Bioeroding sponges play a central role in carbonate cycling on corals reefs. They may respond differently to habitat deterioration than many other benthic invertebrates, because at some locations, their abundances increased after disturbance. We reviewed literature on these sponges in context of environmental change and provide meta-analyses at global level. A difficult taxonomy and scarce scientific expertise leave them inadequately studied, even though they are the best-known internal bioeroders. They are sheltered within the substrate they erode, appear to be comparatively resilient against environmental change and can have heat-resistant photosymbionts and ‘weedy’ traits, including multiple pathways to reproduce or disperse and fast growth and healing abilities. Especially temperature stress appears to disable calcifiers stronger than bioeroding sponges. Moreover, increases in bioeroding sponge abundances have been related to eutrophication and disturbances that led to coral mortality. Chemical sponge bioerosion is forecast to double with doubled partial pressure of carbon dioxide, but reduced substrate density may counteract this effect, as dominant sponges erode more in denser substrates. Case examples portray shifting impacts of bioeroding sponges with environmental change, with some reefs already being erosional. Most available data and the largest known species record are from the Caribbean. Data from the Coral Triangle and India are largely restricted to faunistic records. Red Sea, Japanese and cold-water reef bioeroding sponges are the least studied. We need more quality research on functions and interaction effects, about which we are still insufficiently informed. With many calcifiers increasingly failing and bioeroding sponges still doing well, at least at intermediate levels of local and global change, these sponges may continue to significantly affect coral reef carbonate budgets. This may transform them from valuable and necessary recyclers of calcium carbonate to problem organisms.
The importance of long-term environmental monitoring and research for detecting and understanding changes in ecosystems and human impacts on natural systems is widely acknowledged. Over the last decades, a number of critical components for successful long-term monitoring have been identified. One basic component is quality assurance/quality control protocols to ensure consistency and comparability of data. In Norway, the authorities require environmental monitoring of the impacts of the offshore petroleum industry on the Norwegian continental shelf, and in 1996, a large-scale regional environmental monitoring program was established. As a case study, we used a sub-set of data from this monitoring to explore concepts regarding best practices for long-term environmental monitoring. Specifically, we examined data from physical and chemical sediment samples and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages from 11 stations from six sampling occasions during the period 1996–2011. Despite the established quality assessment and quality control protocols for this monitoring program, we identified several data challenges, such as missing values and outliers, discrepancies in variable and station names, changes in procedures without calibration, and different taxonomic resolution. Furthermore, we show that the use of different laboratories over time makes it difficult to draw conclusions with regard to some of the observed changes. We offer recommendations to facilitate comparison of data over time. We also present a new procedure to handle different taxonomic resolution, so valuable historical data is not discarded. These topics have a broader relevance and application than for our case study.
Human activities have placed populations of many endangered species at risk and mitigation efforts typically focus on reducing anthropogenic sources of mortality. However, failing to recognize the additional role of environmental factors in regulating birth and mortality rates can lead to erroneous demographic analyses and conclusions. The North Atlantic right whale population is currently the focus of conservation efforts aimed at reducing mortality rates associated with ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Consistent monitoring of the population since 1980 has revealed evidence that climate-associated changes in prey availability have played an important role in the population's recovery. The considerable interdecadal differences observed in population growth coincide with remote Arctic and North Atlantic oceanographic processes that link to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Here, we build capture-recapture models to quantify the role of prey availability on right whale demographic transitional probabilities and use a corresponding demographic model to project population growth rates into the next century. Contrary to previous predictions, the right whale population is projected to recover in the future as long as prey availability and mortality rates remain within the ranges observed during 1980-2012. However, recent events indicate a northward range shift in right whale prey, potentially resulting in decreased prey availability and/or an expansion of right whale habitat into unprotected waters. An annual increase in the number of whale deaths comparable to that observed during the summer 2017 mass mortality event may cause a decline to extinction even under conditions of normal prey availability. This study highlights the importance of understanding the oceanographic context for observed population changes when evaluating the efficacy of conservation management plans for endangered marine species.
