The Arctic Invasive Alien Species (ARIAS) Strategy and Action Plan sets forth the priority actions that the Arctic Council and its partners are encouraged to take to protect the Arctic region from a significant threat: the adverse impacts of invasive alien species. These priority actions span terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems. The actions take environmental, cultural, and economic perspectives into consideration, including drivers, impacts, and response measures.
Offshore aquaculture is increasingly viewed as a mechanism to meet growing protein demand for seafood, while minimizing adverse consequences on the environment and other uses in the oceans. However, despite growing interest in offshore aquaculture, there appears to be no consensus as to what measures commonly define an offshore site or how effects of offshore aquaculture—relative to more nearshore practices—are assessed. This lack of agreement on what constitutes offshore aquaculture has the potential to convolute communication, create uncertainty in regulatory processes, and impede understanding of the ecological implications of offshore farming. To begin addressing these issues, we reviewed and analyzed biologically-focused primary and gray literature (Ntotal = 70) that categorize and quantify characteristics of offshore aquaculture from around the world. We found that many “offshore” descriptions are relatively close to shore (<3 nm) and significantly shallower (minimum depth ≤30 m) than may be assumed. We also uncovered an overall lack of consistent reporting of even the most common location-focused metrics (distance from shore, depth, current), a dearth of impact related studies (n = 17), and narrow scope of the studies themselves (i.e., 82% nutrient pollution). Of the finite subset of articles that investigated negative ecological impacts of offshore aquaculture, we found the probability of any measurable impact from an offshore farm appears to significantly decrease with distance from the farm (probability of measurable response at 90 m ± SE = 0.01 ± 0.03). Such general, but informative points of reference could be more robustly quantified with better systematic and standardized reporting of physical farm characteristics and a broader scope of ecological investigation into the effects of marine aquaculture. With offshore aquaculture still in its infancy, consistent metrics are needed for a comparable framework to guide sustainable offshore aquaculture research and development globally.
The rate at which global mean sea level (GMSL) rose during the 20th century is uncertain, with little consensus between various reconstructions that indicate rates of rise ranging from 1.3 to 2 mm⋅y−1. Here we present a 20th-century GMSL reconstruction computed using an area-weighting technique for averaging tide gauge records that both incorporates up-to-date observations of vertical land motion (VLM) and corrections for local geoid changes resulting from ice melting and terrestrial freshwater storage and allows for the identification of possible differences compared with earlier attempts. Our reconstructed GMSL trend of 1.1 ± 0.3 mm⋅y−1 (1σ) before 1990 falls below previous estimates, whereas our estimate of 3.1 ± 1.4 mm⋅y−1 from 1993 to 2012 is consistent with independent estimates from satellite altimetry, leading to overall acceleration larger than previously suggested. This feature is geographically dominated by the Indian Ocean–Southern Pacific region, marking a transition from lower-than-average rates before 1990 toward unprecedented high rates in recent decades. We demonstrate that VLM corrections, area weighting, and our use of a common reference datum for tide gauges may explain the lower rates compared with earlier GMSL estimates in approximately equal proportion. The trends and multidecadal variability of our GMSL curve also compare well to the sum of individual contributions obtained from historical outputs of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5. This, in turn, increases our confidence in process-based projections presented in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report (SAMBR) is a synthesis of the state of knowledge about biodiversity in Arctic marine ecosystems, detectable changes, and important gaps in our ability to assess state and trends in biodiversity across six focal ecosystem components (FECs): marine mammals, seabirds, marine fishes, benthos, plankton, and sea ice biota.
Tidal energy is a renewable energy source that could be used to help mitigate climate change. Tidal energy technology is in the early stages of development and views towards this technology and energy source are not well understood. Through a representative mail survey of Washington State residents, we assessed attitudes and behaviors related to tidal energy, perceived benefits and risks, and climate change beliefs. Higher levels of perceived benefits and climate change beliefs were associated with increased acceptability of and support for tidal energy whereas greater perceived risks were associated with decreased acceptability and support (acceptability being an attitudinal construct, support a behavioral construct). Coastal residents reported higher levels of acceptability and support than non-coastal residents. Pulling from innovation theory, we show that levels of support depended upon the development lifecycle stage of the technology. Support declined once the project moved into the water from the lab, however, grid-connected pilot projects were more likely to be supported than those without grid-connection. Policies developed to encourage the development of tidal energy may be more accepted and supported if they include incentives for pilot phases with grid-connection.
