The blue economy can be a driver for Europe's welfare and prosperity. That was the message of the Blue Growth Strategy adopted by the Commission in 2012. Since then, the Commission has undertaken a series of steps to translate it into actions. It has launched initiatives in many policy areas related to Europe's oceans, seas and coasts, facilitating the cooperation between maritime business and public authorities across borders and sectors, and stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the marine environment.
In many parts of the world, both wild and cultured populations of bivalves have been struck by mass mortality episodes because of climatic and anthropogenic stressors whose causes and consequences are not always clearly understood. Such outbreaks have resulted in a range of responses from the social (fishers or farmers) and governing systems. We analyzed six commercial bivalve industries affected by mass mortalities using I-ADApT, a decision support framework to assess the impacts and consequences of these perturbations on the natural, social, and governing systems, and the consequent responses of stakeholders to these events. We propose a multidimensional resilience framework to assess resilience along the natural, social, and governing axes and to compare adaptive responses and their likelihood of success. The social capital and governability of the local communities were key factors affecting the communities’ resilience and adaptation to environmental changes, but the rapid degradation of natural ecosystems puts the bivalve industry under a growing threat. Bivalve mariculture and fishing industries are likely to experience increased frequency, severity, and prevalence of such mass mortality events if the resilience of the natural systems is not improved. An understanding of previous adaptation processes can inform strategies for building adaptive capacity to future events.
Northeast coral gardens provide vital breeding and feeding habitats for fishes of conservation and commercial importance. Such habitats are increasingly at risk of destruction as a result of over fishing, ocean warming, acidification and marine litter.
A key cause for concern regarding the vulnerability of coral gardens to damage from any source is their slow growth rate, and thereby their ability to recover from damage. Hence protected areas are being put in place, which exclude the use of towed demersal fishing gear.
Citizen scientists observed that gorgonian coral (Pink Sea Fans) skeletons were stranding on beaches entangled in marine debris (sea fangles) across southwest England. Further, SCUBA divers reported that gorgonian corals were being caught up and damaged in lost fishing gear and other marine litter.
To determine the cause of the damage to coral gardens, sea fangles were collected and analysed.
The sea fangles were made up of a diverse range of litter from fishing and domestic sources, however, the majority comprised of fishing gear (P < 0.05).
Marine Protected Areas can protect coral gardens from direct fishing pressure, but risks still remain from ghost fishing pressure, demonstrating the need for sources of litter into the environment to be reduced and existing litter removed.
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) outlines targets for marine litter by 2020. This study highlights the importance of adhering to the MSFD and/or creating more ambitious regulation if the UK re-write existing legislation following BREXIT.
Scholars increasingly recognize the world as a collection of complex, integrated, socioecological systems. The increasing popularity of interdisciplinary research and training across North America, as well as funding structures requiring socially relevant outcomes, reflects a growing appreciation that current ecological conditions are inextricably linked to human socioeconomic and cultural systems, and are affected by human decisions. This realization necessitates an ever-wider variety of perspectives to understand and act wisely within the world. One outcome of this recognition is that “human dimensions” specialists, often known as social scientists, are sometimes included on projects to provide the social perspective. Unfortunately, this inclusion too often happens without understanding the range of human dimensions specialties, what type of social information or approach is needed, or how the skills of human dimensions colleagues can help. The result can be frustration on all sides, the perpetuation of existing academic silos, and work that is less imaginative and less important than it should or could be.
Ocean acidification (OA) describes a change in the ocean's carbonate chemistry. Whereas its chemical processes are largely understood, the biological and socioeconomic consequences particularly in relation to fisheries are less known. Norway is a major fishing nation worldwide and is potentially affected by OA. To improve the understanding of the socioeconomic consequences of OA, we conducted a risk assessment among the Norwegian counties using a modified version of a risk assessment framework introduced in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's “Special Report: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation,” which considers risk to be the sum of hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. Our results show that about 13 of 19 counties are likely to experience moderate to high risk from OA. We highlight that the success of integrated risk assessments highly depends on the availability of detailed environmental, economic, and societal data. In the case of Norway, modeling data regarding the progress of OA, improved information on potential biological impacts on a larger number of species, and statistical data on social variables are required. We conclude that although still in its infancy, integrated risk assessments are important prerequisites for any form of interdisciplinary research on OA and the development of successful response strategies.