Under the Paris Agreement nations made pledges known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which indicate how national governments are evaluating climate risks and policy opportunities. We find that NDCs reveal important systematic patterns reflecting national interests and capabilities. Because the ocean plays critical roles in climate mitigation and adaptation, we created a quantitative marine focus factor (MFF) to evaluate how governments address marine issues. In contrast to the past, when oceans received minimal attention in climate negotiations, 70% of 161 NDCs we analysed include marine issues. The percentage of the population living in low-lying areas—vulnerable to rising seas—positively influences the MFF, but negotiating group (Annex 1 or small island developing states) is equally important, suggesting political motivations are crucial to NDC development. The analysis reveals gaps between scientific and government attention, including on ocean deoxygenation, which is barely mentioned. Governments display a keen interest in expanding marine research on climate priorities.
- We identify degrees of oiling along the coast line of the Gulf of Mexico.
- Findings suggest that many areas of tourism activity have small oiling.
- Approach demonstrates the ability to forecast oil landfall locations.
- Results enhance understanding oil spill and impact characteristics.
- Different spill scenarios result in vastly different impacts.
Despite promises that ‘healthy’ marine systems show increased resilience, the effects of ecosystem management strategies on invasion success in marine systems is still unclear. We show that resistance to the invasive alga, Sargassum horneri, in a temperate reef system occurs through alternate mechanisms in different ecosystem states. In an old marine protected area (MPA), invasion of S. horneri was suppressed, likely due to competitive pressure from native algae, resulting from protection of urchin predators. In a nearby fished urchin barren, invasion of S. horneri was also suppressed, due to herbivory by urchins whose predators are fished. Within newer MPAs with intermediate levels of interacting species, S. horneri was abundant. Here, neither competition from native algae nor herbivory was sufficient to prevent invasion. We confirm that invasion in marine systems is complex and show that multiple mechanisms in single systems must be considered when investigating biotic resistance hypotheses.
We propose a framework to support management that builds on a social–ecological system perspective on the Arctic Ocean. We illustrate the framework’s application for two policy-relevant scenarios of climate-driven change, picturing a shift in zooplankton composition and alternatively a crab invasion. We analyse archetypical system dynamics between the socio-economic, the natural, and the governance systems in these scenarios. Our holistic approach can help managers identify looming problems arising from complex system interactions and prioritise among problems and solutions, even when available data are limited.
Protected areas are crucial for biodiversity conservation and the provision of ecosystem services (ES), but management efforts seem not to be sufficient. To increase management effectiveness, the ES framework offers new promising environmental governance instruments, however, the operational use is still poorly integrated in the management of protected areas. This study used a framework designed for Natura 2000 sites for effective management of protected areas by valorising ES. This framework was applied to 21 study sites in Italy, and 55 ES were quantified in biophysical and monetary terms. Forty-one payments for ecosystem services (PES) were implemented in a participatory process involving local communities and stakeholders. Assessment of the management effectiveness before and after the implementation of PES demonstrated that integrating ES into the management of protected areas can improve their management effectiveness and contribute to regional development through PES. Based on the authors’ experiences, the study highlights various difficulties and opportunities related to ES assessment, implementation of PES, stakeholder engagement, and monitoring of management effectiveness. It also discusses general challenges related to the operationalisation of ES in protected areas, providing recommendations for science and practice.
A review of coastal national park stewardship reveals a rich history that provides evidence of how nature and human history shaped current conditions along America's coasts. Case studies of Dry Tortugas National Park and Everglades National Park in Florida, and Channel Islands National Park in California exemplify how such experiences can help identify future directions and challenges for protecting coastal areas. Discoveries include (1) ecological and political borders are often incompatible because shorelines are ineffective ecological boundaries, (2) scales of protection are critical for management efficacy, (3) forging effective management solutions requires strategic, innovative public involvement, and (4) misperceptions of connectivity, sustainability, and relevance impair effective coastal conservation. This history and these stewardship experiences also demonstrated the potential power of protected areas to halt shifting ecological and moral baselines, thereby defining realistic imagination and hope for the future. Learning from national park experiences how to understand ecosystems, how to repair damage to their integrity, how to protect and mitigate human stresses to them, and how to better connect people to these special places has not only improved the condition of nature and human heritage in parks, but also has enhanced society's capacity to improve the human condition more broadly with small, but critical success stories.
The study demonstrates what should be obvious to us all: by killing fisheries resources, EU governments are killing the fishing industry. This is why Oceana has been actively campaigning to stop overfishing, as sustainable fishing would not only benefit the environment, but also the economy and society as a whole.
