We organized environmental observations (Sea Surface Temperature, chlorophyll concentration, and primary productivity) and biological diversity indices based on reconstructed fisheries landings obtained from the Sea Around Us project to address two objectives: 1) to understand whether adjacent Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) of the Americas form megaregions for assemblages of commercially-valuable fish; and 2) to assess changes in the diversity of fisheries landings in LMEs of the Americas over time (1982 to 2010). To test for similarities between LMEs, we used the seascape approach of unsupervised clustering of annual mean environmental observations and fisheries-derived diversity indices. Beta-diversity estimates based on fisheries landings were used to evaluate the degree to which species spanned LMEs. Temporal trends were computed for each dataset by linear least-squares. Three megaregions emerged when considering similarities in species composition of fisheries landings, fisheries-derived diversity indices, and characteristic environmental conditions among LMEs. These include (A) the South Brazil Shelf, East Brazil Shelf, and North Brazil Shelf LMEs, (B) the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast U.S. Continental Shelf LMEs, and (C) the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf, Scotian Shelf, and Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf LMEs. No megaregions emerged for the Pacific Ocean. While there were some shared species assemblages between the California Current and the Gulf of Alaska, the Gulf of California, and the Pacific Central-American Coastal LMEs, these showed different average environmental conditions and fishery-derived diversity indices, so they did not cluster as a megaregion. In the Pacific Ocean, the high dissimilarity in the fisheries is in part related to different top-down pressures and strong regional differences in oceanographic properties, including upwelling and impacts of El-Niño Southern Oscillation events. Overall, between 1982 and 2010, seven LMEs diversified their fisheries (Pacific Central-America Coastal, Patagonian Shelf, South Brazil Shelf, East Brazil Shelf, North Brazil Shelf, Southeast U.S. Continental Shelf, and Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf). This may be due to a number of reasons including decreasing fishing pressure but expansion of target stocks due to management quotas, changes in regional markets, competition, effort, or a decrease in particular target stocks. Three LMEs showed increasingly less diversified fisheries, namely the California Current, the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf, and the Caribbean Sea LMEs. While in some cases this may be related to historical overfishing, such as in the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf LME, the California Current LME has been subjected to strong and conservative management practices. The Caribbean Sea LME was likely subjected to heavy fishing at a time of rapid environmental change.
We evaluated total mercury (THg) concentrations and trends in polar bears from the southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation from 2004 to 2011. Hair THg concentrations ranged widely among individuals from 0.6 to 13.3 μg g–1 dry weight (mean: 3.5 ± 0.2 μg g–1). Concentrations differed among sex and age classes: solitary adult females ≈ adult females with cubs ≈ subadults > adult males ≈ yearlings > cubs-of-the-year ≈ 2 year old dependent cubs. No variation was observed between spring and fall samples. For spring-sampled adults, THg concentrations declined by 13% per year, contrasting recent trends observed for other Western Hemispheric Arctic biota. Concentrations also declined by 15% per year considering adult males only, while a slower, nonsignificant decrease of 4.4% per year was found for adult females. Lower THg concentrations were associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and higher proportions of lower trophic position food resources consumed. Because BMI and diet were related, and the relationship to THg was strongest for BMI, trends were re-evaluated adjusting for BMI as the covariate. The adjusted annual decline was not significant. These findings indicate that changes in foraging ecology, not declining environmental concentrations of mercury, are driving short-term declines in THg concentrations in southern Beaufort Sea polar bears.
