The seascapes on which many millions of people make their living and secure food have complex and dynamic spatial features—the figurative hills and valleys—that influence where and how people work at sea. Here, we quantify the physical mosaic of the surface ocean by identifying Lagrangian Coherent Structures for a whole seascape—the U.S. California Current Large Marine Ecosystem—and assess their impact on the spatial distribution of fishing. We observe that there is a mixed response: some fisheries track these physical features, and others avoid them. These spatial behaviors map to economic impacts, in particular we find that tuna fishermen can expect to make three times more revenue per trip if fishing occurs on strong Lagrangian Coherent Structures. However, we find no relationship for salmon and pink shrimp fishing trips. These results highlight a connection between the biophysical state of the oceans, the spatial patterns of human activity, and ultimately the economic welfare of coastal communities.
The increased frequency of publications concerning trophic ecology of coral reefs suggests a degree of interest in the role species and functional groups play in energy flow within these systems. Coral reef ecosystems are particularly complex, however, and assignment of trophic positions requires precise knowledge of mechanisms driving food webs and population dynamics. Competent analytical tools and empirical analysis are integral to defining ecosystem processes and avoiding misinterpretation of results. Here we examine the contribution of trophodynamics to informing ecological roles and understanding of coral reef ecology. Applied trophic studies of coral reefs were used to identify recent trends in methodology and analysis. Although research is increasing, clear definitions and scaling of studies is lacking. Trophodynamic studies will require more precise spatial and temporal data collection and analysis using multiple methods to fully explore the complex interactions within coral reef ecosystems.
In spite of the growing attention towards the overall quality of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), most empirical studies so far have narrowly focused their assessments on specific natural or social features and governing structures. In response, this study analyzed multi-use MPAs in the eelgrass restoration site in Hinase, Okayama, Japan in their environmental, economic and social dimensions. Considering changes in time and space as well as internal and external influences, the study faced many difficulties in dealing with the dynamics of MPA environments. At the same time, it showed clearly the control over development and fishery activities by several MPA relevant regulations, improvements of the ecological function by the regrowth of eelgrass, an increase in some fish species due to the same regrowth, and expansion of social networks deriving from the restoration activity. The study also revealed convincing evidence that self-motivated MPA management practice by fishers under the Territorial Use Rights for Fisheries (TURFs), in conjunction with other mixed management systems such as Satoumi, could lead to flexible and long-term efforts for improving food security, livelihoods, and the marine environment. This study highlights the importance of comprehensive research to deepen the understanding of the structure and functions of complex and diverse marine ecosystems and social systems.
New economic developments in the Arctic, such as shipping and oil exploitation, bring along unprecedented risks of marine oil spills. Microorganisms have played a central role in degrading and reducing the impact of the spilled oil during past oil disasters. However, in the Arctic, and in particular in its pristine areas, the self-cleaning capacity and biodegradation potential of the natural microbial communities have yet to be uncovered.
This review compiles and investigates the current knowledge with respect to environmental parameters and biochemical constraints that control oil biodegradation in the Arctic. Hereby, seawaters off Greenland are considered as a case study. Key factors for biodegradation include the bioavailability of hydrocarbons, the presence of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria and the availability of nutrients. We show how these key factors may be influenced by the physical oceanographic conditions in seawaters off Greenland and other environmental parameters including low temperature, sea ice, sunlight regime, suspended sediment plumes and phytoplankton blooms that characterize the Arctic.
Based on the acquired insights, a first qualitative assessment of the biodegradation potential in seawaters off Greenland is presented. In addition to the most apparent Arctic characteristics, such as low temperature and sea ice, the impact of typical Arctic features such as the oligotrophic environment, poor microbial adaptation to hydrocarbon degradation, mixing of stratified water masses, and massive phytoplankton blooms and suspended sediment plumes merit to be topics of future investigation.
Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) are a common marine fish in nearshore and continental shelf environments in the North Pacific Ocean. They are frequently identified in coastal archaeological sites in western North America; however, the morphological similarity of rockfish species limits conventional zooarchaeological identifications to the genus level. This study applies ancient DNA analysis to 96 archaeological rockfish specimens from four sites on separate islands in an archipelago on western Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Two of the archaeological sites are located within a marine protected area specifically designed to facilitate the recovery of inshore rockfish populations; two sites are located outside this boundary and remain subject to considerable fishing pressure. Using mitochondrial 16S and control region DNA sequences, we identify at least twelve different rockfish species utilized during the past 2,500 years. Identification of rockfish at closely spaced and contemporaneously occupied sites confirms that a variety of Sebastes species were consistently exploited at each site, with more exposed areas having a higher number of species present. Identification results indicate that four of the twelve species did not occur within the conservation area boundary and, instead, were found in sites where commercial and recreational fishing continues to be permitted. This study demonstrates that ancient DNA identifications of archaeological assemblages can complement and expand perspective on modern day fisheries conservation and management in this National Park Reserve and First Nations ancestral territory.
