Research on vulnerability and adaptation in social-ecological systems (SES) has largely centered on climate change and associated biophysical stressors. Key implications of this are twofold. First, there has been limited engagement with the impacts of social drivers of change on communities and linked SES. Second, the focus on climate effects often assumes slower drivers of change and fails to differentiate the implications of change occurring at different timescales. This has resulted in a body of SES scholarship that is under-theorized in terms of how communities experience and respond to fast versus slow change. Yet, social and economic processes at global scales increasingly emerge as ‘shocks’ for local systems, driving rapid and often surprising forms of change distinct from and yet interacting with the impacts of slow, ongoing ‘trends’. This research seeks to understand the nature and impacts of social shocks as opposed to or in concert with trends through the lens of a qualitative case study of a coastal community in Mexico, where demand from international seafood markets has spurred rapid development of a sea cucumber fishery. Specifically, we examined what different social-ecological changes are being experienced by the community, how the impacts of the sea cucumber fishery are distinct from and interacting with slower ongoing trends and how these processes are affecting system vulnerability, adaptations and adaptive capacity. We begin by proposing a novel framework for conceptualizing impacts on social systems, as comprised of structures, functions, and feedbacks. Our results illustrate how the rapid-onset of this fishery has ecological changes are being experienced by the community, how the impacts of the sea cucumber fishery are distinct from and interacting with slower ongoing trends and in poaching and armed violence have emerged, exacerbating pressures from ongoing trends in immigration, overfishing and tourism development. We argue that there is a need to better understand and differentiate the social and ecological implications of shocks, which present novel challenges for the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of communities and the sustainability of marine ecosystems.
Commercial interest in deep sea minerals in the area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction has rapidly increased in recent years. The International Seabed Authority has already given out 26 exploration contracts and it is currently in the process of developing the Mining Code for eventual exploitation of the mineral resources. Priority issues have so far been feasibility and profitability of this emerging industry, while relatively little consideration has been given as to how, and to an even lesser extent, whether deep seabed mining should proceed. This article makes a case that the global community should question and scrutinize the underlying assumption that deep seabed mining is going benefit humankind as a whole before commercializing the common heritage of humankind.
Decision-makers focus on representing biodiversity pattern, maintaining connectivity, and strengthening resilience to global warming when designing marine protected area (MPA) systems, especially in coral reef ecosystems. The achievement of these broad conservation objectives will likely require large areas, and stretch limited funds for MPA implementation. We undertook a spatial prioritisation of Brazilian coral reefs that considered two types of conservation zones (i.e. no-take and multiple use areas) and integrated multiple conservation objectives into MPA planning, while assessing the potential impact of different sets of objectives on implementation costs. We devised objectives for biodiversity, connectivity, and resilience to global warming, determined the extent to which existing MPAs achieved them, and designed complementary zoning to achieve all objectives combined in expanded MPA systems. In doing so, we explored interactions between different sets of objectives, determined whether refinements to the existing spatial arrangement of MPAs were necessary, and tested the utility of existing MPAs by comparing their cost effectiveness with an MPA system designed from scratch. We found that MPAs in Brazil protect some aspects of coral reef biodiversity pattern (e.g. threatened fauna and ecosystem types) more effectively than connectivity or resilience to global warming. Expanding the existing MPA system was as cost-effective as designing one from scratch only when multiple objectives were considered and management costs were accounted for. Our approach provides a comprehensive assessment of the benefits of integrating multiple objectives in the initial stages of conservation planning, and yields insights for planners of MPAs tackling multiple objectives in other regions.
Identifying the multifaceted biodiversity hotspots for marine mammals and their spatial overlap with human threats at the global scale.
We compiled a functional trait database for 121 species of marine mammals characterized by 14 functional traits grouped into five categories. We estimated marine mammal species richness (SR) as well as functional (FD) and phylogenetic diversity (PD) per grid cell (1° × 1°) using the FRic index (a measure of trait diversity as the volume of functional space occupied by the species present in an assemblage) and the PD index (the amount of evolutionary history represented by a set of species), respectively. Finally, we assessed the spatial congruence of these three facets of biodiversity hotspots (defined as 2.5% and 5% of the highest values of SR, FD and PD) with human threats at the global scale.
