- An ecologically representative, well‐connected, and effectively managed system of marine protected areas (MPAs) has positive ecological and environmental effects as well as social and economic benefits. Although progress in expanding the coverage of MPAs has been made, the application of management tools has not yet been implemented in most of these areas.
- In this work, distribution models were applied to nine benthic habitats on a Mediterranean seamount within an MPA for conservation purposes. Benthic habitat occurrences were identified from 55 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) transects, at depths from 76 to 700 m, and data derived from multibeam bathymetry. Generalized additive models (GAMs) were applied to link the presence of each benthic habitat to local environmental proxies (depth, slope, backscatter, aspect, and bathymetric position index, BPI).
- The main environmental drivers of habitat distribution were depth, slope, and BPI. Based on this result, five different geomorphological areas were distinguished. A full coverage map indicating the potential benthic habitat distribution on the seamount was obtained to inform spatial management.
- The distribution of those habitats identified as vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) was used to make recommendations on zonation for developing the management plan of the MPA. This process reveals itself as an appropriate methodological approach that can be developed in other areas of the Natura 2000 marine network.
While extreme climatic events (ECEs) are predicted to become more frequent, reliably predicting their impacts on consumers remains challenging, particularly for large consumers in marine environments. Many studies that do evaluate ECE effects focus primarily on direct effects, though indirect effects can be equally or more important. Here, we investigate the indirect impacts of the 2011 “Ningaloo Niño” marine heatwave ECE on a diverse megafaunal community in Shark Bay, Western Australia. We use an 18‐year community‐level data set before (1998–2010) and after (2012–2015) the heatwave to assess the effects of seagrass loss on the abundance of seven consumer groups: sharks, sea snakes (multiple species), Indo‐pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), dugongs (Dugong dugon), green turtles (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), and Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.). We then assess whether seagrass loss influences patterns of habitat use by the latter five groups, which are under risk of shark predation. Sharks catch rates were dominated by the generalist tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and changed little, resulting in constant apex predator density despite heavy seagrass degradation. Abundances of most other consumers declined markedly as food and refuge resources vanished, with the exception of generalist loggerhead turtles. Several consumer groups significantly modified their habitat use patterns in response to the die‐off, but only bottlenose dolphins did so in a manner suggestive of a change in risk‐taking behavior. We show that ECEs can have strong indirect effects on megafauna populations and habitat use patterns in the marine environment, even when direct effects are minimal. Our results also show that indirect impacts are not uniform across taxa or trophic levels and suggest that generalist marine consumers are less susceptible to indirect effects of ECEs than specialists. Such non‐uniform changes in populations and habitat use patterns have implications for community dynamics, such as the relative strength of direct predation and predation risk. Attempts to predict ecological impacts of ECEs should recognize that direct and indirect effects often operate through different pathways and that taxa can be strongly impacted by one even if resilient to the other.
Sustainable development of the ocean is a central policy objective in Europe through the Blue Growth Strategy and globally through parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Achieving sustainable exploitation of deep sea resources is challenged due to the huge uncertainty around the many risks posed by human activities on these remote ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. We used a Delphi approach, an iterative expert-based survey process, to assess risks to ecosystem services in the North Atlantic Ocean from climate change (water temperature and ocean acidification), the blue economy (fishing, pollution, oil and gas activities, deep seabed mining, maritime and coastal tourism and blue biotechnology), and their cumulative effects. Ecosystem services from the deep sea, identified through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework, were presented in an expert survey to assess the impacts of human drivers on these services. The results from this initial survey were analyzed and then presented in a second survey. The final results, based on 55 expert responses, indicated that pollution and temperature change each pose a high risk to more than 28% of deep-sea ecosystem services, whilst ocean acidification, and fisheries both pose a high risk to more than 19% of the deep-sea ecosystem services. Services considered to be most at risk of being impacted by anthropogenic activities were biodiversity and habitat as supporting services, biodiversity as a cultural service, and fish and shellfish as provisioning services. Tourism and blue biotechnology were not seen to cause serious risk to any of the ecosystem services. The negative impacts from temperature change, ocean acidification, fishing, pollution, and oil and gas activities were deemed to be largely more probable than their positive impacts. These results expand our knowledge of how a broad set of deep-sea ecosystem services are impacted by human activities. Furthermore, the study provides input in relation to future priorities regarding research in the Atlantic deep sea.
We argue that there is a separation between studies of the biophysics of natural and “built” marine canopies. Here, by “built” we specifically refer to floating, suspended aquaculture canopies. These structures, combining support infrastructure and crop, exhibit several unique features relative to natural marine canopies, in that they take a particular species, suspend them in spatially structured, mono-cultured arrangement and then induce a systematic harvest cycle. This is in contrast to natural canopies that are irregular and variable in form, have natural recruitment and growth, and sustain some level of biodiversity and more exposed to climate extremes. We synthesize published work to identify the points of difference and similarity with natural canopy studies. This perspective article identifies four main themes relating to (i) key scales, (ii) structural configuration, (iii) connections between biology and physics and (iv) connecting natural and built canopy science. Despite clear differences between natural and built canopies, they have more in common than not and we suggest that both sub-fields would benefit from better connection across the divide.
