Imagery collected from Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) provides a novel means of monitoring changes in benthic ecosystems over large spatial scales and depth ranges. However, for many benthic ecosystems there is little baseline data to quantify temporal and spatial variance for key indicator species. This information is crucial for isolating background “noise” from long-term “signals”. Here we quantify components of variance for five key deep-water sessile invertebrate species across four long-term benthic monitoring sites in a region undergoing strong climate-driven changes. We use linear mixed models to estimate the contribution of sources of spatial and temporal variance in species covers from empirical data. We then combine this information with projected long-term climate-driven changes in the cover of these groups and test the power of various survey designs to detect change through time. Large short-term temporal and spatial variability in the cover of a gorgonian octocoral results in high components of variance that limit the detectability of the projected long-term trend for this species. Conversely, for three of the sponge species high power is achievable with revisits to the four original sites every two years until 2060. By including more sites in the revisit design, high power can be achieved with less frequent revisits. For the fifth species, we find high power is unachievable due to the small trend predicted. Overall, we highlight how examination of components of variance in a system can aid in the selection of suitable indicators and the establishment of effective monitoring programs.
This paper aims to inform forward-planning policies in the face of sea-level rise due to climate change, focusing on the choice of reducing the vulnerability of property at risk through managed retreat or protection behind seawalls. This adaptation is important not only to reduce the cost of future damage but also to maintain the beaches which are an attractive feature for tourism, of vital importance for coastal areas. Some 421 residents with main and secondary homes were surveyed in Hyères-les-palmiers in the Var department (Southeast France). The survey sought to compare the willingness of residents to contribute financially to building a seawall or to relocating sea-front property. Preferences depend both on common variables and variables specific to the proposed arrangement. They reveal common concerns focused on effectiveness and the determining factor of property ownership. The results also show some awareness of the long-term advantages of managed retreat, despite some opposition from older people, who are also more skeptical about the reality of the risk incurred.
Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen pollution is one of the major sources of nitrogen to many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, worldwide. This modeling study suggests that coastlines frequently experience disproportionally high dry deposition of reactive nitrogen. High concentrations of air pollution from coastal cities often accumulate over adjacent estuaries and coastal waters due to low dry deposition rates over the water and a shallow marine boundary layer trapping marine emissions. As high concentrations of pollutants over the water are transported inland, enhanced dry deposition occurs onshore along the coastlines. Large spatial gradients in air pollutants and deposition totals are simulated along the coastline with decreasing concentrations/deposition as the distance from the water increases. As pollutants are transported onshore, air pollution mixing ratios near the surface decrease due to removal by dry deposition, vertical dilution due to deeper mixing layer heights, and decrease in friction velocity as a function of distance inland from the coastline. Ammonium nitrate formation near agricultural ammonia sources, sodium nitrate formation near coastal areas with atmospheric sea-salt loadings, and particulate growth via water uptake also contribute to large nitrate dry deposition totals at the coastline. Gradients in dry N deposition are evident over a monthly time scale and are enhanced during sea and bay breeze events. Current existing N-deposition monitoring networks do not capture the large spatial gradients of ammonium, nitrate, and nitric acid concentrations near coastlines predicted by the model due to the coarse spatial density distribution of monitoring sites.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the long-term maintenance of coral-dominated tropical ecosystems, and has received considerable attention over the past two decades. Coral bleaching and associated mortality events, which are predicted to become more frequent and intense, can alter the balance of different elements that are responsible for coral reef growth and maintenance. The geomorphic impacts of coral mass mortality have received relatively little attention, particularly questions concerning temporal recovery of reef carbonate production and the factors that promote resilience of reef growth potential. Here, we track the biological carbonate budgets of inner Seychelles reefs from 1994 to 2014, spanning the 1998 global bleaching event when these reefs lost more than 90% of coral cover. All 21 reefs had positive budgets in 1994, but in 2005 budgets were predominantly negative. By 2014, carbonate budgets on seven reefs were comparable with 1994, but on all reefs where an ecological regime shift to macroalgal dominance occurred, budgets remained negative through 2014. Reefs with higher massive coral cover, lower macroalgae cover and lower excavating parrotfish biomass in 1994 were more likely to have positive budgets post-bleaching. If mortality of corals from the 2016 bleaching event is as severe as that of 1998, our predictions based on past trends would suggest that six of eight reefs with positive budgets in 2014 would still have positive budgets by 2030. Our results highlight that reef accretion and framework maintenance cannot be assumed from the ecological state alone, and that managers should focus on conserving aspects of coral reefs that support resilient carbonate budgets.