Ocean warming can strongly impact marine fisheries; notably, it can cause the “mean temperature of the catch” (MTC) to increase, an indicator of the tropicalization of fisheries catches. In this contribution, we explore MTC changes in three large marine ecosystems (LMEs) along China's coasts, i.e., the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea LMEs, and their relationships to shifts of sea surface temperature (SST). The results show that, while the MTCs began to increase in 1962 in the East China Sea and in 1968 in the Yellow Sea, there was no detectable increase in the South China Sea. There also was a strong relationship between MTC and SST in the Yellow and East China Seas from 1950 to 2010, especially when taking a 3-year time-lag into account. The lack of change of the MTC in the South China Sea is attributed to the relatively small increase in SST over the time period considered, and the fact that the MTC of tropical ecosystems such as the South China Sea is not predicted to increase in the first place, given that their fauna cannot be replaced by another, adapted to higher temperature. Overall, these results suggest that ocean warming is already having an impact on China's marine fisheries, and that policies to curtail greenhouse gas emissions are urgently needed to minimize the increase of these impacts on fisheries.
Most marine ecologists have in the past 25 years changed from supporting a passive-dispersal paradigm for larval marine fishes to supporting a biophysical-dispersal paradigm wherein the behaviour of larvae plays a central role. Research shows larvae of demersal perciform fishes have considerable swimming and orientation abilities over a major portion of their pelagic larval duration. These abilities depend on sensory function, and some recent research has indicated anthropogenic acidification of the oceans will by the end of the century result in sensory dysfunction. This could strongly alter the ability of fish larvae to orientate in the pelagic environment, to locate suitable settlement habitat, to bet-hedge, and to colonize new locations. This paper evaluates the available publications on the effects of acidification on senses and behaviours relevant to dispersal of fish early life-history stages. A large majority of studies tested CO2 values predicted for the middle to end of the century. Larvae of fourteen families—all but two perciform—were studied. However, half of studies used Damselfishes (Pomacentridae), and except for swimming, most studies used settlement-stage larvae or later stages. In spite of these taxonomic and ontogenetic restrictions, all but two studies on sensory function (chemosensation, hearing, vision, detection of estuarine cues) found deleterious effects from acidification. The four studies on lateralization and settlement timing all found deleterious effects from acidification. No clear effect of acidification on swimming ability was found. If fish larvae cannot orientate due to sensory dysfunction, their dispersal will, in effect, conform to the passive dispersal paradigm. Modelling incorporating larval behaviour derived from empirical studies indicates that relative to active larvae, passive larvae will have less self-recruitment, higher median and mean dispersal distances, and lower settlement rates: further, bet hedging and colonization of new locations will decrease. The biophysical dispersal paradigm will be lost in theory and in fact, which is predicted to result in lower recruitment and less bet hedging for demersal, perciform fishes. More research is required to determine if the larvae of other Orders will be effected in the same way, or if warm- and cold-water fish faunas will be similarly effected.
Marine debris is a global environmental problem especially apparent on small islands throughout the world. We implemented an educational outreach program to engage primary and secondary students in the scientific process using the tangible issue of marine debris on a typical small island in Indonesia (Barrang Lompo, Spermonde Islands, South Sulawesi). Over a 3-year period, students conducted systematic sampling of debris on their island’s beaches. They quantified the enormity of the debris problem, discussed data, and compared experiences with partner schools in California. The program inspired a unique, local perspective on marine debris that includes greater awareness of human health impacts as well as a need for realistic solutions to this problem faced by small islands.