In July 2011, the observation of a massive phytoplankton bloom underneath a sea ice–covered region of the Chukchi Sea shifted the scientific consensus that regions of the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice were inhospitable to photosynthetic life. Although the impact of widespread phytoplankton blooms under sea ice on Arctic Ocean ecology and carbon fixation is potentially marked, the prevalence of these events in the modern Arctic and in the recent past is, to date, unknown. We investigate the timing, frequency, and evolution of these events over the past 30 years. Although sea ice strongly attenuates solar radiation, it has thinned significantly over the past 30 years. The thinner summertime Arctic sea ice is increasingly covered in melt ponds, which permit more light penetration than bare or snow-covered ice. Our model results indicate that the recent thinning of Arctic sea ice is the main cause of a marked increase in the prevalence of light conditions conducive to sub-ice blooms. We find that as little as 20 years ago, the conditions required for sub-ice blooms may have been uncommon, but their frequency has increased to the point that nearly 30% of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean in July permits sub-ice blooms. Recent climate change may have markedly altered the ecology of the Arctic Ocean.
The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS, the Acanthaster planci species group) is a highly fecund predator of reef-building corals throughout the Indo-Pacific region1. COTS population outbreaks cause substantial loss of coral cover, diminishing the integrity and resilience of reef ecosystems2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Here we sequenced genomes of COTS from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and Okinawa, Japan to identify gene products that underlie species-specific communication and could potentially be used in biocontrol strategies. We focused on water-borne chemical plumes released from aggregating COTS, which make the normally sedentary starfish become highly active. Peptide sequences detected in these plumes by mass spectrometry are encoded in the COTS genome and expressed in external tissues. The exoproteome released by aggregating COTS consists largely of signalling factors and hydrolytic enzymes, and includes an expanded and rapidly evolving set of starfish-specific ependymin-related proteins. These secreted proteins may be detected by members of a large family of olfactory-receptor-like G-protein-coupled receptors that are expressed externally, sometimes in a sex-specific manner. This study provides insights into COTS-specific communication that may guide the generation of peptide mimetics for use on reefs with COTS outbreaks.
Understanding feedbacks between human and environmental health is critical for the millions who cope with recurrent illness and rely directly on natural resources for sustenance. Although studies have examined how environmental degradation exacerbates infectious disease, the effects of human health on our use of the environment remains unexplored. Human illness is often tacitly assumed to reduce human impacts on the environment. By this logic, ill people reduce the time and effort that they put into extractive livelihoods and, thereby, their impact on natural resources. We followed 303 households living on Lake Victoria, Kenya over four time points to examine how illness influenced fishing. Using fixed effect conditional logit models to control for individual-level and time-invariant factors, we analyzed the effect of illness on fishing effort and methods. Illness among individuals who listed fishing as their primary occupation affected their participation in fishing. However, among active fishers, we found limited evidence that illness reduced fishing effort. Instead, ill fishers shifted their fishing methods. When ill, fishers were more likely to use methods that were illegal, destructive, and concentrated in inshore areas but required less travel and energy. Ill fishers were also less likely to fish using legal methods that are physically demanding, require travel to deep waters, and are considered more sustainable. By altering the physical capacity and outlook of fishers, human illness shifted their effort, their engagement with natural resources, and the sustainability of their actions. These findings show a previously unexplored pathway through which poor human health may negatively impact the environment.