Puget Sound in Washington State (WA) has significant tidal energy resources, but the industry is at a nascent stage of development. At this stage, the availability of research and development (R&D) funding plays a critical role in the success or failure of renewable energy schemes. However, information about public interest in developing marine renewable energy technology, including tidal energy technology, in WA and the U.S. has been limited. Responses to a dichotomous choice referendum question on a mail survey sent to a representative sample of WA households were used to estimate residents' Willingness to Pay (WTP) for tidal energy R&D. Public preferences for policies to support tidal energy R&D were also assessed. WA households are WTP between $29M and $127M annually for tidal energy R&D, indicating public preference for an increase in government spending on tidal energy R&D over current levels. Public perceptions of potential social, environmental, and economic risks and benefits of developing tidal energy emerged as highly significant predictors of WTP.
The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environments (PAME) working groups of the Arctic Council developed this indicator report. It provides an overview of the status and trends of protected areas in the Arctic. The data used represents the results of the 2016 update to the Protected Areas Database submitted by each of the Arctic Council member states (Annex 1). This report uses the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) definition for protected areas (see Box 1) which includes a wide range of Management Categories from strict nature reserve to protection with sustainable use. Consequently, the level of protection and governance of these areas varies throughout the circumpolar region and its countries.
Despite being a small part of the world's oceans, the Mediterranean Sea hosts a diverse marine mammal fauna, with a total of 28 different species known to occur, or to have occurred, in the region. Species currently recognised as regular in the Mediterranean—the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) and 11 cetaceans (fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus; sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus; Cuvier's beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris; short-beaked common dolphin, Delphinus delphis; long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas; Risso's dolphin, Grampus griseus; killer whale, Orcinus orca; striped dolphin, Stenella coeruleoalba; rough-toothed dolphin, Steno bredanensis; common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus; harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena relicta) have adapted well to the region's environmental conditions, but their coexistence with humans is problematic. All the regular species are represented in the Mediterranean by populations genetically distinct from their North Atlantic relatives. Seventeen other species (three pinnipeds and 14 cetaceans) occur or have occurred in the Mediterranean as vagrants from adjacent regions. Impacts on the conservation status of marine mammals in the region deriving from a variety of threats include: (a) mortality caused by deliberate killing (to a large extent resulting from fisheries interactions), naval sonar, ship strikes, epizootics, fisheries bycatch, chemical pollution and ingestion of solid debris; (b) short-term redistribution caused by naval sonar, seismic surveys, vessel disturbance and vessel noise; and (c) long-term redistribution caused by fishery-induced food depletion, coastal development and possibly climate change. Accordingly, seven of the 12 marine mammals regular in the Mediterranean region are listed as Threatened on IUCN's Red List; regrettably, three are Data Deficient and two remain unassessed.
Storm impacts play a significant role in shoreline dynamics on barrier coastlines. Furthermore, inter-storm recovery is a key parameter determining long-term coastal resilience to climate change, storminess variability and sea level rise. Over the last decade, four extreme storms, with strong energetic waves and high still water levels resulting from high spring tides and large skew surge residuals, have impacted the shoreline of the southern North Sea. The 5th December 2013 storm, with the highest run-up levels recorded in the last 60 years, resulted in large sections of the frontline of the North Norfolk coast being translated inland by over 10 m. Storms in March and November 2007 also generated barrier scarping and shoreline retreat, although not on the scale of 2013. Between 2008 and 2013, a calm period, recovery dominated barrier position and elevation but was spatially differentiated alongshore. For one study area, Scolt Head Island, no recovery was seen; this section of the coast is being reset episodically landwards during storms. By contrast, the study area at Holkham Bay showed considerable recovery between 2008 and 2013, with barrier sections developing seaward through foredune recovery. The third study area, Brancaster Bay, showed partial recovery in barrier location and elevation. Results suggest that recovery is promoted by high sediment supply and onshore intertidal bar migration, at rates of 40 m a− 1. These processes bring sand to elevations where substrate drying enables aeolian processes to entrain and transport sand from upper foreshores to foredunes. We identify three potential sediment transport pathways that create a region of positive diffusivity at Holkham Bay. During calm periods, a general westward movement of sediment from the drift divide at Sheringham sources the intertidal bar and foredune development at Holkham Bay. However, during and following storms the drift switches to eastward, not only on the beach itself but also below the – 7 m isobath. Sediment from the eroding barrier at Brancaster Bay, and especially Scolt Head Island, also sources the sediment sink of Holkham Bay. Knowledge of foredune growth and barrier recovery in natural systems are vital aspects of future coastal management planning with accelerated sea-level rise and storminess variability.