Ocean acidification (OA) is considered an important threat to coral reef ecosystems, because it reduces the availability of carbonate ions that reef-building corals need to produce their skeletons. However, while theory predicts that coral calcification rates decline as carbonate ion concentrations decrease, this prediction is not consistently borne out in laboratory manipulation experiments or in studies of corals inhabiting naturally low-pH reefs today. The skeletal growth of corals consists of two distinct processes: extension (upward growth) and densification (lateral thickening). Here, we show that skeletal density is directly sensitive to changes in seawater carbonate ion concentration and thus, to OA, whereas extension is not. We present a numerical model of Porites skeletal growth that links skeletal density with the external seawater environment via its influence on the chemistry of coral calcifying fluid. We validate the model using existing coral skeletal datasets from six Porites species collected across five reef sites and use this framework to project the impact of 21st century OA on Porites skeletal density across the global tropics. Our model predicts that OA alone will drive up to 20.3 ± 5.4% decline in the skeletal density of reef-building Porites corals.
Human use and degradation of coastal ecosystems is at an all-time high. Thus, a current challenge for environmental management and research is moving beyond ecological definitions of success and integrating socioeconomic factors. Projects and studies with this aim, however, have focused primarily on monetary valuations of ecosystem functions, overlooking the behaviors and psycho-social motivations of environmental management. Using a nature-based salt marsh restoration project on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, we assess the role of human attitudes and preferences in evaluating social success for ecosystem management. We use structural equation modeling to compare the strengths of social variables in predicting restoration project support, and find public understanding to be a more important predictor than personal values. Our results show that even among stakeholders with strong pro-environmental values, a weak understanding of the management initiative can undermine support. We also find that project support does not necessarily translate to the prioritization of similar management strategies. Instead, when individuals consider overall management priorities, differences arise between particular resource user-groups. This suggests that strong public support for individual initiatives can misconstrue complexities in stakeholder preferences that emerge in more comprehensive management considerations. Future investigations of the psycho-social components of management solutions should address the potentially tiered nature of human preferences, as well as whether public perceptions of management effectiveness act as an additional context-dependency of social viability.
In most small-scale fisheries, especially in developing countries, the collection of reliable fishing statistics is not regular, hampering traditional stock assessments. In those data-poor fisheries, a precise knowledge of resources co-occurrence at the ecosystem level, as well as the spatial mapping of fishing activities seem key to support management in a complex fishers-environment context. In the largest South Atlantic coralline reef, the Abrolhos Bank, fisheries are extremely diverse in terms of exploitation capacity, fishing gears, target stocks and operating areas, but any regional fisheries management is currently in place. The aim of this study was to assess, organize, and analyze fisheries of three snappers (Lutjanus jocu, L. synagris and Ocyurus chrysurus), and three groupers (Cephalopholis fulva, Epinephelus morio and Mycteroperca bonaci) along the Abrolhos Bank, with an ultimate goal of proposing useful management units. Surveys were conducted in the main fishing ports, including fishers' interviews and fish size measures in landings. Data analysis allowed a precise fishing characterization, a grouping of stocks co-occurrence, and the mapping of fishing spots and grounds. Three stocks and seven fishing areas clusters were obtained and defined statistically, suggesting useful management units. Specific fishers' groups per fleet were identified as the main stakeholders to be consulted in fisheries plans. Spatial units based on the occurrence of snappers and groupers stocks were defined, having the “Parcel das Paredes” the greatest number of fishing spots and the lower fish sizes. Overall, findings contain unprecedented fine scale resolution units that clarifies and simplifies the connections among species, fleets, fishing areas and fishers. They should also strength the call for action to implement fisheries management in a broader ecosystem-scale context.
Microplastics are highly bioavailable to marine organisms, either through direct ingestion, or indirectly by trophic transfer from contaminated prey. The latter has been observed for low-trophic level organisms in laboratory conditions, yet empirical evidence in high trophic-level taxa is lacking. In natura studies face difficulties when dealing with contamination and differentiating between directly and indirectly ingested microplastics. The ethical constraints of subjecting large organisms, such as marine mammals, to laboratory investigations hinder the resolution of these limitations. Here, these issues were resolved by analysing sub-samples of scat from captive grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and whole digestive tracts of the wild-caught Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) they are fed upon. An enzymatic digestion protocol was employed to remove excess organic material and facilitate visual detection of synthetic particles without damaging them. Polymer type was confirmed using Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Extensive contamination control measures were implemented throughout. Approximately half of scat subsamples (48%; n = 15) and a third of fish (32%; n = 10) contained 1–4 microplastics. Particles were mainly black, clear, red and blue in colour. Mean lengths were 1.5 mm and 2 mm in scats and fish respectively. Ethylene propylene was the most frequently detected polymer type in both. Our findings suggest trophic transfer represents an indirect, yet potentially major, pathway of microplastic ingestion for any species whose feeding ecology involves the consumption of whole prey, including humans.