The True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus, True 1913) is a poorly known member of the Ziphiidae family. Its distribution in the northern hemisphere is thought to be restricted to the temperate or warm temperate waters of the North Atlantic, while a few stranding records from the southern hemisphere suggest a wider and antitropical distribution, extending to waters from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to South Africa, Mozambique, Australia and the Tasman Sea coast of New Zealand.
The True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus, True 1913) is a poorly known member of the Ziphiidae family. Its distribution in the northern hemisphere is thought to be restricted to the temperate or warm temperate waters of the North Atlantic, while a few stranding records from the southern hemisphere suggest a wider and antitropical distribution, extending to waters from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to South Africa, Mozambique, Australia and the Tasman Sea coast of New Zealand. This paper (i) reports the first molecular confirmation of the occurrence of the True’s beaked whale at the southern limit of its distribution recorded in the northeast Atlantic: the Azores and Canary Islands (macaronesian ecoregion); (ii) describes a new colouration for this species using evidence from a whale with molecular species confirmation; and (iii) contributes to the sparse worldwide database of live sightings, including the first underwater video recording of this species and close images of a calf. Species identification was confirmed in two cases using mitochondrial DNA control region and cytochrome b gene markers: a subadult male True’s beaked whale that stranded in El Hierro, Canary Islands, in November 2012, and a subadult male found floating dead near Faial, the Azores, in July 2004. The whale that stranded in the Canary Islands had a clearly delimited white area on its head, extending posteriorly from the tip of the beak to cover the blowhole dorsally and the gular grooves ventrally. This colouration contrasts with previous descriptions for the species and it may be rare, but it exemplifies the variability of the colouration of True’s beaked whales in the North Atlantic, further confirmed here by live sightings data. The recording of several observations of this species in deep but relatively coastal waters off the Azores and the Canary Islands suggests that these archipelagos may be unique locations to study the behaviour of the enigmatic True’s beaked whale.
Climate change is expected to modify ecological responses in the ocean, with the potential for important effects on the ecosystem services provided to humankind. Here we address the question of how rapidly multiple drivers of marine ecosystem change develop in the future ocean. By analysing an ensemble of models we find that, within the next 15 years, the climate change-driven trends in multiple ecosystem drivers emerge from the background of natural variability in 55% of the ocean and propagate rapidly to encompass 86% of the ocean by 2050 under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. However, we also demonstrate that the exposure of marine ecosystems to climate change-induced stress can be drastically reduced via climate mitigation measures; with mitigation, the proportion of ocean susceptible to multiple drivers within the next 15 years is reduced to 34%. Mitigation slows the pace at which multiple drivers emerge, allowing an additional 20 years for adaptation in marine ecological and socio-economic systems alike.
Based on the input from the regional roundtables, this Ocean Action Agenda includes specific actions that the Trump Administration and the Congress should take to effectively manage America’s ocean and coastal resources. These recommended actions will help ensure a vibrant and healthy future for our country, an ocean and Great Lakes nation. The online report, available at oceanactionagenda.org, also features more than thirty stories from across the United States that highlight the importance of the oceans and Great Lakes to the lives of all Americans and underscore the dramatic impacts change is having on our oceans and coasts.
Because seas and coastlines are shared between states, the formulation and implementation of marine spatial planning (MSP) should be transboundary by nature. The main argument of this paper is that MSP should be organized as a transboundary policy-making process, but this is hampered by the conceptual and institutional fragmentation MSP is facing. Based on an analysis of four transboundary planning processes in different European seas, the paper gives insight into the possibilities to develop and implement transboundary marine spatial planning (TMSP). To overcome the conceptual and institutional challenges, TMSP should be developed as a reflexive governance arrangement, in which the actors involved are able to change the rules of the game and to challenge the existing (national-oriented) MSP discourses. The paper develops four forms of reflexivity (unreflectiveness; performative reflectiveness; structural reflectiveness; and reflexivity) to assess TMSP processes and to formulate conditions which are crucial to develop TMSP as a reflexive marine governance arrangement.