Tropical reefs have been impacted by thermal anomalies caused by global warming that induced coral bleaching and mortality events globally. However, there have only been very few recordings of bleaching within the Red Sea despite covering a latitudinal range of 15° and consequently it has been considered a region that is less sensitive to thermal anomalies. We therefore examined historical patterns of sea surface temperature (SST) and associated anomalies (1982–2012) and compared warming trends with a unique compilation of corresponding coral bleaching records from throughout the region. These data indicated that the northern Red Sea has not experienced mass bleaching despite intensive Degree Heating Weeks (DHW) of >15°C-weeks. Severe bleaching was restricted to the central and southern Red Sea where DHWs have been more frequent, but far less intense (DHWs <4°C-weeks). A similar pattern was observed during the 2015–2016 El Niño event during which time corals in the northern Red Sea did not bleach despite high thermal stress (i.e. DHWs >8°C-weeks), and bleaching was restricted to the central and southern Red Sea despite the lower thermal stress (DHWs < 8°C-weeks). Heat stress assays carried out in the northern (Hurghada) and central (Thuwal) Red Sea on four key reef-building species confirmed different regional thermal susceptibility, and that central Red Sea corals are more sensitive to thermal anomalies as compared to those from the north. Together, our data demonstrate that corals in the northern Red Sea have a much higher heat tolerance than their prevailing temperature regime would suggest. In contrast, corals from the central Red Sea are close to their thermal limits, which closely match the maximum annual water temperatures. The northern Red Sea harbours reef-building corals that live well below their bleaching thresholds and thus we propose that the region represents a thermal refuge of global importance.
The states and federal agencies that comprise the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (Hypoxia Task Force or HTF) continue to work collaboratively to implement the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008 (2008 Action Plan). Since the release of the plan, each HTF state has developed a nutrient reduction strategy through stakeholder participation that serves as a road map for implementing nutrient reductions in that state; these strategies serve as the cornerstone for reaching the HTF’s goals. The federal members of the HTF issued an updated unified federal strategy in December 2016 to guide assistance to states and continued scientific support (Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force 2016a). In furtherance of its goals, the HTF is also expanding partnerships with organizations with the same or similar goals. In May 2014, the HTF entered into an agreement with 12 land grant universities (LGUs) to reduce gaps in research and outreach/extension needs in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB). In February 2016, the HTF released its first Report on Point Source Progress in Hypoxia Task Force States (Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force 2016b). This report documents the nitrogen and phosphorus monitoring data and discharge limits for major sewage treatment plants within the 12 HTF states. The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014 (HABHRCA) directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, through the HTF, to submit a progress report biennially to the appropriate congressional committees and the President. In 2015 EPA submitted the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force: 2015 Report to Congress; this report is the second biennial report to Congress (Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force 2015). This 2017 report highlights specific examples of progress achieved by the HTF and its members. The report also discusses strategies for meeting the HTF’s goals, as well as key lessons the HTF has learned, including the importance of: planning and targeting at a watershed scale; identifying the critical pollutants, their sources, and means of transport; using appropriate models to plan and evaluate implementation; using appropriate monitoring designs to evaluate conservation outcomes; understanding farmers’ attitudes toward conservation practices and working with them through appropriate messengers to offer financial and technical assistance; and sustaining engagement with the agricultural community following adoption of conservation systems. As new research and information have become available and systems of conservation practices are implemented on vulnerable lands across this large basin, the HTF has gained a better understanding of the complexities of hypoxia in the Gulf and the efforts and time that will be needed to achieve its goals. In February 2015, the HTF announced that it would retain its goal of reducing the areal extent of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to less than 5,000 km2 by the year 2035. The HTF agreed on an interim target of a 20 percent nutrient load reduction by the year 2025 as a milestone toward achieving the final goal in 2035. The HTF also agreed to adopt quantitative measures to track progress in reducing point and nonpoint source inputs. To accelerate the reduction of nutrient pollution, the HTF will: • Target vulnerable lands and quantify nutrient load reductions achieved through federal programs, subject to future appropriations. 2 • Implement state nutrient reduction strategies, including targeting vulnerable lands and quantifying nutrient reductions. • Expand and build new partnerships and alliances with universities, the agricultural community, cities, and others. • Track progress towards the interim target and long-term goal, with intent to understand whether the current actions are appropriate to meet the goal. The Hypoxia Task Force looks forward to continuing to use its biennial reports to Congress to report on progress toward reducing nutrient loads to the northern Gulf of Mexico, summarize lessons learned in implementing nutrient reduction strategies, and describe any adjustments to its strategies for reducing Gulf hypoxia.