We showed that the FRic index was weakly correlated with both SR and the PD index. Specifically, SR and FRic displayed a triangular relationship, that is, increasing variability in FRic along the species richness gradient. We also observed a striking lack of spatial congruence (<0.1%) between current human threats and the distribution of the multiple facets of biodiversity hotspots.
We highlighted that functional diversity calculated using the FRic index is weakly associated with the species richness of marine mammals world-wide. This is one of the most endangered vertebrate groups playing a key ecological role in marine ecosystems. This finding calls for caution when using only species richness as a benchmark for defining marine mammal biodiversity hotspots. The very low level of spatial congruence between hotspots of current threats and those of the multiple facets of marine mammal biodiversity suggests that current biodiversity patterns for this group have already been greatly affected by their history of exploitation.
While international agreements and legislation call for incorporation of four pillars of sustainability, the social (including cultural), economic and institutional aspects (the ‘human dimension’) have been relatively neglected to date. Three key impediments have been identified: a relative lack of explicit social, economic and institutional objectives; a general lack of process (frameworks, governance) for routine integration of all four pillars of sustainability; and a bias towards biological considerations. Practical integration requires a ‘systems’ approach with explicit consideration of strategic and operational aspects of management; multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary evaluations; practical objectives for the four pillars of sustainability; appropriate participation; and a governance system that is able to integrate these diverse considerations in management. We challenge all involved in fisheries to immediately take five practical steps toward integrating ecological, economic, social and institutional aspects: (1) Adopt the perspective of the fishery as a ‘system’ with interacting natural, human and management elements; (2) Be aware of both strategic and operational aspects of fisheries assessment and management; (3) Articulate overarching objectives that incorporate all four pillars of sustainability; (4) Encourage appropriate (and diverse) disciplinary participation in all aspects of research, evaluation and management; and (5) Encourage development of (or emulate) participatory governance.
Because of the complexity and speed of environmental, climatic, and socio-political change in coastal marine social-ecological systems, there is significant academic and applied interest in assessing and fostering the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. Adaptive capacity refers to the latent ability of a system to respond proactively and positively to stressors or opportunities. A variety of qualitative, quantitative, and participatory approaches have been developed and applied to understand and assess adaptive capacity, each with different benefits, drawbacks, insights, and implications. Drawing on case studies of coastal communities from around the globe, we describe and compare 11 approaches that are often used to study adaptive capacity of social and ecological systems in the face of social, environmental, and climatic change. We synthesize lessons from a series of case studies to present important considerations to frame research and to choose an assessment approach, key challenges to analyze adaptive capacity in linked social-ecological systems, and good practices to link results to action to foster adaptive capacity. We suggest that more attention be given to integrated social-ecological assessments and that greater effort be placed on evaluation and monitoring of adaptive capacity over time and across scales. Overall, although sustainability science holds a promise of providing solutions to real world problems, we found that too few assessments seem to lead to tangible outcomes or actions to foster adaptive capacity in social-ecological systems.
The apparent prevalence of rare species (rarity) in the deep sea is a concern for environmental management and conservation of biodiversity. Rare species are often considered at risk of extinction and, in terrestrial and shallow water environments, have been shown to play key roles within an ecosystem. In the deep-sea environment, current research focuses primarily on abundant species and deep-sea stakeholders are questioning the importance of rare species in ecosystem functioning. This study asks whether deep-sea stakeholders (primarily scientists) view rare-species research as a priority in guiding environmental management. Delphi methodology (i.e., an iterative survey approach) was used to understand views about whether or not ‘deep-sea scientists should allocate more resources to research on rare species in the deep sea, even if this means less resources might be available for abundant-species research.’ Results suggest little consensus regarding the prioritization of resources for rare-species research. From Survey 1 to Survey 3, the average participant response shifted toward a view that rare-species research is not a priority if it comes at a cost to research on abundant species. Participants pointed to the need for a balanced approach and highlighted knowledge gaps about even the most fundamental questions, including whether rare species are truly ‘rare’ or simply under-sampled. Participants emphasized the lack of basic biological knowledge for rare and abundant species, particularly abundant meio- and microscopic species, as well as uncertainty in the roles rare and abundant species play in ecosystem processes. Approaches that jointly consider the role of rare and abundant species in ecosystem functioning (e.g., biological trait analysis) may help to clarify the extent to which rare species need to be incorporated into deep-sea environment management in order to maintain ecosystem functioning.