Due to increasing worldwide anthropogenic pressure and in order to promote adequate environmental conservation strategies, quantification of non-biological diversity, such as considering marine and beach litter, is becoming increasingly useful. Information on beach litter in terms of richness and diversity may have a consistent influence regarding the evaluation of its pressure and impact on coastal ecosystems. Highlighted are strengths, weaknesses and caveats concerning the use of uni- and bi-variate diversity metrics applied to a class of man-made non-biological objects periodically accumulated on the beaches. Two case studies show evidence that the application of diversity metrics on non-biological objects may have different implications. In absence of a universal and standardized non-biological taxonomy, it is important to be cautious when comparing values obtained from non-living assemblages, in particular if different sites, time or operators are considered. Moreover, different indices provide different information. Therefore, users should pay particular attention on the application of diversity metrics, addressing specific research questions and avoiding automatic calculation of redundant and “magic” indices.
Recently, the role which fisheries play in the provision of marine ecosystem services has been more widely acknowledged, largely as a result in recent years of fisheries management organisations developing and adopting more ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management (EAFM). Accordingly, several important management and science challenges have been identified. We argue that these challenges represent a number of important steps which underpin effective science based fisheries management, and when taken together and integrated, offer a logical framework by which to best achieve an EAFM. The challenges, or steps of the framework, identified and described are, i. defining appropriate spatial management units based upon significant and coherent ecosystem production processes, ii. assessing multi-species stock dynamics, iii. developing mixed fisheries management approaches, and iv. assessing the impacts of fisheries on non-target species and ecosystem components. The paper considers how the knowledge gained from research on these challenges can be applied to a risk-based management framework as an essential step towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 with respect to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for sustainable development.
Expanding human populations favors a few species while extinguishing and endangering many others (Maxwell et al., 2016; Pimm et al., 2014). Understanding how animals perceive and learn about dangers and rewards can aid conservationists seeking to limit abundant or restore rare species (Schakner and Blumstein, 2016; Greggor et al., 2014; Angeloni et al., 2008; Fernández-Juricic and Schulte, 2016). Cognition research is informing conservation science by suggesting how naïve prey learn novel predators (Griffin et al., 2000; Moseby et al., 2015; Schakner et al., 2016; Blumstein, 2016), the mechanisms underlying variation in tolerance of human disturbance (Bostwick et al., 2014), and when natural aversions and fear learning can be leveraged to humanely control predators (Nielsen et al., 2015; Colman et al., 2014; Norbury et al., 2014; Lance et al., 2010; Cross et al., 2013). Insights into the relationships between cognition and adaptability suggest that behavioral inflexibility often presages species rarity (Amiel et al., 2011; Reif et al., 2011; Sol et al., 2008; Zhang et al., 2014; but see Kellert, 1984). Human compassion and restraint are ultimately required to conserve species. Cognitive science can therefore further inform conservation by revealing the complex inner worlds of the animals we threaten and, in partnership with environmental psychologists, explore how such newfound knowledge affects our empathy for other species and ultimately the public’s actions on behalf of species in need of conservation (Collado et al., 2013; Zhang et al., 2014).
Global mean sea level rise (GMSLR) stemming from the multiple effects of human-induced climate change has potentially dramatic effects for inland land use planning and habitability. Recent research suggests that GMSLR may endanger the low-elevation coastal zone sooner than expected, reshaping coastal geography, reducing habitable landmass, and seeding significant coastal out-migrations. Our research reviews the barriers to entry in the noncoastal hinterland. Using three organizing clusters (depletion zones, win-lose zones, and no-trespass zones), we identify principal inland impediments to relocation and provide preliminary estimates of their toll on inland resettlement space. We make the case for proactive adaptation strategies extending landward from on global coastlines and illustrate this position with land use planning responses in Florida and China.