Since the 1970s, recreational fishing has become a mass hobby in Italy, reaching a large number of people, who, using modern equipment, increased their harvesting capacity, provoking serious conflicts with the professional fisheries. Recreational fishing is strictly regulated inside Italian Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and is generally allocated to local residents, mainly to reduce the tensions caused by limitations of access to the resources. The aim of this study was to provide an analysis of recreational fishing activities within the Portofino MPA (Mediterranean Sea), to assess the possible impact on the local fish stocks and to plan potential management actions. Furthermore, some serious inconsistencies on the minimum lengths of fish caught as defined by law relative to the minimum size of first reproduction are discussed. Since 2014, all anglers exploiting the Portofino MPA have been obliged to fill out a logbook. The compilation of these was not completely satisfactory, when compared with a group of reliable anglers whose catches were accurately monitored, but allowed for estimated yields of about 24 kg/angler/yr. After 15 years of protection, the fish biomass has increased within the Portofino MPA, generating a positive spillover effect. At the same time, it has attracted many anglers whose gross harvesting was estimated at about 8 t/year, representing about the 8% of the total yield of the local small-scale fishery.
Climate change triggers poleward shifts in species distribution leading to changes in biogeography. In the marine environment, fish respond quickly to warming, causing community-wide reorganizations, which result in profound changes in ecosystem functioning. Functional biogeography provides a framework to address how ecosystem functioning may be affected by climate change over large spatial scales. However, there are few studies on functional biogeography in the marine environment, and none in the Arctic, where climate-driven changes are most rapid and extensive. We investigated the impact of climate warming on the functional biogeography of the Barents Sea, which is characterized by a sharp zoogeographic divide separating boreal from Arctic species. Our unique dataset covered 52 fish species, 15 functional traits, and 3,660 stations sampled during the recent warming period. We found that the functional traits characterizing Arctic fish communities, mainly composed of small-sized bottom-dwelling benthivores, are being rapidly replaced by traits of incoming boreal species, particularly the larger, longer lived, and more piscivorous species. The changes in functional traits detected in the Arctic can be predicted based on the characteristics of species expected to undergo quick poleward shifts in response to warming. These are the large, generalist, motile species, such as cod and haddock. We show how functional biogeography can provide important insights into the relationship between species composition, diversity, ecosystem functioning, and environmental drivers. This represents invaluable knowledge in a period when communities and ecosystems experience rapid climate-driven changes across biogeographical regions.
Marine spatial planning is increasingly used to manage the demands on marine areas, both spatially and temporally, where several different users may compete for resources or space, to ensure that development is as sustainable as possible. Diminishing sea-ice coverage in the Arctic will allow for potential increases in economic exploitation, and failure to plan for cross-sectoral management could have negative economic and environmental results. During the ACCESS programme, a marine spatial planning tool was developed for the Arctic, enabling the integrated study of human activities related to hydrocarbon exploitation, shipping and fisheries, and the possible environmental impacts, within the context of the next 30 years of climate change. In addition to areas under national jurisdiction, the Arctic Ocean contains a large area of high seas. Resources and ecosystems extend across political boundaries. We use three examples to highlight the need for transboundary planning and governance to be developed at a regional level.
The soundscapes of four bays along the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island were monitored between January 2011 and March 2013. Equivalent, unweighted sound pressure levels within standard 1/3rd-octave bands (dB re: 1 μPa) were calculated for each recording. Sound levels increased at night and were lowest during the daytime when spinner dolphins use the bays to rest. A tsunami provided an opportunity to monitor the soundscape with little anthropogenic component. We detected a decrease in sound levels and variability in one of the busiest bays. During the daytime in the 3.15 kHz 1/3rd octave band, we detected 92 loud outliers from vessels, aquaculture, and military mid-frequency active sonar. During one military mid-frequency active sonar event sound levels reached 45.8 dB above median ambient noise levels. The differences found in the bays illustrate the importance of understanding soundscapes to effectively manage noise pollution in marine ecosystems.