The assessment of eutrophic conditions is a formal requirement of several European Directives. Typically, these eutrophication assessments use a set of primary indicators which include dissolved inorganic nutrients, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen and secondary information such as phytoplankton community data. Each directive is characterized by a different geographical or political boundary which defines the area under assessment. Several disparate sources of data from the Thames estuary and Liverpool Bay in the United Kingdom collected from different monitoring programs were combined to generate a fully integrated dataset. Data sources included remote sensing, ecosystem models, moorings, freshwater inputs and traditional ship surveys. Different methods were explored for assigning ecologically relevant assessment areas including delineation of the assessment area based on salinity, extent of the river plume influence and ecohydrodynamic characteristics in addition to the traditional geographically defined typologies associated with the different directives. Individual eutrophication indicators were tested across these revised typologies for the period 2006–2015, and outcomes of the different metrics were compared across the river to marine continuum for the two UK areas. There have been statistically significant decreasing trends in the loads of ammonium, nitrite and dissolved inorganic phosphorous between 1994 and 2016 in both the Thames estuary and Liverpool Bay study areas but no statistically significant trends in loads of nitrate or dissolved inorganic nitrogen. There have been statistically significant increases in riverine nitrogen:phosphorous between 1994 and 2016. Nutrient concentrations exceeded assessment thresholds across nearly all areas other than the large offshore assessment areas, and outcomes of the chlorophyll metric were often below assessment thresholds in the estuarine-based areas and the offshore areas, but exceedances of thresholds occurred in the near coastal areas. However, trait-based indicators of phytoplankton community using functional groups show changes in plankton community structure over the assessment period, indicating that additional metrics that quantify community shifts could be a useful measurement to include in future eutrophication assessments.
This paper explores the ecosystem services provided by anadromous brown trout (often termed sea trout) populations in Norway. Sea trout is an important species in both freshwater and marine ecosystems and provides important demand-driven ecological provisioning and socio-cultural services. While the sea trout once provided an important provisioning service through a professional fishery and subsistence fishing, fishing for sea trout in the near shore coastal areas and in rivers is today a very popular and accessible recreational activity and generates primarily socio-cultural services. The recreational fishery contributes to local cultural heritage, its folkways and lore, to the development and transfer of local ecological knowledge and fishing experience to the young and to human well-being. As a salmonid species, the sea trout is sensitive to negative environmental conditions in both freshwater and marine coastal areas and is in general decline. A recent decision to expand production of farmed salmon may increase pressure on stocks. Good management of recreational fishing is accordingly important for the species to thrive, but knowledge of what fishers value with respect to fishing sea trout and what management measures they will accept is limited. Researchers sought to capture information about non-extractive direct use value (non-monetary) of the sea trout recreational fishery using questionnaire surveys targeting Norwegian anglers around the country. Results indicate that the most important ecosystem services delivered by recreational sea trout fisheries are social-cultural ecosystem services at the level of individual fishers; fishing sea trout most likely also has important social functions. Fishers are prepared to accept stricter management measures that reduce catches and allow fishing to continue but they oppose paying higher fees.
Toxic chemicals within and adsorbed to microplastics (0.05–5 mm) have the potential to biomagnify in food webs. However, microplastic concentrations in highly productive, coastal habitats are not well understood. Therefore, we quantified the presence of microplastics in a benthic community and surrounding environment of a remote marine reserve on the open coast of California, USA. Concentrations of microplastic particles in seawater were 36.59 plastics/L and in sediments were 0.227 ± 0.135 plastics/g. Densities of microplastics on the surfaces of two morphologically distinct species of macroalgae were 2.34 ± 2.19 plastics/g (Pelvetiopsis limitata) and 8.65 ± 6.44 plastics/g (Endocladia muricata). Densities were highest in the herbivorous snail, Tegula funebralis, at 9.91 ± 6.31 plastics/g, potentially due to bioaccumulation. This study highlights the need for further investigations of the prevalence and potential harm of microplastics in benthic communities at remote locations as well as human population centers.
Functional ecosystems depend on biotic and abiotic connections among different environmental realms, including terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats. Accounting for such connections is increasingly recognized as critical for conservation of ecosystems, especially given growing understanding of the way in which anthropogenic landscape disturbances can degrade both freshwater and marine habitats. This need may be paramount in conservation planning for tropical island ecosystems, as habitats across realms are often in close proximity, and because endemic organisms utilize multiple habitats to complete life histories. In this study, we used Marxan analysis to develop conservation planning scenarios across the five largest islands of Hawaii, in one instance accounting for and in another excluding habitat connectivity between inland and coastal habitats. Native vegetation, perennial streams, and areas of biological significance along the coast were used as conservation targets in analysis. Cost, or the amount of effort required for conservation, was estimated using an index that integrated degree and intensity of anthropogenic landscape disturbances. Our results showed that when connectivity is accounted for among terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats, areas identified as having high conservation value are substantially different compared to results when connectivity across realms is not considered. We also showed that the trade-off of planning conservation across realms was minimal and that cross-realm planning had the unexpected benefit of selecting areas with less habitat degradation, suggesting less effort for conservation. Our cross-realm planning approach considers biophysical interactions and complexity within and across ecosystems, as well as anthropogenic factors that may influence habitats outside of their physical boundaries, and we recommend implementing similar approaches to achieve integrated conservation efforts.