Unsustainable land uses may result in poor watershed management, increased soil erosion, poorly-planned urban development, increased runoff, and sewage pollution, creating an environmental stress gradient across coastal coral reefs. This study was aimed at: 1) Evaluating water quality within and outside the Canal Luis Peña Natural Reserve (CLPNR), Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; 2) Determining if there was any significant environmental stress gradient associated to land-based non-point source pollution; and 3) Characterizing shallow-water coral reef communities across the gradient. Strong gradient impacts associated to sediment-laden and nutrient-loaded runoff pulses, in combination with non-point raw sewage pulses, and sediment bedload, impacted coastal coral reefs. Water quality showed significant spatio-temporal fluctuations (p<0.0001), largely responding to heavy rainfall and subsequent runoff pulses. Benthic community structure showed significant spatial variation along the environmental stress gradient (p=0.0002). Macroalgae, dead coral surfaces, algal turf, and low coral species richness, species diversity index (H’c), and evenness (J’c) dominated benthic assemblages across reefs frequently impacted by runoff pulses and sediment bedload. The combination of fecal coliform and enterococci concentrations were correlated with variation in benthic community structure (Rho=0.668; p=0.0020). The combined variation in salinity, dissolved oxygen and enterococci concentrations explained 75% of the observed spatial variation in benthic assemblages (R2=0.7461; p=0.0400). Local human stressors affected coral reefs within no-take CLPNR and risk analyses suggest it may offset its ecological benefits. There is a need to design and implement integrated coastal-watershed management strategies to address multiple land use activities, including erosion-control best management practices, watershed reforestation, and sewage pollution control.
Around the globe, nations are creating marine protected areas (MPAs) that prohibit some or all fishing and other potentially harmful activities. MPAs can allow sensitive habitats and ecosystems to prosper in a natural state and can enable recovery of commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries, among other benefits. All too often, however, MPAs exist only on paper. These countries may lack strong legal authority to enable enforcement in their MPAs, further limiting their ability to detect and prosecute offenses. This is especially problematic for large-scale, remote MPAs that are typically located far offshore from the coastal state and face threats from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities carried out by distant water fishing vessels flagged in far-away countries.
Legal Tools for Strengthening Marine Protected Area Enforcement: A Handbook is a new resource for countries seeking to improve enforcement for their existing MPAs or to write new MPA laws with an eye toward compliance and enforcement. Drawing on the input and experience of an expert advisory group, the Handbook introduces a set of principles for effective MPA enforcement to guide policymakers and legal drafters. It then presents a variety of legal tools and approaches available to improve a country’s MPA enforcement and compliance, together with sample provisions that countries may use to implement these reforms through targeted national legislation, regulations, international agreements, or other legal instruments. Topics covered include the powers of enforcement officials, detection of offenses, adjudication, penalties, international collaboration, the role of local communities, and more.
In 2015, Canada’s federal government made a public commitment to reach Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, by protecting 5% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017, and 10% by 2020. Achieving these conservation targets will require a significant increase in the rate of designation of marine protected areas in Canada. This can be facilitated by the laws that guide the designation and Linking Science and Law: Minimum Protection Standards for Canada's Marine Protected Areasdecision-making processes for marine protection. In the 5 point Action Plan for reaching the protection targets, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard committed to examining “how the Oceans Act can be updated to facilitate the designation process for Marine Protected Areas, without sacrificing science, or the public’s opportunity to provide input.”
In this brief, West Coast presents recommendations for updating the Oceans Act to translate scientifically-determined protection standards into law. We discuss the importance of law for MPAs, review the scientific rationale for protection standards and the current legal practice regarding standards under the Oceans Act, and examine problems with current practices.
Microplastics are widespread in the natural environment and present numerous ecological threats. While the ultimate fate of marine microplastics are not well known, it is hypothesized that the deep sea is the final sink for this anthropogenic contaminant. This study provides a quantification and characterisation of microplastic pollution ingested by benthic macroinvertebrates with different feeding modes (Ophiomusium lymani, Hymenaster pellucidus and Colus jeffreysianus) and in adjacent deep water > 2200 m, in the Rockall Trough, Northeast Atlantic Ocean. Despite the remote location, microplastic fibres were identified in deep-sea water at a concentration of 70.8 particles m−3, comparable to that in surface waters. Of the invertebrates examined (n = 66), 48% ingested microplastics with quantities enumerated comparable to coastal species. The number of ingested microplastics differed significantly between species and generalized linear modelling identified that the number of microplastics ingested for a given tissue mass was related to species and not organism feeding mode or the length or overall weight of the individual. Deep-sea microplastics were visually highly degraded with surface areas more than double that of pristine particles. The identification of synthetic polymers with densities greater and less than seawater along with comparable quantities to the upper ocean indicates processes of vertical re-distribution. This study presents the first snapshot of deep ocean microplastics and the quantification of microplastic pollution in the Rockall Trough. Additional sampling throughout the deep-sea is required to assess levels of microplastic pollution, vertical transportation and sequestration, which have the potential to impact the largest global ecosystem.