A large reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) aggregation has been observed off the north Sudanese Red Sea coast since the 1950s. Sightings have been predominantly within the boundaries of a marine protected area (MPA), which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2016. Contrasting economic development trajectories have been proposed for the area (small-scale ecotourism and large-scale island development). To examine space-use, Wildlife Computers® SPOT 5 tags were secured to three manta rays. A two-state switching Bayesian state space model (BSSM), that allowed movement parameters to switch between resident and travelling, was fit to the recorded locations, and 50% and 95% kernel utilization distributions (KUD) home ranges calculated. A total of 682 BSSM locations were recorded between 30 October 2012 and 6 November 2013. Of these, 98.5% fell within the MPA boundaries; 99.5% for manta 1, 91.5% for manta 2, and 100% for manta 3. The BSSM identified that all three mantas were resident during 99% of transmissions, with 50% and 95% KUD home ranges falling mainly within the MPA boundaries. For all three mantas combined (88.4%), and all individuals (manta 1–92.4%, manta 2–64.9%, manta 3–91.9%), the majority of locations occurred within 15 km of the proposed large-scale island development. Results indicated that the MPA boundaries are spatially appropriate for manta rays in the region, however, a close association to the proposed large-scale development highlights the potential threat of disruption. Conversely, the focused nature of spatial use highlights the potential for reliable ecotourism opportunities.
Scientists who perform environmental research on policy-relevant topics face challenges when communicating about how values may have influenced their research. This study examines how citizens view scientists who publicly acknowledge values. Specifically, we investigate whether it matters: if citizens share or oppose a scientist’s values, if a scientist’s conclusions seem contrary to or consistent with the scientist’s values, and if a scientist is assessing the state of the science or making a policy recommendation. We conducted two 3x2 factorial design online experiments. Experiment 1 featured a hypothetical scientist assessing the state of the science on the public-health effects of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), and Experiment 2 featured a scientist making a policy recommendation on use of BPA. We manipulated whether or not the scientist expressed values and whether the scientist’s conclusion appeared contrary to or consistent with the scientist’s values, and we accounted for whether or not subjects’ values aligned with the scientist’s values. We analyzed our data with ordinary least squares (OLS) regression techniques. Our results provide at least preliminary evidence that acknowledging values may reduce the perceived credibility of scientists within the general public, but this effect differs depending on whether scientists and citizens share values, whether scientists draw conclusions that run contrary to their values, and whether scientists make policy recommendations.
There has been an assumption that because many large marine protected areas (LMPAs) are designated in areas with relatively few direct uses, they therefore have few stakeholders and negligible social outcomes. This article challenges this assumption with diverse examples of social outcomes that are distinctive in LMPAs. We define social outcomes as inclusive of both social change processes and social impacts, where “social” includes all perceptual or material human dimensions. We draw on five in-depth case studies to report social outcomes resulting from proposed or designated LMPAs in Bermuda, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Kiribati, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands & Guam. We conclude: (1) social outcomes arise even in remote LMPAs; (2) LMPA efforts generate social outcomes at all stages of development; (3) LMPAs have the potential to produce outcomes at a higher level of social organization, which can change the scope and type of affected populations and, in some cases, the nature and stakes of the outcomes themselves; (4) the potential for LMPAs to impart distinctive social outcomes results from their unique geographies and/or intersection with high-level politics and policy processes; and (5) social outcomes of LMPAs may emerge in the form of social change processes and/or social impacts.
Short-term physical disturbances occur amid a backdrop of longer-term biotic interactions, including predation, which shape communities. Effects of consumer interactions typically begin in early stages of assembly and continue throughout post-disturbance recovery. Despite decades of predation and disturbance research, few studies examine how consumer interactions during these different time periods may affect community responses to disturbance. Here we use replicate communities of tropical, sessile invertebrates to ask whether fish predation during initial assembly (before) and recovery (after) influences community resistance to a hurricane-level low-salinity event. Results revealed that pre-event predation determined whether communities shifted in biomass and community structure following disturbance. Communities that assembled without predators responded to the low-salinity event strongly, with large shifts in community composition and a mean loss of 54% of pre-disturbance biomass after a one-month recovery period. In contrast, those that experienced predation during initial assembly were strikingly resistant to disturbance, which had no effect on species composition or biomass. Results were driven by predator removal of a dominant competitor, which gave rise to more disturbance-resistant communities. These findings highlight the potential for past trophic interactions to shape community stability in the face of physical disturbances predicted to escalate with global change.