Citizen science—the involvement of volunteers in data collection, analysis and interpretation—simultaneously supports research and public engagement with science, and its profile is rapidly rising. Citizen science represents a diverse range of approaches, but until now this diversity has not been quantitatively explored. We conducted a systematic internet search and discovered 509 environmental and ecological citizen science projects. We scored each project for 32 attributes based on publicly obtainable information and used multiple factor analysis to summarise this variation to assess citizen science approaches. We found that projects varied according to their methodological approach from ‘mass participation’ (e.g. easy participation by anyone anywhere) to ‘systematic monitoring’ (e.g. trained volunteers repeatedly sampling at specific locations). They also varied in complexity from approaches that are ‘simple’ to those that are ‘elaborate’ (e.g. provide lots of support to gather rich, detailed datasets). There was a separate cluster of entirely computer-based projects but, in general, we found that the range of citizen science projects in ecology and the environment showed continuous variation and cannot be neatly categorised into distinct types of activity. While the diversity of projects begun in each time period (pre 1990, 1990–99, 2000–09 and 2010–13) has not increased, we found that projects tended to have become increasingly different from each other as time progressed (possibly due to changing opportunities, including technological innovation). Most projects were still active so consequently we found that the overall diversity of active projects (available for participation) increased as time progressed. Overall, understanding the landscape of citizen science in ecology and the environment (and its change over time) is valuable because it informs the comparative evaluation of the ‘success’ of different citizen science approaches. Comparative evaluation provides an evidence-base to inform the future development of citizen science activities.
Around the world, governments are establishing Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks to meet their commitments to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. MPAs are often used in an effort to conserve biodiversity and manage fisheries stocks. However, their efficacy and effect on fisheries yields remain unclear. We conducted a case-study on the economic impact of different MPA network design strategies on the Atlantic cod ( Gadus morhua) fisheries in Canada. The open-source R package that we developed to analyze this case study can be customized to conduct similar analyses for other systems. We used a spatially-explicit individual-based model of population growth and dispersal coupled with a fisheries management and harvesting component. We found that MPA networks that both protect the target species’ habitat and were spatially optimized to improve population connectivity had the highest net present value (i.e., were most profitable for the fishing industry). These higher profits were achieved primarily by reducing the distance travelled for fishing and reducing the probability of a moratorium event. These findings add to a growing body of knowledge demonstrating the importance of incorporating population connectivity in the MPA planning process, as well as the ability of this R package to explore ecological and economic consequences of alternative MPA network designs.
Over the last decades, the Arctic environment as a whole altered dramatically due to the impacts of climate change. Troubling rates of Arctic sea ice melt—with a projected ice-free summer in mere decades—may allow for unprecedented economic activity, such as a rise in navigation via the emerging Arctic Sea Routes, as well as the extraction of offshore living and nonliving resources. Considered to be one of Earth’s final pristine ecosystems, the Arctic’s unique marine ecosystem also boasts a wealth of nonliving resources. The region holds incredible biodiversity and supports adaptive capacities for species in extreme environmental conditions. Amid new optimism regarding commercial conquests, the marine ecosystem critical to Arctic species resilience is at risk. The following chapter, developed from our previously published article “Legal Instruments for Marine Sanction in the High Arctic,” reviews the rationale for protecting marine biodiversity in Arctic waters and examines the existing legal framework for marine protected area creation, as well as its limits. Specifically considering the challenge of protecting marine life in the High Arctic area beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), the chapter first critically examines the call for an “Antarctic modeled” legal designation for the entire Arctic high sea area as a marine protected area, concluding the idea to be largely impractical for the geographically and politically dissimilar pole. Next we examine three other potential legal mechanisms for MPA creation in Arctic’s areas beyond national jurisdiction: an UNCLOS implementing agreement, an additional protocol to the UNCBD, and a regional agreement. Based on our analysis, we argue that a complementary, regional legal regime for MPA creation in the High Arctic would offer a pathway to adequate protection while being more politically feasible than other alternatives.
Spatial closures are widely used in marine conservation and fisheries management and it is important to understand their contribution to achieving management objectives. Many previous evaluations of closed area effects have used before-after comparisons, which, without controlling for a full range of factors, cannot ascribe changes in fleet behaviour to area closures per se. In this study we used a counterfactual approach to disentangle the effect of two closed areas on fishing location from other competing effects on the behaviour of the Indian Ocean tuna purse seine fishery. Our results revealed an inconsistent effect of the one of the closed areas between years, after taking into account the influence of environmental conditions on fleet behaviour. This suggests that the policy of closing the area per se was not the main driver for the fleet allocating its effort elsewhere. We also showed a marked difference in effect between the two closed areas resulting from their different locations in the fishery area. These findings highlight the need to account for other key fleet behavioural drivers when predicting or evaluating the contribution of area closures to achieving conservation and fishery management objectives.