Refugia can facilitate the persistence of biodiversity under changing environmental conditions, such as anthropogenic climate change, and therefore constitute the best chance of survival for many coral species in the wild. Despite an increasing amount of literature, the concept of coral reef refugia remains poorly defined; so that climate change refugia have been confused with other phenomena, including temporal refuges, pristine habitats and physiological processes such as adaptation and acclimatization. We propose six criteria that determine the capacity of refugia to facilitate species persistence, including long-term buffering, protection from multiple climatic stressors, accessibility, microclimatic heterogeneity, size, and low exposure to non-climate disturbances. Any effective, high-capacity coral reef refugium should be characterized by long-term buffering of environmental conditions (for several decades) and multi-stressor buffering (provision of suitable environmental conditions with respect to climatic change, particularly ocean warming and acidification). Although not always essential, the remaining criteria are important for quantifying the capacity of potential refugia.
Sustainable and effective water management plans must have a reliable risk assessment strategies for harmful cyanobacterial blooms (HABs) that would enable timely decisions to be made, thus avoiding the trespassing of ecological thresholds, leading to the collapse of ecosystem structure and function. Such strategies are usually based on cyanobacterial biomass and/or on the monitoring of known toxins, which may, however, in many cases, under- or over-represent the actual toxicity of the HAB. Therefore, in this study, by the application of growth-inhibition assays using different bacteria, algae, zooplankton and fish species, we assessed the toxicological potential of two cyanobacterial blooms that differed in total cyanobacterial biomass, species composition and cyanopeptide profiles. We demonstrated that neither cyanobacterial community composition nor its relative abundance, nor indeed concentrations of known toxins reflected the potential risk of HAB based on growth-inhibition assays. We discuss our findings in the context of food-web dynamics and ecosystem management, and suggest that toxicological tests should constitute a key element in the routine monitoring of water bodies so as to prevent under-/over-estimation of potential HAB risk for both ecosystem and public health.
At a time of increasing disconnectedness from nature, scientific interest in the potential health benefits of nature contact has grown. Research in recent decades has yielded substantial evidence, but large gaps remain in our understanding.
We propose a research agenda on nature contact and health, identifying principal domains of research and key questions that, if answered, would provide the basis for evidence-based public health interventions.
We identify research questions in seven domains: a) mechanistic biomedical studies; b) exposure science; c) epidemiology of health benefits; d) diversity and equity considerations; e) technological nature; f) economic and policy studies; and g) implementation science.
Nature contact may offer a range of human health benefits. Although much evidence is already available, much remains unknown. A robust research effort, guided by a focus on key unanswered questions, has the potential to yield high-impact, consequential public health insights.
This research presents a set of multi-objective spatial tools for sea planning and environmental management in the Adriatic Sea Basin. The tools address four objectives: 1) assessment of cumulative impacts from anthropogenic sea uses on environmental components of marine areas; 2) analysis of sea use conflicts; 3) 3-D hydrodynamic modelling of nutrient dispersion (nitrogen and phosphorus) from riverine sources in the Adriatic Sea Basin and 4) marine ecosystem services capacity assessment from seabed habitats based on an ES matrix approach. Geospatial modelling results were illustrated, analysed and compared on country level and for three biogeographic subdivisions, Northern-Central-Southern Adriatic Sea. The paper discusses model results for their spatial implications, relevance for sea planning, limitations and concludes with an outlook towards the need for more integrated, multi-functional tools development for sea planning.
Protected areas are critical locations worldwide for biodiversity preservation and offer important opportunities for increasingly urbanized humans to experience nature. However, biodiversity preservation and visitor access are often at odds and creative solutions are needed to safeguard protected area natural resources in the face of high visitor use. Managing human impacts to natural soundscapes could serve as a powerful tool for resolving these conflicting objectives. Here, we review emerging research that demonstrates that the acoustic environment is critical to wildlife and that sounds shape the quality of nature-based experiences for humans. Human-made noise is known to affect animal behavior, distributions and reproductive success, and the organization of ecological communities. Additionally, new research suggests that interactions with nature, including natural sounds, confer benefits to human welfare termed psychological ecosystem services. In areas influenced by noise, elevated human-made noise not only limits the variety and abundance of organisms accessible to outdoor recreationists, but also impairs their capacity to perceive the wildlife that remains. Thus soundscape changes can degrade, and potentially limit the benefits derived from experiences with nature via indirect and direct mechanisms. We discuss the effects of noise on wildlife and visitors through the concept of listening area and demonstrate how the perceptual worlds of both birds and humans are reduced by noise. Finally, we discuss how management of soundscapes in protected areas may be an innovative solution to safeguarding both and recommend several key questions and research directions to stimulate new research.