Loliginid squids constitute marine resources of increasing importance in shelf ecosystems off the coast of South Brazil. However, the existing information and knowledge about the occurrence of early-life stages and causes of distributional patterns are insufficient. Here, we have revisited Brazilian historical plankton samples obtained from 11 oceanographic surveys to identify paralarvae and their abundances over time. The study area and time period cover the region between Cabo de São Tomé (22°S) and Cananéia (25°S) at depths down to 200 m from 1991 to 2005. Of the 246 paralarvae quantified, ~50% were identified to the genus or species level, including Doryteuthis spp. (D. sanpaulensis and D. plei), Lolliguncula brevis and a single specimen of Pickfordiateuthis pulchella. Paralarval occurrence and abundance peaked in different areas and were associated with distinct oceanographic conditions: D. sanpaulensis occurred in the northern region associated with cold waters and upwelling events, D. plei occurred primarily in the southern region of the study area and in warmer waters, and L. brevis was found in shallow and low salinity waters in the estuarine region off the coast of Santos. Overall, the highest abundance of paralarvae occurred in the nearshore, northernmost areas during summer, and this can be associated with the observed retention mechanisms caused by local circulation, seasonal upwelling, the intrusion of nutrient-rich waters, and spawning peaks. The present study provides new information and evidence for loliginid patterns in the area that may potentially be useful for better understanding the recruitment patterns and fishery assessments of squid populations.
In this chapter we discuss the potential effects of climate change on Brazilian marine fisheries and aquaculture, a sector of significant national importance, exploring the projections from global models to that particular area of the South Atlantic Ocean, changes in the level and composition of fisheries production, physical alterations affecting fishing communities, main drivers of climatic variability, and changes upon marine and brackish aquaculture. In terms of the fisheries social–ecological systems, the potential impacts of ocean warming, sea level rise, changes in ocean circulation, stratification and acidity, and extreme events, are identified for both the natural and social sub-systems. The effect of El Niño Southern Oscillation is illustrated by a particular case study in Southern Brazil, where both impacted shrimp and mullet fisheries have been generating economic losses of more than US$7.5 million per year. In terms of aquaculture production, the effects of sea level rise, temperature shifts, rainfall, floods, water stress, algal blooms, acidification, El Niño/La Niña, and indirect climatic effects are explored for the Southern and Northern coasts of Brazil. Climate change poses additional challenges to the management of marine seafood production, potentially impacting living resources, communities, post-harvest sector and consumer market. This overview contributes to the evaluation of vulnerability, adaptation options, and much-needed actions, including interdisciplinary research. The need for different precautionary and remediation strategies to minimize losses and adapt to expected events is highlighted, while spatial issues and diversification are essential in assisting adaptation to potential forthcoming environmental stress.
Coastal fishing communities are closely linked to the biological and ecological characteristics of exploited resources and the physical conditions associated with climate and ocean dynamics. Thus, the human populations that depend on fisheries are inherently exposed to climate variability and uncertainty. This study applied an ethno-oceanographic framework to investigate the perceptions of fishers on climate and ocean change to better understand the impacts of climate change on the coastal fishing communities of the South Brazil Bight. Seven coastal fishing communities that cover the regional diversity of the area were selected. Fishers were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. The results suggest that fishers have detected climate-related changes in their environment such as reduced rainfall, increased drought events, calmer sea conditions, increases in air and ocean temperatures, changes in wind patterns and shoreline erosion. The perceptions of the fishers were compared to the available scientific data, and correlations were found with rainfall, wind speed and air and ocean temperatures. New hypotheses were raised based on the perceptions of fishers about sea level, coastal currents and sea conditions such as the hypothesis that the sea has become calmer. These perceived changes have positive and negative effects on the yields and livelihoods of fishers. The present work is the first evaluation of the perceptions of fishers on climate and ocean change and brings new understandings of climate-fishery-human interactions as well as provides inputs for future adaptation plans.