Leadership is often viewed as being critical to successful natural resource management. This research focuses on a set of leaders identified through a social network analysis of fishers in a rural coastal region. Leaders' connections to different fisheries are evaluated, and these actors are found to be significantly more diversified than other fishers in the area. Drawing on theory related to institutional entrepreneurship and a series of in-depth interviews with these actors, this paper puts forward several hypotheses to explain how diverse social-ecological connections facilitate leadership. Three mechanisms are identified. Being diversified facilitates: (1) production of alternative visions; (2) framing of tractable strategies to sustain local marine resource; and (3) participation in the management process. While more research is needed to understand the relationship between diversification and leadership, these exploratory results suggest that leadership is, in part, a manifestation of ecological circumstance, supporting recent assertions that scholarship on leadership in natural resource management settings could benefit from being more attentive to the processes that shape leadership rather than fixating on individuals and their personal attributes. Given that fisheries policies increasingly constrain diversification, policymakers and managers should consider how specialization of fishers might change the form and function of leaders in the future.
Scleractinian, octocoral, and antipatharian corals have colonized many of the offshore oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico. We surveyed 25 offshore oil and gas platforms for these cnidarians. Few to no corals were detected on inshore, shallow-water structures at <25 m depth; however, the abundance of corals increased, ranging from 14 to 194/m2, on platforms in waters deeper ≥25 m. The most common coral encountered were Tubastraea coccinea (Scleractinia) and Telesto spp. (Octocorallia). The data suggest that the offshore platforms located in waters of >25–30 m in the study area are often colonized by these corals. We recommend that structures located in deeper waters should be surveyed for coral and, if the populations are substantial, consider alternate uses for the retired platforms, and leaving them in place, when feasible.
Multispecies fisheries management requires managers to consider the impact of fishing activities on several species as fishing impacts both targeted and non-targeted species directly or indirectly in several ways. The intended goal of traditional fisheries management is to achieve maximum sustainable yield (MSY) from the targeted species, which on many occasions affect the targeted species as well as the entire ecosystem. Marine reserves are often acclaimed as the marine ecosystem management tool. Few attempts have been made to generalize the ecological effects of marine reserve on MSY policy. We examine here how MSY and population level in a prey-predator system are affected by the low, medium and high reserve size under different possible scenarios. Our simulation works shows that low reserve area, the value of MSY for prey exploitation is maximum when both prey and predator species have fast movement rate. For medium reserve size, our analysis revealed that the maximum value of MSY for prey exploitation is obtained when prey population has fast movement rate and predator population has slow movement rate. For high reserve area, the maximum value of MSY for prey’s exploitation is very low compared to the maximum value of MSY for prey’s exploitation in case of low and medium reserve. On the other hand, for low and medium reserve area, MSY for predator exploitation is maximum when both the species have fast movement rate.
A new method based on photographic sampling coupled with in situ observations was applied to 53 stations along the French Mediterranean coast, to assess the integrity of coralligenous reefs affected by different levels of anthropogenic pressure. The conservation state of the assemblages characterizing these habitats was then assessed by an index – the INDEX-COR – that integrates three metrics: (i) the sensitivity of the taxa to organic matter and sediment deposition, (ii) the observable taxonomic richness, and (iii) the structural complexity of the assemblages. The sensitivity of INDEX-COR was tested and showed good correlation with the Level of Pressure calculated for each station according to expert judgment and field observations.
Marine reserve placement must account for the importance of places for resource use to minimize negative socioeconomic impacts and improve compliance. It is often assumed that placing marine reserves in locations that minimize lost fishing opportunities will reduce impacts on coastal communities, but the influence of the fishing data used on this outcome remains poorly understood. In the Madang Lagoon (Papua New Guinea), we compared three types of proxies for conservation costs to local fishing communities. We developed two types of proxies of opportunity costs commonly used in marine conservation planning: current fishing activity with fisher surveys (n = 68) and proximity from shore. We also developed proxies based on areas of importance for fishing as perceived by surveyed households (n = 52). Although all proxies led to different configurations of potential marine reserves, the three types of cost data reflect different aspects of importance for fishing and should be used as complementary measures.