Biodiversity underpins ecosystem services. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has adopted an ecosystem services approach as a framework for biodiversity management at the national level. Protection of ecosystem services requires far more than traditional nature conservation measures like the designation and management of protected areas. The economic sectors that affect biodiversity and ecosystem services must be involved, to address not merely the symptoms but the root causes of the degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Achieving coherence in policies and actions across economic sectors and the changes involved in values, decision-making and practices, requires legal approaches to ensure buy-in and accountability. Ideally, such approaches should be included in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), the key instrument for translating the CBD into national action. A review of 20 revised NBSAPs shows that such measures have been introduced only to a very limited extent with many countries still in the earliest stages of preparing measures to protect ecosystem services. Thus, there is a need for further research and practical guidance regarding legal approaches to ecosystem services.
Interest in the role that ecosystems play in reducing the impacts of coastal hazards has grown dramatically. Yet the magnitude and nature of their effects are highly context dependent, making it difficult to know under what conditions coastal habitats, such as saltmarshes, reefs, and forests, are likely to be effective for saving lives and protecting property. We operationalize the concept of natural and nature-based solutions for coastal protection by adopting an ecosystem services framework that propagates the outcome of a management action through ecosystems to societal benefits. We review the literature on the basis of the steps in this framework, considering not only the supply of coastal protection provided by ecosystems but also the demand for protective services from beneficiaries. We recommend further attention to (1) biophysical processes beyond wave attenuation, (2) the combined effects of multiple habitat types (e.g., reefs, vegetation), (3) marginal values and expected damage functions, and, in particular, (4) community dependence on ecosystems for coastal protection and co-benefits. We apply our approach to two case studies to illustrate how estimates of multiple benefits and losses can inform restoration and development decisions. Finally, we discuss frontiers for linking social, ecological, and physical science to advance natural and nature-based solutions to coastal protection.
Ocean acidification is intensifying and hypoxia is projected to expand in the California Current large marine ecosystem as a result of processes associated with the global emission of CO2. Observed changes in the California Current outpace those in many other areas of the ocean, underscoring the pressing need to adopt management approaches that can accommodate uncertainty and the complicated dynamics forced by accelerating change. We argue that changes occurring in the California Current large marine ecosystem provide opportunities and incentives to adopt an integrated, systems-level approach to resource management to preserve existing ecosystem services and forestall abrupt change. Practical options already exist to maximize the benefits of management actions and ameliorate impending change in the California Current, for instance, adding ocean acidification and hypoxia to design criteria for marine protected areas, including consideration of ocean acidification and hypoxia in fisheries management decisions, and fully enforcing existing laws and regulations that govern water quality and land use and development.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has been working to develop and implement a system of marine protected areas (MPAs) for over 10 years. Within CCAMLR there is a long-held belief that the area covered by the CCAMLR Convention is equivalent to a category IV protected area as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This belief was founded upon a comparison of the central objective of CCAMLR as defined by the CCAMLR Convention with the IUCN definition of a category IV MPA. This advice was accepted by the CCAMLR Scientific Committee but to date there has not been any analysis of this advice within CCAMLR, IUCN or in the literature. This paper critically analyses that advice, and finds that the CCAMLR Convention area does not meet the IUCN definition of an MPA and thus the CCAMLR Convention Area cannot be considered equivalent to a category IV MPA.
Clarity and accuracy of reporting are fundamental to the scientific process. The understandability of written language can be estimated using readability formulae. Here, in a corpus consisting of 707 452 scientific abstracts published between 1881 and 2015 from 122 influential biomedical journals, we show that the readability of science is steadily decreasing. Further, we demonstrate that this trend is indicative of a growing usage of general scientific jargon. These results are concerning for scientists and for the wider public, as they impact both the reproducibility and accessibility of research findings.