The deep sea encompasses the largest ecosystems on Earth. Although poorly known, deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are bringing about significant changes in the environmental properties of the ocean realm in terms of water column oxygenation, temperature, pH and food supply, with concomitant impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. Projections suggest that abyssal (3000–6000 m) ocean temperatures could increase by 1°C over the next 84 years, while abyssal seafloor habitats under areas of deep-water formation may experience reductions in water column oxygen concentrations by as much as 0.03 mL L–1 by 2100. Bathyal depths (200–3000 m) worldwide will undergo the most significant reductions in pH in all oceans by the year 2100 (0.29 to 0.37 pH units). O2 concentrations will also decline in the bathyal NE Pacific and Southern Oceans, with losses up to 3.7% or more, especially at intermediate depths. Another important environmental parameter, the flux of particulate organic matter to the seafloor, is likely to decline significantly in most oceans, most notably in the abyssal and bathyal Indian Ocean where it is predicted to decrease by 40–55% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, how these major changes will affect deep-seafloor ecosystems is, in some cases, very poorly understood. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the impacts of these changing environmental parameters on deep-seafloor ecosystems that will most likely be seen by 2100 in continental margin, abyssal and polar settings. We also consider how these changes may combine with other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., fishing, mineral mining, oil and gas extraction) to further impact deep-seafloor ecosystems and discuss the possible societal implications.
The symbiotic association between the coral animal and its endosymbiotic dinoflagellate partner Symbiodinium is central to the success of corals. However, an array of other microorganisms associated with coral (i.e., Bacteria, Archaea, Fungi, and viruses) have a complex and intricate role in maintaining homeostasis between corals and Symbiodinium. Corals are sensitive to shifts in the surrounding environmental conditions. One of the most widely reported responses of coral to stressful environmental conditions is bleaching. During this event, corals expel Symbiodinium cells from their gastrodermal tissues upon experiencing extended seawater temperatures above their thermal threshold. An array of other environmental stressors can also destabilize the coral microbiome, resulting in compromised health of the host, which may include disease and mortality in the worst scenario. However, the exact mechanisms by which the coral microbiome supports coral health and increases resilience are poorly understood. Earlier studies of coral microbiology proposed a coral probiotic hypothesis, wherein a dynamic relationship exists between corals and their symbiotic microorganisms, selecting for the coral holobiont that is best suited for the prevailing environmental conditions. Here, we discuss the microbial-host relationships within the coral holobiont, along with their potential roles in maintaining coral health. We propose the term BMC (Beneficial Microorganisms for Corals) to define (specific) symbionts that promote coral health. This term and concept are analogous to the term Plant Growth Promoting Rhizosphere (PGPR), which has been widely explored and manipulated in the agricultural industry for microorganisms that inhabit the rhizosphere and directly or indirectly promote plant growth and development through the production of regulatory signals, antibiotics and nutrients. Additionally, we propose and discuss the potential mechanisms of the effects of BMC on corals, suggesting strategies for the use of this knowledge to manipulate the microbiome, reversing dysbiosis to restore and protect coral reefs. This may include developing and using BMC consortia as environmental “probiotics” to improve coral resistance after bleaching events and/or the use of BMC with other strategies such as human-assisted acclimation/adaption to shifting environmental conditions.
The media can reflect social opinion and influence debate and policy. Wild vertebrate welfare issues are regularly reported in the media, but there has been no study of the type and frequency of their coverage. We compiled a list of potential wild vertebrate welfare issues in the United Kingdom, recording how often each issue was mentioned in the media during 2014. Lethal wildlife management issues were most frequently reported, whereas issues that received little coverage included marine debris, commercial fishing, and pollution. Overall, the media tended more frequently to report welfare issues that involved intent to harm an animal, were illegal, or occurred in the terrestrial environment. Insofar as media reporting may lead to improvements in the welfare of wild animals, greater effort may be required to provoke media interest in welfare issues that do not involve intent to harm, are legal, or occur in marine environments.