Since the Second World War, academic publishing practices have had to cope with enormous changes in the scale of the research enterprise, in the culture and management of higher education, and in the ecosystem of scholarly publishers. The pace of change has been particularly rapid in the last twenty-five years, thanks to digital technologies. This has also been a time of growing divergence between the different roles of academic publishing: as a means of disseminating validated knowledge, as a form of symbolic capital for academic career progression, and as a profitable business enterprise.
This briefing paper aims to provide a historical perspective that can inform the debates about what the future of academic publishing should look like. We argue that current policy regarding open access publishing, and many of the other proposals for the reform of academic publishing, have been too focused on the opportunities and financial challenges of the most recent changes in digital communications technologies and have given undue weight to commercial concerns.
We show that the business practices and the cultural significance of academic publishing have been significantly transformed since the late nineteenth century as increasing government funding drove the expansion and professionalization of the research community, a process that accelerated rapidly after the Second World War. We examine how academic publishing practices have responded to the increasing number of researchers and publications worldwide, the changing expectations of academic workloads and outputs in the higher education sector, and the new business models in the publishing industry. A key phenomenon has been the growing importance of published works as career-defining tokens of prestige for academics. Although the new technologies that emerged in the late twentieth century offer great potential for improving the speed and efficiency of scholarly communication, the publishing model has been relatively slow to change.
The key themes of this briefing paper are:
- the business of academic publishing
- the role of publishing in academic careers
- and the tangled and changing relationship between them.
Concern is growing that marine fauna can be affected by noise such as naval sonar, pile driving or geophysical surveys, among others. Literature reports a variety of animal reactions to human noise (from apparently null or negligible to strong). However, conclusive results on its effects on marine mammals at individual and population level are still lacking. In 2015, the Italian Environmental Impact Assessment Commission mandated seismic operators apply a standard scientific protocol comparing marine mammal presence before, during, and after offshore seismic survey. For 60 days before and after the survey, marine mammals are monitored using visual and acoustic methods. One or more acoustic autonomous recorders, depending on area size, must also be deployed throughout the three phases for continuous monitoring. Consistent data gathered from many surveys will enable robust statistical analysis of results. Diffusion of this monitoring method internationally would improve the study of far-reaching, intense, low frequency noise.
Different legal frameworks and concepts have been used to establish coastal zone boundaries. Integrated Coastal Zone Management use some criteria, while Land-Use Planning use a different criteria. A critical analysis about this topic is done in the present study, with the aim of proposing a novel method for delimitation and demarcation of coastal zone boundaries. The method offers an integrated perspective regarding the river basin, the coastal zone, and their corresponding economic zones. Moreover, it is comprised of dependent and independent variables, representing useful decision-making tools for applying Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Land-Use Planning initiatives. The concepts of Primary Environmental Coastal Units for Integrated Management (PECUIM) and Basic Environmental Coastal Units for Integrated Management and Land-Use Planning (BECUIMLUP) were proposed and applied in Cuba, where twenty-three PECUIM and four BECUIMLUP were demarcated and delimitated. At the end of this paper, the importance of integrated criteria for coastal zone boundaries is concluded and demonstrated.
Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs, between 30 and 150 m depth) are hypothesized to contribute to the recovery of degraded shallow reefs through sexually produced larvae (referred to as Deep Reef Refuge Hypothesis). In Okinawa, Japan, the brooder coral Seriatopora hystrix was reported to be locally extinct in a shallow reef while it was found abundant at a MCE nearby. In this context, S. hystrix represents a key model to test the Deep Reef Refuge Hypothesis and to understand the potential contribution of mesophotic corals to shallow coral reef recovery. However, the reproductive biology of mesophotic S. hystrix and its potential to recolonize shallow reefs is currently unknown. This study reports for the first time, different temporal scales of reproductive periodicity and larval settlement of S. hystrix from an upper mesophotic reef (40 m depth) in Okinawa. We examined reproductive seasonality, lunar, and circadian periodicity (based on polyp dissection, histology, and ex situ planula release observations) and larval settlement rates in the laboratory. Mesophotic S. hystrix reproduced mainly in July and early August, with a small number of planulae being released at the end of May, June and August. Compared to shallow colonies in the same region, mesophotic S. hystrix has a 4-month shorter reproductive season, similar circadian periodicity, and smaller planula size. In addition, most of the planulae settled rapidly, limiting larval dispersal potential. The shorter reproductive season and smaller planula size may result from limited energy available for reproduction at deeper depths, while the similar circadian periodicity suggests that this reproductive aspect is not affected by environmental conditions differing with depth. Overall, contribution of mesophotic S. hystrix to shallow reef rapid recovery appears limited, although they may recruit to shallow reefs through a multistep process over a few generations or through random extreme mixing such as typhoons.