Regional sea-level rise (SLR) acceleration during the past few decades north of Cape Hatteras has commonly been attributed to weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, although this causal link remains debated. In contrast to this pattern, we demonstrate that SLR decelerated north of Cape Hatteras and accelerated south of the Cape to >20 mm/yr, > 3 times the global mean values from 2011-2015. Tide gauge records reveal comparable short-lived, rapid SLR accelerations (hot spots) that have occurred repeatedly over ~1500-km stretches of the coastline during the past 95 years, with variable latitudinal position. Our analysis indicates that the cumulative (time-integrated) effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation determine the latitudinal position of these SLR hot spots, while a cumulative El Niño index is associated with their timing. The superposition of these two ocean-atmospheric processes accounts for 87% of the variance in the spatiotemporal pattern of sub-decadal sea-level oscillations.
Some of the most significant threats to the sustainability of the world's 66 Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) – invasive species, coastal hypoxia, overfishing, marine debris and ocean acidification – are due to a combination of market and/or policy failures which cause these environmental externalities. A concerted global effort to remove these barriers would not only lead to dramatic improvements in ocean health and preservation of trillions of dollars in ocean-related goods and services and hundreds of millions of existing jobs, but also catalyze transformation across a range of ocean using and affecting sectors that would create millions of new, and in many cases, well paying, jobs for people across both the developed and developing world.
Urban shoreline erosion mitigation through beach renourishment has often been dismissed as environmentally insignificant. Given predicted impacts of sea level rise (SLR) and increased shoreline erosion, such activities might become a common practice in the future. But its long-term impacts on adjacent coral reefs have remained poorly documented. Benthic community trajectories were addressed during a period of twelve years across a spatial gradient of sediment burial impacts by beach renourishment on a high-energy urban coral reef at La Marginal Beach, Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Impacts associated to beach renourishment, followed by long-term, slowly-evolving impacts associated to sediment bedload, increased turbidity, increased Arecibo River streamflow, urban polluted runoff discharges, high particulate organic carbon (POC) concentration, and coral mortality following massive coral bleaching in 2005 were addressed through long-term monitoring. There was an initial catastrophic loss in coral species richness, diversity index and percent living coral cover, and a rapid regime shift favoring dominance by macroalgae and other non-reef building taxa. Long-term chronic impacts arrested high impact sites to an early successional stage, and drove moderate and low impact sites to a similar stage of very low species diversity, colony abundance and reef growth. Such chronic changes in community trajectories represent a glimpse into potential future impacts of shoreline erosion, sediment bedload, increasing turbidity and coastal water quality decline associated to SLR. The combination of chronic coral reef decline resulting from beach renourishment, coastal pollution, turbidity, and sediment bedload may have critical long-term ecological implications for urban coral reef resilience, functions and benefits.
This technical paper will contribute to take stock of the scientific knowledge available on microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture. It will provide information on the most likely pathways in terms of sources, transport and distribution in both marine food chains and seafood value chains and will provide a framework to assess the risks that may (or not) affect commercial fish stocks and consumers, as well as review current practices and limitations of microplastic sampling techniques.
This report assesses the problem of marine litter in a number of ways. First, the current state of marine litter data is discussed in the Nordic region. Next, the current legislation against marine litter and associated gaps is assessed. Finally, a barrier assessment is performed on three different topics: EOL life treatment alternatives for fishing gear, strategies for supporting recycling/reuse and strategies for preventing fishing gear from being lost/abandoned at sea.
