socio-economic impacts that have to be considered. The reduction of fishing time has to be complemented with selectivity improvements, temporal and permanent closures and local co-management plans to protect both juveniles and spawners. The combination of several measures will soften the need for effort reduction and it will contribute significantly to the sustainability of Mediterranean Fisheries.
To better understand the threats posed by human activities on cetaceans, we compiled published studies and determined where, how, and by whom the research on this subject has been conducted in Brazil. We also determined which cetacean species were mostly investigated in these studies. We gathered the available scientific literature published from 1986 to 2016 that contained search terms in English that depicted major cetacean threats. Then, we developed a collaboration network among the authors' institutions and generated a distribution map of the investigated threats and study areas. From the 1047 compiled publications, we selected 103 studies that precisely addressed cetacean threats. The selected studies were carried out by 82 institutions from 12 countries. Most of these institutions were universities (n = 55), followed by non-governmental organizations (n = 15) and research institutes (n = 12). Among the two cetacean suborders, odontocetes were the most representative, with Sotalia guianensis and Pontoporia blainvillei present in 50 and 38 publications, respectively. For mysticetes, publications on Megaptera novaeangliae (n = 6) and Eubalaena australis (n = 5) were the most common. Among the addressed threats, more than half (54.4%) of the publications focused on pollution, followed by bycatch (19.4%) and vessel traffic (10.7%). Most of the study areas took place in the states of Rio de Janeiro (22.4%), São Paulo (19.7%), and Rio Grande do Sul (12.9%). Six institutions were the most prevalent in the collaboration networks, and their location corresponded to hotspots of cetacean diversity. Our findings may contribute to identifying research priorities and guide the conservation of cetacean species in Brazil.
The dynamics of fish length distribution is a key input for understanding the fish population dynamics and taking informed management decisions on exploited stocks. Nevertheless, in most fisheries, the length of landed fish is still made by hand. As a result, length estimation is precise at fish level, but due to the inherent high costs of manual sampling, the sample size tends to be small. Accordingly, the precision of population-level estimates is often suboptimal and prone to bias when properly stratified sampling programmes are not affordable. Recent applications of artificial intelligence to fisheries science are opening a promising opportunity for the massive sampling of fish catches. Here, we present the results obtained using a deep convolutional network (Mask R-CNN) for unsupervised (i.e. fully automatic) European hake length estimation from images of fish boxes automatically collected at the auction centre. The estimated mean of fish lengths at the box level is accurate; for average lengths ranging 20–40 cm, the root-mean-square deviation was 1.9 cm, and maximum deviation between the estimated and the measured mean body length was 4.0 cm. We discuss the challenges and opportunities that arise with the use of this technology to improve data acquisition in fisheries.
Species conservation, river rehabilitation, stock enhancement, environmental impact assessment and related planning tools require indicators to identify significant impacts but also mitigation success. Since river systems are shaped by disturbances from floods and droughts, typical riverine fish species should have evolved life history traits providing resilience against such disturbances. This study compiled and analyzed resilience traits of European lampreys and fish species to derive a novel sensitivity classification of species to mortality. We assembled life history traits like maximum length, migration type, mortality, fecundity, age at maturity, and generation time of 168 species and created a novel method to weigh and integrate all traits to generate a final sensitivity score from one (low sensitivity) to three (high sensitivity) for each species. Large-bodied, diadromous, rheophilic and lithophilic species such as sturgeons, sea trout, and Atlantic salmon usually appeared to have high sensitivity to additional adult fish mortality, whereas small-bodied, limnophilic and phytophilic species with fast generation cycles were of low sensitivity. The final scoring and classification of 168 European lampreys and fish species according to their sensitivity can be easily regionalized by selecting the most sensitive candidates according to the local species pool. This sensitivity classification has major implications for advancing impact assessment, allowing better targeting of species for conservation measures, benchmarking progress during rehabilitation and enhancing the objective evaluation of the success of restoration projects.