Climate change threatens coral reefs across the world. Intense bleaching has caused dramatic coral mortality in many tropical regions in recent decades, but less obvious chronic effects of temperature and other stressors can be equally threatening to the long-term persistence of diverse coral-dominated reef systems. Coral reefs persist if coral recovery rates equal or exceed average rates of mortality. While mortality from acute destructive events is often obvious and easy to measure, estimating recovery rates and investigating the factors that influence them requires long-term commitment. Coastal development is increasing in many regions, and sea surface temperatures are also rising. The resulting chronic stresses have predictable, adverse effects on coral recovery, but the lack of consistent long-term data sets has prevented measurement of how much coral recovery rates are actually changing. Using long-term monitoring data from 47 reefs spread over 10 degrees of latitude on Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR), we used a modified Gompertz equation to estimate coral recovery rates following disturbance. We compared coral recovery rates in two periods: 7 years before and 7 years after an acute and widespread heat stress event on the GBR in 2002. From 2003 to 2009, there were few acute disturbances in the region, allowing us to attribute the observed shortfall in coral recovery rates to residual effects of acute heat stress plus other chronic stressors. Compared with the period before 2002, the recovery of fast-growing Acroporidae and of “Other” slower growing hard corals slowed after 2002, doubling the time taken for modest levels of recovery. If this persists, recovery times will be increasing at a time when acute disturbances are predicted to become more frequent and intense. Our study supports the need for management actions to protect reefs from locally generated stresses, as well as urgent global action to mitigate climate change.
Global coral reef related tourism is one of the most significant examples of nature-based tourism from a single ecosystem. Coral reefs attract foreign and domestic visitors and generate revenues, including foreign exchange earnings, in over 100 countries and territories. Understanding the full value of coral reefs to tourism, and the spatial distribution of these values, provides an important incentive for sustainable reef management. In the current work, global data from multiple sources, including social media and crowd-sourced datasets, were used to estimate and map two distinct components of reef value. The first component is local “reef-adjacent” value, an overarching term used to capture a range of indirect benefits from coral reefs, including provision of sandy beaches, sheltered water, food, and attractive views. The second component is “on-reef” value, directly associated with in-water activities such diving and snorkelling. Tourism values were estimated as a proportion of the total visits and spending by coastal tourists within 30 km of reefs (excluding urban areas). Reef-adjacent values were set as a fixed proportion of 10% of this expenditure. On-reef values were based on the relative abundance of dive-shops and underwater photos in different countries and territories. Maps of value assigned to specific coral reef locations show considerable spatial variability across distances of just a few kilometres. Some 30% of the world's reefs are of value in the tourism sector, with a total value estimated at nearly US$36 billion, or over 9% of all coastal tourism value in the world's coral reef countries.
The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims at implementing a precautionary and holistic ecosystem-based approach for managing European marine waters. Marine mammals are included as a functional group for the assessment and reporting under Descriptor 1-Biodiversity. Conservation of mobile marine megafauna such as cetaceans requires transboundary cooperation, which the MSFD promotes through regional instruments, such as the Regional Sea Conventions and other regional cooperation structures such as ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area). A questionnaire survey and an exploratory analysis of MSFD implementation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas were conducted. The analysis revealed (i) the saliency of cetacean conservation, and (ii) heterogeneity among countries in the implementation of the MSFD that may hinder transboundary collaboration. ACCOBAMS can stimulate collaboration among scientists involved in cetacean monitoring and can foster transboundary initiatives that would align with MSFD objectives.
The coralligenous habitats found in the Mediterranean Sea are hotspots comparable in biodiversity to tropical reefs. Coralligenous reefs are vulnerable to many human pressures, thus they are among the most threatened habitats in the Mediterranean Sea. In this study, we assessed the impacts on coralligenous habitats of activities associated with salvaging the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship. After its partial foundering in 2012, the Costa Concordia remained adjacent to the eastern coast of Giglio Island (Tuscany, Italy), in the Tyrrhenian Sea, for over two years. Its salvage required high-impact engineering works, during the course of which monitoring of benthic communities was undertaken. We performed Rapid Visual Assessment (RVA) sampling (using recorded video) from 17 stations located between 35 and 76 m depth and characterized by coralligenous habitats. Sampling activity was performed during the summers of 2012, 2013, and 2014. In parallel, chemical and physical water parameters were measured continuously from summer 2012 to the end of summer 2014, in order to detect any perturbation in natural conditions caused by salvage activities. We assessed the ecological quality of coralligenous habitats by applying the COARSE (COralligenous Assessment by ReefScape Estimate) index, based on the RVA approach. Slight modifications were applied to one of the descriptors of the COARSE index in order to adjust for study site features. There was clear evidence of a reduction in coralligenous habitats quality. Assemblages, slope, type of pressure, and distance from the source of disturbance played a pivotal role in characterizing bottom quality. The index was shown to have an easy and cost-effective application, even in waters deeper than its calibration specification; furthermore, the modification reported here may increase its potential applications.