Fishing is an important recreational activity for many Australians, with one in every four people participating every year. There are however many different pressures exerted on Australian fish stocks, including climate-related changes that drive changes in local fish abundances. It is inevitable that recreational fishers will need to adapt to these changes. When resource abundance alters substantially, user adaptation to the new situation is required and policies and incentives may need to be developed to encourage behaviour change. It is important to correctly anticipate fisher's response to these policies and incentives as much as possible. Improved understanding of recreational fisher's likely adaptation decisions and the nature and timing of these decisions can help avoid unintended consequences of management decisions. Based on a survey of recreational fishers in the south-east Australian climate hotspot, we identify 4 relevant dimensions to recreational fisher's behavioural adaptation. There are differences in adaptation timing (early, late, and non-adaptors). Non-adaptors are characterised by greater cultural attachment to fishing and stronger perceptions of the factors that influence abundance change. The fisher's preferred adaptation responses and the timing of the behavioural response differs between decreasing versus increasing fish abundance. Insight into perspectives and expectations on how recreational fishers might adapt to changes is useful to develop a set of behavioural incentives that appeal to different groups but remain efficient and effective in their implementation. Such knowledge can create new pathways to achieve meaningful and targeted adaptation responses for different types of recreational fishers.
Antagonistic interaction between Mediterranean marine mammals, including the endangered monk seal (Monachus monachus), and small-scale fisheries is a growing problem in the Aegean Sea. Effective management measures are needed to ensure both the survival of the monk seal population, and its coexistence with the small-scale fisheries. In this study, data from 371 fishing journeys by 8 different boats was collected between March and November 2014. Evidence of depredation by monk seals was recorded in 19.1% of fishing journeys, by cetaceans in 5%, and by other predators in 16.5%. Analysis of landings data showed that gear and depth were the variables most likely to influence the occurrence of depredation. There was a significant decrease in the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of four of the nine targeted fish species when depredation by monk seals occurred. The total cost of monk seal depredation was estimated to be 21.33% of the mean annual income of fishermen in the Aegean Sea. We discuss how the implementation of marine protected areas and the use of specific fishing gear could reduce the frequency of interactions, and thus mitigate the loss experienced by the fisheries as well as contribute to the conservation of an endangered species.
Anthropogenic noise in the ocean has been shown, under certain conditions, to influence the behavior and health of marine mammals. Noise from human activities may interfere with the low-frequency acoustic communication of many Mysticete species, including blue (Balaenoptera musculus) and fin whales (B. physalus). This study analyzed three soundscapes in the Atlantic Ocean, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, to document ambient sound. For 16 months beginning in August 2009, acoustic data (15 – 100 Hz) were collected in the Fram Strait (79 °N, 5.5 °E), near Ascension Island (8 °S, 14.4 °W), and in the Bransfield Strait (62 °S, 55.5 °W). Results indicate (1) the highest overall sound levels were measured in the equatorial Atlantic, in association with high levels of seismic oil and gas exploration, (2) compared to the tropics, ambient sound levels in polar regions are more seasonally variable, and (3) individual elements beget the seasonal and annual variability of ambient sound levels in high latitudes. Understanding how the variability of natural and man-made contributors to sound may elicit differences in ocean soundscapes is essential to developing strategies to manage and conserve marine ecosystems and animals.
Effective conservation depends upon people's compliance with regulations, yet non-compliance (eg poaching) is often the rule rather than the exception. Poaching is often clandestine and socially undesirable, requiring specialized, multidisciplinary approaches for assessment and management. We estimated poaching by recreational fishers in no-fishing reserves of Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) by conducting social surveys and quantifying derelict (lost or discarded) fishing gear. Our study revealed that (1) between 3–18% of fishers admitted to poaching within the past year, (2) poaching activities were often concentrated at certain times (holidays) and in specific places (poaching hotspots), and (3) fishers’ primary motivations to poach were the perception of higher catches in reserves and a low probability of detection. Our results suggest that extolling certain ecological benefits of marine reserves where enforcement capacity is low could lead to the perverse outcome of encouraging non-compliance. Our combined social–ecological approach revealed that even in an iconic marine park such as the GBRMP, poaching levels are higher than previously assumed, which has implications for effective management.