The microbial degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons at low temperatures was investigated in subarctic deep-sea sediments in the Faroe Shetland Channel (FSC). The effect of the marine oil dispersant, Superdispersant 25 on hydrocarbon degradation was also examined. Sediments collected at 500 and 1000 m depth were spiked with a model oil containing 20 hydrocarbons and incubated at ambient temperature (5 and 0 °C, respectively) with and without marine dispersant. Treatment of sediments with hydrocarbons resulted in the enrichment of Gammaproteobacteria, and specifically the genera Pseudoalteromonas, Pseudomonas, Halomonas, and Cobetia. Hydrocarbon degradation was faster at 5 °C (500 m) with 65–89% of each component degraded after 50 days compared to 0–47% degradation at 0 °C (1000 m), where the aromatic hydrocarbons fluoranthene, anthracene, and Dibenzothiophene showed no degradation. Dispersant significantly increased the rate of degradation at 1000 m, but had no effect at 500 m. There was no statistically significant effect of Superdispersant 25 on the bacterial community structure at either station. These results show that the indigenous bacterial community in the FSC has the capacity to mitigate some of the effects of a potential oil spill, however, the effect of dispersant is ambiguous and further research is needed to understand the implications of its use.
First impressions based on facial appearance predict many important social outcomes. We investigated whether such impressions also influence the communication of scientific findings to lay audiences, a process that shapes public beliefs, opinion, and policy. First, we investigated the traits that engender interest in a scientist’s work, and those that create the impression of a “good scientist” who does high-quality research. Apparent competence and morality were positively related to both interest and quality judgments, whereas attractiveness boosted interest but decreased perceived quality. Next, we had members of the public choose real science news stories to read or watch and found that people were more likely to choose items that were paired with “interesting-looking” scientists, especially when selecting video-based communications. Finally, we had people read real science news items and found that the research was judged to be of higher quality when paired with researchers who look like “good scientists.” Our findings offer insights into the social psychology of science, and indicate a source of bias in the dissemination of scientific findings to broader society.
Reproducibility has long been a tenet of science but has been challenging to achieve—we learned this the hard way when our old approaches proved inadequate to efficiently reproduce our own work. Here we describe how several free software tools have fundamentally upgraded our approach to collaborative research, making our entire workflow more transparent and streamlined. By describing specific tools and how we incrementally began using them for the Ocean Health Index project, we hope to encourage others in the scientific community to do the same—so we can all produce better science in less time.
Public support for carbon emissions mitigation is crucial to motivate action to address global issues like climate change and ocean acidification (OA). Yet in the public sphere, carbon emissions mitigation policies are typically discussed in the context of climate change and rarely in the context of OA or other global change outcomes. In this paper, we advance research on OA and climate change perceptions and communication, by (i) examining causal beliefs about ocean acidification, and (ii) measuring support for mitigation policies from individuals presented with one of five different policy frames (climate change, global warming, carbon pollution, air pollution, and ocean acidification). Knowledge about OA causes and consequences is more widespread than we anticipated, though still generally low. Somewhat surprisingly, an “air pollution” mitigation frame elicits the highest degree of policy support overall, while “carbon pollution” performs no better than “climate change” or “global warming.” Framing effects are in part contingent on prior knowledge and attitudes, and mediated by concern. Perhaps due to a lack of OA awareness, the OA frame generates the least support overall, although it seems to close the gap in support associated with political orientation: the OA frame increases support among those (few) conservatives who report having heard of OA before the survey. These findings complement previous work on climate change communication and suggest the need for further research into OA as an effective way to engage conservatives in carbon emissions mitigation policy. Potentially even more promising is the air pollution framing.