With the rapid rise in pollution-associated nitrogen inputs to the western Pacific, it has been suggested that even the open ocean has been affected. In a coral core from Dongsha Atoll, a remote coral reef ecosystem, we observe a decline in the 15N/14N of coral skeleton–bound organic matter, which signals increased deposition of anthropogenic atmospheric N on the open ocean and its incorporation into plankton and, in turn, the atoll corals. The first clear change occurred just before 2000 CE, decades later than predicted by other work. The amplitude of change suggests that, by 2010, anthropogenic atmospheric N deposition represented 20 ± 5% of the annual N input to the surface ocean in this region, which appears to be at the lower end of other estimates.
A priority for modern conservation is finding and managing regions with environmental and biodiversity portfolio characteristics that will promote adaptation and the persistence of species during times of rapid climate change. The latitudinal edges of high-diversity biomes are likely to provide a mixture of environmental gradients and biological diversity that meet the portfolio criteria needed for adaptive systems. Northern Mozambique and the Quirimbas Islands represent the edge of a coral reef diversity center with limited potential to expand because of geologic and oceanographic limits on the southern edges. This region does, however, have the potential to be its own discrete adaptive center if it contains climate refugia and there are environmental gradients that promote acclimatization, ecological reorganization, and natural selection. Consequently, to evaluate this potential we tested for strong regional environmental spatial heterogeneity that might indicate a climate-adaptive center. Additionally, we evaluated human influences and environmental and demographic data on finfish, coral, and sea urchins in 66 reefs across ~4° of latitude to evaluate ecological changes and human threats. A number of clear gradients in environmental and human influences were observed. For example, temperature increased and became more centralized and right-skewed, while water quality decreased to the south. Coral communities susceptible to thermal stress were found in the north where dispersed temperatures indicated a location with either tolerance to or refugium from recent thermal disturbances. Nevertheless, high coral diversity was found in southern deep-water channels. Further, spatial patterns for corals and fish differed indicating complex geographic-fishing-biodiversity gradients. Consequently, environmental conditions for an adaptive portfolio exist and include refugia for preserving climate-sensitive and for numbers of coral taxa. Fishing and urban threats were observable as reduced fish biomass, diversity, and body sizes but higher biomass of sea urchins. We observed that many remote and protected areas had fish biomass values lower than expected or near maximum sustainable yields. This indicates low compliance and widespread migratory fishing, which is reducing fish diversity below maximum levels. Recommendations to sustain this adaptive center are to maintain fish biomass >500 kg/ha by increasing fisheries restrictions and compliance.
Isolated marine protected areas (MPAs) may not be enough to sustain viable populations of marine species, particularly the many small coastal MPAs which resulted due to social, economic and political constraints. Properly designed MPA networks can circumvent such limitations due to their potential synergistic positive effects, but this crucial step is frequently obstructed by lack of baseline ecological information. In this paper, we use systematic conservation planning on European Nature Information System coastal habitat information available for Portugal to demonstrate how an ecologically coherent nation-wide MPA network can be designed. We used the software Marxan to obtain near optimal solutions for each of three pre-determined conservation targets (10%, 30% and 50% protection) while maintaining the cost of including conservation units as low as possible. Marxan solutions were subsequently optimized with MinPatch by keeping each MPA above a minimum size that reflects the existing information on habitat use by some key marine fishes. Results show that 10% protection for all habitats would only require a relatively small increase in the number (from 6 to 10) and area (from 479 km2to 509 km2) of already existing MPAs in mainland Portugal whereas substantial increases would be required to achieve the 50% target. This rather simple approach offers the added benefit of allowing design improvement as more relevant ecological information becomes available, including deeper habitat mapping across the whole continental shelf, allowing a coherent, adaptive and inclusive optimal MPA network to be designed.