The canopies and roots of seagrass, mangrove, and saltmarsh protect a legacy of buried sedimentary organic carbon from resuspension and remineralisation. This legacy’s value, in terms of mitigating anthropogenic emissions of CO2, is based on total organic carbon (TOC) inventories to a depth likely to be disturbed. However, failure to subtract allochthonous recalcitrant carbon overvalues the storage service. Simply put, burial of oxidation-resistant organics formed outside of the ecosystem provides no additional protection from remineralisation. Here, we assess whether black carbon (BC), an allochthonous and recalcitrant form of organic carbon, is contributing to a significant overestimation of blue carbon stocks. To test this supposition, BC and TOC contents were measured in different types of seagrass and mangrove sediment cores across tropical and temperate regimes, with different histories of air pollution and fire together with a reanalysis of published data from a subtropical system. The results suggest current carbon stock estimates are positively biased, particularly for low-organic-content sandy seagrass environs, by 18 ± 3% (±95% confidence interval) and 43 ± 21% (±95% CI) for the temperate and tropical regions respectively. The higher BC fractions appear to originate from atmospheric deposition and substantially enrich the relatively low TOC fraction within these environs.
Coastal ecosystems provide a number of life-sustaining services, from which benefits to humans can be derived. They are often inhabited by aquatic vegetation, such as mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes. Given their wide geographic distribution and coverage, there is need to prioritize conservation efforts. An understanding of the human importance of these ecosystems can help with that prioritization. Here, we summarize a literature review of ecosystem service valuation studies. We discuss (1) the degree to which current valuation information is sufficient to prioritize blue carbon habitat conservation and restoration, (2) the relevancy of available studies, and (3) what is missing from the literature that would be needed to effectively prioritize conservation. Given the recent focus on blue carbon ecosystems in the international conservation, there are a number of areas where research on blue forest ecosystem assessment and valuation could be improved, from enhancing available methodologies to increasing valuation of rarely studied ecosystem services and wider geographic coverage of valuation studies. This review highlights these gaps and calls for a focus on broadening the ecosystem services that are valued, the methods used, and increasing valuation in underrepresented regions.
Since the discovery of hydrothermal vents 40-years ago, long-term time-series have focused on mid-ocean ridge systems. Based on these studies, hydrothermal vents are widely considered to be dynamic, ephemeral habitats. Under this premise, national, and international regulatory bodies are currently planning for the commercial mining of polymetallic sulfide deposits from hydrothermal vents. However, here we provide evidence of longevity and habitat stability that does not align with historic generalizations. Over a 10-year time-series focused on the back-arc basin systems off the west coast of the Kingdom of Tonga (South Pacific), we find the hydrothermal vents are remarkably stable habitats. Using high-resolution photo mosaics and spatially explicit in situ measurements to document natural changes of five hydrothermal vent edifices, we discovered striking stability in the vent structures themselves, as well as in the composition and coverage of the vent-associated species, with some evidence of microdistribution permanence. These findings challenge the way we think about hydrothermal vent ecosystems and their vulnerability and resilience to deep-sea mining activities.
Species inhabiting deep-sea hydrothermal vents are strongly influenced by the geological setting, as it provides the chemical-rich fluids supporting the food web, creates the patchwork of seafloor habitat, and generates catastrophic disturbances that can eradicate entire communities. The patches of vent habitat host a network of communities (a metacommunity) connected by dispersal of planktonic larvae. The dynamics of the metacommunity are influenced not only by birth rates, death rates and interactions of populations at the local site, but also by regional influences on dispersal from different sites. The connections to other communities provide a mechanism for dynamics at a local site to affect features of the regional biota. In this paper, we explore the challenges and potential benefits of applying metacommunity theory to vent communities, with a particular focus on effects of disturbance. We synthesize field observations to inform models and identify data gaps that need to be addressed to answer key questions including: (1) what is the influence of the magnitude and rate of disturbance on ecological attributes, such as time to extinction or resilience in a metacommunity; (2) what interactions between local and regional processes control species diversity, and (3) which communities are “hot spots” of key ecological significance. We conclude by assessing our ability to evaluate resilience of vent metacommunities to human disturbance (e.g., deep-sea mining). Although the resilience of a few highly disturbed vent systems in the eastern Pacific has been quantified, these values cannot be generalized to remote locales in the western Pacific or mid Atlantic where disturbance rates are different and information on local controls is missing.
The objective of this issue of «Science for MPA Management» is to explore the process of the ecosystem approach adopted in 2008 by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the European Union. In this context, Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are identified as a key element in the implementation of monitoring that aims to report on the progress made towards the achievement of the Good Environmental Status of the Mediterranean. Their role must nevertheless be strengthened, with in particular a potential support from the MedPAN network to coordinate monitoring in MPAs on different components related to the EcAP process on a Mediterranean scale.