Palau has a rich heritage of conservation that has evolved from the traditional moratoria on fishing, or “bul”, to more western Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), while still retaining elements of customary management and tenure. In 2003, the Palau Protected Areas Network (PAN) was created to conserve Palau’s unique biodiversity and culture, and is the country’s mechanism for achieving the goals of the Micronesia Challenge (MC), an initiative to conserve ≥30% of near-shore marine resources within the region by 2020. The PAN comprises a network of numerous MPAs within Palau that vary in age, size, level of management, and habitat, which provide an excellent opportunity to test hypotheses concerning MPA design and function using multiple discreet sampling units. Our sampling design provided a robust space for time comparison to evaluate the relative influence of potential drivers of MPA efficacy. Our results showed that no-take MPAs had, on average, nearly twice the biomass of resource fishes (i.e. those important commercially, culturally, or for subsistence) compared to nearby unprotected areas. Biomass of non-resource fishes showed no differences between no-take areas and areas open to fishing. The most striking difference between no-take MPAs and unprotected areas was the more than 5-fold greater biomass of piscivorous fishes in the MPAs compared to fished areas. The most important determinates of no-take MPA success in conserving resource fish biomass were MPA size and years of protection. Habitat and distance from shore had little effect on resource fish biomass. The extensive network of MPAs in Palau likely provides important conservation and tourism benefits to the Republic, and may also provide fisheries benefits by protecting spawning aggregation sites, and potentially through adult spillover.
The Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF), a Philippine environmental organization, in collaboration with Region 7 municipality leaders from Cebu, Leyte, and Bohol, as well as various financial donors, is striving to improve the marine resource management of the Outer Danajon Bank in the Philippines. One of the goals is to develop scuba dive tourism along the Outer Bank, beginning with the municipality of Bien Unido on Bohol Island. Despite previous efforts to attract investors and tourists by the Bien Unido mayor, dive tourism is currently absent from the municipality. During the summer of 2011, the mayor, the CCEF, and a private real estate developer, agreed to invest in infrastructure and livelihood training in Bien Unido for the purpose of developing a scuba dive tourism industry. This study analyzes current community viewpoints on the development of dive tourism in Bien Unido and four selected dive tourist cites. The study consists of thirty-four qualitative interviews conducted in Bien Unido and four other dive tourist sites as well as 1117 quantitative surveys conducted with community members throughout the central portion of the Philippines (Region 7). This study complements the Danajon Bank Marine Park Project of the CCEF and makes recommendations to improve the management of the Danajon Bank Double Barrier coral reef with protected areas and alternative livelihood projects linked to tourism development. The interviews served to define tourism and to document the specific needs of each barangay, or community, for tourism development. The qualitative survey revealed generally positive attitudes regarding scuba dive tourism development. Nintey-one percent of respondents believe tourism will help the barangay and most would participate in selling food/drink or being a recreational tour guide for tourists. Interview and survey respondents expectations that economic benefits will outweigh any social or environmental challenges, primarily alternative livelihoods and increased revenue for the municipality. Overall, Bien Unido and Region 7 community members will likely welcome visitors to their communities due to the expected benefits regardless of other negative environmental and social externalities such as increases in resource pressures and losses of tradition. Four additional municipalities were selected as “tourism developed sites” to further explore the negative and positive impacts of dive tourism, as perceived by the barangay captains or council, over a range of five to thirty years. These findings revealed challenges that were not mentioned in Bien Unido interviews or in the Region 7 qualitative surveys including changes in the price of living, increases in drug trafficking and sex trade, and private investors controlling community decisions.
Identifying and protecting nursery habitats for species is a key conservation strategy for the long-term sustainability of populations. In tropical ecosystems, macroalgal habitats have recently been identified as nurseries for fish of commercial and conservation significance. Here, we explore how local-scale variations in seaweed habitat quality interact with large-scale climatic conditions (Southern Oscillation Index, SOI) to influence the recruitment of three tropical fish species (Lethrinusspp.), often targeted by fishers. New fish recruits and juveniles of all species were almost exclusively found in macroalgal nursery habitats, while adults of two of these species were predominantly found on adjacent coral reefs. Annual supply rates of new recruits were found to be strongly correlated to variations in the SOI, with La Nina conditions associated with higher recruitment. However, local rates of recruitment were generally poor predictors of older juvenile abundance. Instead, local juvenile abundance was more closely related to structural characteristics of macroalgae nursery habitat quality (density, canopy height, canopy cover) and/or predator biomass, at the time of survey, with species-specific habitat associations apparent. Given the dynamic nature of fish recruitment supply to the SOI, coupled with the effects of climatic and oceanic processes on the structure of macroalgal patches, these results suggest protection of macroalgal nursery habitats that maintain high canopy density, height and cover is critical to supporting the conservation of fish populations.