Management of the diverse fisheries of the world has had mixed success. While managing single species in data-rich environments has been largely effective, perhaps the greatest challenge facing fishery managers is how to deal with mixed stocks of fish with a range of life histories that reside in the same location. Because many fishing gears are nonselective, and the costs of making gear selective can be high, a particular problem is bycatch of weak stocks. This problem is most severe when the weak stock is long-lived and has low fecundity and thus requires a very long recovery time once overfished. We investigate the role that marine reserves might play in solving this challenging and ubiquitous problem in ecosystem-based management. Evidence for marine reserves’ potential to manage fisheries in an ecosystem context has been mixed, so we develop a heuristic strategic mathematical model to obtain general conclusions about the merits of managing multispecies fisheries by using reserves relative to managing them with nonspatial approaches. We show that for many fisheries, yields of strong stocks can be increased, and persistence of weak stocks can be ensured, by using marine reserves rather than by using traditional nonspatial approaches alone. Thus, reserves have a distinct advantage as a management tool in many of the most critical multispecies settings. We also show how the West Coast groundfish fishery of the United States meets these conditions, suggesting that management by reserves may be a superior option in that case.
“Threatened species programs need a social license to justify public funding” (Zander et al. 2014). Or do they? There is growing acceptance within conservation science that community support for and engagement in ecosystem management programs is likely to lead to better conservation outcomes (Marvier & Wong 2012). However, the language used to characterize relations between conservation and the community is important, and use of the term social license may not always be a useful way to describe this relationship. Since the mid-1990s, the term social licensehas been widely used in the mining sector to describe implicit acceptance and approval of a mining operation by the community in which it operates (Lacey & Lamont 2014). Other industries such as forestry, aquaculture, and agriculture have begun using the term in a similar way (Edwards & Trafford 2016; Ford & Williams 2016; Moffat et al. 2016). Now social license is beginning to appear in conservation discourse (e.g., Garnett et al., 2015; Oakes et al., 2015). At the same time, the use of social license in other sectors has been criticized (e.g., Owen & Kemp, 2013) because it frames relationships with communities as more singular, binary, and tangible than is feasible or desirable (Parsons & Moffat 2014). The use of social license in conservation needs critical evaluation, particularly given the broad contextual differences between conservation and industries such as mining.
Global biodiversity is undergoing rapid decline due to direct and indirect anthropogenic impacts to species and ecosystems. Marine species, in particular, are experiencing accelerated population declines leading to many species being considered at risk by regional, national, and international standards. As one conservation approach, decisions made using spatially explicit information on marine wildlife populations have the potential to facilitate recovery and contribute to national and international commitments toward conservation targets. Delineating areas of intense use by species at risk can inform future marine spatial planning and conservation efforts, including the identification of marine protected areas. Methods for detecting hotspots (e.g., areas with high density and/or abundance) enable categorical mapping of the most intensely used areas. Yet, many of the current methods for delineating hotspots, such as the top 5% threshold, are subjective and fail to account for spatial patterns. Our goal was to map spatially continuous distributions of marine mammal densities and employ quantitative statistical methods to extract hotspot locations on the northern coast of British Columbia. We integrated systematically surveyed species information with environmental variables using generalized additive models to predict marine mammal distribution and density. Hotspots were identified from the density surfaces using two approaches: aspatial top 5% method and spatially local Gi* statistic using three neighborhood definitions. Heterogeneous density patterns were observed for all species, and high-density regions were generally clustered in areas exhibiting oceanographic characteristics that may promote concentrated food resources. Combining species density surfaces and extracting hotspot locations identified regions important to multiple species and present candidate locations for future conservation efforts. Contributions from this research provide robust statistical methods to objectively map hotspot locations and generate GIS data products for informing coastal conservation decisions.
Food webs in high-latitude oceans are dominated by relatively few species. Future ocean and sea-ice changes affecting the distribution of such species will impact the structure and functioning of whole ecosystems. Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a key species in Southern Ocean food webs, but there is little understanding of the factors influencing its success throughout much of the ocean. The capacity of a habitat to maintain growth will be crucial and here we use an empirical relationship of growth rate to assess seasonal spatial variability. Over much of the ocean, potential for growth is limited, with three restricted oceanic regions where seasonal conditions permit high growth rates, and only a few areas around the Scotia Sea and Antarctic Peninsula suitable for growth of the largest krill (>60 mm). Our study demonstrates that projections of impacts of future change need to account for spatial and seasonal variability of key ecological processes within ocean ecosystems.