The Rosemary Bank Seamount in the NE Atlantic was designated a Marine Protected Area in 2014 by the Scottish Government. Visual and trawl surveys of the seamount have been undertaken since 2007. Here these data are compiled and analysed to provide an assessment of the communities of demersal fish and benthic invertebrates found there. The fish and benthic invertebrate communities changed markedly with depth. Cluster analysis revealed at least four distinct communities of fish: those on the summit, the mid slope, the lower slope and the deep moat at the base of the seamount. The invertebrate community changed at a depth of 1100 m, where mixed-species sponge aggregations dominated to depths of 1500 m. The seamount is an important site for vulnerable marine ecosystems, most notably the extensive and unusually diverse deep-sea sponge grounds on the lower slope. Other prioritised conservation species and habitats recorded included cold water corals, orange roughy, blue ling, leafscale gulper shark and the Portuguese dogfish. Due to sampling constraints some areas of the seamount still remain unknown. A precautionary approach to protecting the entire seamount would achieve multiple conservation objectives. The data presented here serve as a base-line to assess the impact of management intervention in the future.
A key conservation strategy to protect and manage marine biodiversity is the implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs). The level of protection from human activities offered to biodiversity by MPAs is not uniform but varies according to the type of MPA, as well as by jurisdiction. This diversity in the activities permitted within MPAs means that reporting total area of marine protection does not reflect the level of protection offered to biodiversity. As such, there is the potential for public confusion surrounding what is permitted or prevented within any one MPA. Therefore, it is critical to determine the degree to which the public understands the activities permitted within MPAs, and how this accords with the actual protection offered to biodiversity. To do this, an anonymous survey was conducted to assess the general knowledge about the protection offered by Australian MPAs and, specifically, the activities permitted or prohibited within MPA boundaries. The overwhelming majority of respondents (63%) believe that Australia's MPA system restricts fishing, when this is only true for 25% of the total area protected. While the activities permitted within MPAs vary, the broad pattern remains that respondents overestimate the degree to which MPAs within their state of origin prevent extractive uses. This study suggests that there is a significant gap in the public understanding of marine conservation issues in Australia, highlighting the need for an explicit conversation between policymakers, scientists and the public about whether current levels of marine protection align with public expectations.
“Flow” is a key concept in our era of liquid modernity, across a broad range of ecological, economic, and cultural discourses. In this essay, we examine the material flows integral to naturecultures through the specific case study of Seascale on the Cumbria coast in the UK. Through an analysis of cultural representations, we show the construction of Seascale as a seaside resort in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the rapid and irrevocable sinking of its cultural value since the commissioning of the nuclear power and reprocessing plant at Sellafield in 1947. By following the “flows” of pleasure, emotion, energy, and waste through Seascale, we explore the legacies of nuclear contamination for coastal communities, within a broader regime of the commodification of nature. This essay emerges from a transdisciplinary research project to investigate the cultural influences and impacts of ecosystem change in coastal environments around the Irish Sea. A collaboration between environmental humanities and ecological sciences, the project sought a materialist intervention in the conceptualization and practice of ecosystem assessment so as to capture and map a more inclusive and multidirectional sense of the flows that are integral to ecosystems, and to move beyond the limitations of dominant models of environmental stewardship. In contrast to the ways in which flow metaphors have been employed in contemporary economic and environmental discourse, the project attempts to analyze the material flows integral to naturecultures through particular places, perspectives, and agencies.
Coastal wetlands have been valued for a variety of ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and long term storage. The carbon sequestered and stored in coastal habitat including mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds is termed as blue carbon. However, these systems are threatened mainly due to sea level rise, limited sediment supply, edge erosion, and anthropogenic influences. These habitats require restoration and conservation to continue providing ecosystem services. The incentive for emission reductions, referred to as carbon offsets, is well established for other ecosystems like forestry and agriculture. Some blue carbon offset methodologies or protocols have been certified by various voluntary carbon markets; however to date, a few wetland restoration carbon offset in the US has been transacted. Thus, the goal of this paper is to discuss the existing carbon market and carbon market methodologies applicable to coastal wetland restoration and conservation in the US. Currently, four wetland carbon offset methodologies have been approved in the carbon market. These methodologies are site and/or project-specific depending on the type of the wetlands, vulnerability to loss, and restoration need. The appropriate carbon stock and Green House Gas (GHG) emission assessment is the basis of determining carbon offsets. Simplification of the existing methodologies and development of new site and project-specific methodologies could potentially help to realize blue carbon offsets in practice. The slowly growing demand for carbon offsets in the carbon market could potentially be fulfilled from the blue carbon pool. While this carbon offset is in the early stages, this review may help the inclusion of carbon offset component in the coastal restoration and conservation projects in United States and potentially across the globe.