The ecosystem services approach is widely recognised as a concept, but more attention must be given to the development of tools to facilitate practical implementation if the approach is to become more widely used to support decision-making. A key component of natural resource management is understanding the implications of changing levels of pressures on ecosystem components, which is achieved through sensitivity assessment. This paper examines how sensitivity assessment could be applied to ecosystem services, as opposed to the underlying habitats and species, by considering the relationship between the sensitivity of a service to the sensitivity of the habitat responsible for its supply. The method is illustrated using a UK case study of supporting and regulating services provided by subtidal sedimentary habitats within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in North Devon.
Effective stakeholder engagement is an essential, but commonly overlooked, component of the ecosystem approach. In this article, we draw lessons from two European Union LIFE+ (LIFE is the European Union's financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU.) funded projects led by WWF-UK: PISCES (Partnerships Involving Stakeholders in the Celtic sea EcoSystem) and the Celtic Seas Partnership to present an approach for effective stakeholder engagement. These projects developed steps to operationalise the ecosystem approach within the context of a key piece of European legislation: the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EC).
We identified an approach for involving stakeholders in delivery of the ecosystem approach, which can be applied to other areas and contexts. The approach involves four steps:
Identify a relevant policy framework and the role of stakeholders in its implementation and identify or agree environmental, social and economic objectives for the area.
Create an open, neutral, cross-sectoral forum and design an engagement process that creates a “safe” and inclusive space, and is facilitated independently.
Demystify terminology and develop a shared vision or principles through an engagement process
Collaboratively develop management actions that are needed to achieve objectives and implement them.
The chemical digestion of tissue from marine biota for microplastic analysis is currently conducted following a variety of protocols published in scientific literature. Often there is a lack of information on whether and to which degree the applied chemicals are destructive to microplastic particles of various polymer types. In the present study we report that a digestion protocol recently recommended by ICES using nitric and perchloric acid has strong detrimental effects on several common plastic polymers, in particular polyamide and polyurethane and to a lesser degree acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polymethyl methacrylate and polyvinylchloride. Raman spectroscopic measurements revealed changes in peak occurrence and intensity for several polymers that did not otherwise show visual macroscopic changes. We developed and tested an alkaline digestion protocol in order to preserve small microplastic particles while removing organic tissue material. We recommend this method for the development of guidelines for plastic microplastic monitoring in biota.
Artificial reefs now form part of an integrated approach to enhance fisheries around the world. A responsible approach to artificial reef deployment calls for clear, well defined goals prior to any reef being placed in the field, followed by subsequent monitoring to assess whether these goals are being achieved. In this study, to evaluate if an artificial reef off Sydney was meeting its goal of providing quality fishing opportunities through the establishment of a complex fish assemblage, a 4-year monitoring program was designed. This program examined the response of reef-associated and pelagic fishes to the deployment of a purpose built offshore reef, relative to control reefs. Fish were observed immediately following deployment, but the artificial reef fish assemblage remained distinct from the three natural control reefs throughout the monitoring period. Also, the artificial reef displayed inter-annual variability associated with successional processes, which was not evident on the natural reefs. Fish length data indicated that the artificial reef was providing resources for both juvenile and adults of a number of species. This study demonstrates artificial reefs can provide habitats for a diverse group of fish, but the assemblages are unlikely to mimic those on natural reefs. We have also shown that longer term monitoring periods, covering multiple years are required to gain a robust understanding of the response of fish to reef deployment. This information can be used to understand the benefits and limitations of future artificial reef deployments.
Many ecosystems around the world are rapidly deteriorating due to both local and global pressures, and perhaps none so precipitously as coral reefs. Management of coral reefs through maintenance (e.g., marine-protected areas, catchment management to improve water quality), restoration, as well as global and national governmental agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., the 2015 Paris Agreement) is critical for the persistence of coral reefs. Despite these initiatives, the health and abundance of corals reefs are rapidly declining and other solutions will soon be required. We have recently discussed options for using assisted evolution (i.e., selective breeding, assisted gene flow, conditioning or epigenetic programming, and the manipulation of the coral microbiome) as a means to enhance environmental stress tolerance of corals and the success of coral reef restoration efforts. The 2014-2016 global coral bleaching event has sharpened the focus on such interventionist approaches. We highlight the necessity for consideration of alternative (e.g., hybrid) ecosystem states, discuss traits of resilient corals and coral reef ecosystems, and propose a decision tree for incorporating assisted evolution into restoration initiatives to enhance climate resilience of coral reefs.