The use of mangroves as a travel and tourism destination has not received much attention, but provides a high-value, low impact use of these important ecosystems. This work quantifies and maps the distribution of mangrove visitation at global scales using keyword searches on user-generated content of the popular travel website, TripAdvisor. It further explores the use of user-generated content to uncover information about facilities, activities and wildlife in mangrove tourism locations world-wide. Some 3945 mangrove “attractions” are identified in 93 countries and territories. Boating is the most widespread activity, recorded in 82% of English-language sites. Birdlife is recorded by visitors in 28% of sites, with manatees/dugongs and crocodiles/alligators also widely reported. It is likely that mangrove tourism attracts tens to hundreds of millions of visitors annually and is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Renewable energy and sustainable food production are high on the international agenda, as is the prospect of expanding activity northwards to Arctic waters. In this article, we review core elements of the marine governance systems for aquaculture facilities and offshore wind farms in Norway and Scotland. Management of these sectors through strategic planning, marine spatial planning and licensing systems furthers rule of law values such as stability and predictability, making investment less risky. The review illustrates how the governance systems also facilitate flexibility and adaptability, balancing predictability considerations against the need to adapt management to natural and economic changes and innovative technologies, or even effective multi-use. This article discusses what endeavours have been made to strike a balance between predictability and adaptability in these sectors in Norway and Scotland. This study of marine management regimes in the Arctic and northern parts of the Temperate Northern Atlantic, and the values underpinning these regimes, provides lessons for the future of the Arctic.
The presence and effects of plastic debris is increasingly investigated. The majority of studies focuses on microplastics (MPs), but few reports suggest that plastic fragments in the <100 nm size range, referred to as nanoplastics (NPs), may also be formed in the aquatic environment and further to humans. This paper provides a review on routes of human exposure and potential effects of MPs and NPs to human health. MPs/NPs could potentially induce: physical damages through particles itself, and biological stress through MPs/NPs alone or leaching of additives (inorganic and organic). Future research should evaluate trophic transfer of MPs/NPs with their associated chemicals through the marine food web.
There is a controversy in the literature on marine protected areas (MPAs) over the way their outcomes are portrayed in terms of winners and losers. On the one hand, many analysts have portrayed MPAs as win-win solutions, resulting in both increased biodiversity and improved livelihoods. On the other hand, some analysts have argued that win-win outcomes are mythical, and in practice, MPAs invariably result in trade-offs between ecological and economic objectives. This study seeks to test which of these two hypotheses fits the Cabo de Palos Islas Hormigas marine protected area (CPH-MPA) in southeast Spain. However, it does so not by analysing directly the tension between the two objectives of ecological and economic goals, but by analysing the tensions between four groups of stakeholders—fishers, divers, community residents, and administrators—which map on to the tension between the two goals. The study is based on 111 interviews of key informants conducted in 2013–2014 to discover the perceptions of stakeholders on the issue of who are the winners and who are the losers as a result of the MPA. The main findings of this study on the CPH-MPA are that winning and losing are very complex and ambiguous categories; that there is no objective way of determining who are winners or losers; that the situation of winners and losers is due to human intervention rather than a natural and inevitable process; that win-win outcomes are implausible because trade-offs between wins and losses are inevitable; and that political authorities have to decide who will be the winners and who will be the losers.
Coastal human ecology (CHE) is a mixture of different theoretical and thematic approaches straddling between the humanities and social and natural sciences which studies human and coastal/marine interactions at the local-scale and through intense fieldwork. Topics of interest include human coastal adaptations past and present; the historical ecology of fisheries and future implications; local forms of marine governance and economic systems; local food security and livelihoods, and indigenous/local ecological knowledge systems among many research themes. In this paper, I explore different strands of CHE in the study of tribal, artisanal, and small-scale industrial fisheries from the mid-90s onward that can contribute to the foundational knowledge necessary for designing and implementing successful coastal fisheries management and conservation programs. Marine conservation has often failed due to a lack of understanding of the fine grained marine human-environmental interactions at the local scale. In this context, I also examine developing and future research directions in CHE, and discuss their potential contribution for filling the gap in existing approaches to actionable scholarship in marine conservation. The strength of many CHE approaches lies in their potential for bridging humanism and natural science, and thus CHE approaches are well equipped to address many of the challenges faced by marine conservation practitioners today.
The aspirations for natural capital and ecosystem service approaches to support environmental decision-making have not been fully realised in terms of their actual application in policy and management contexts. Application of the natural capital approach requires a range of methods, which as yet have not been fully tested in the context of decision making for the marine environment. It is unlikely that existing methodologies, which were developed for terrestrial systems and are based on land cover assessment approaches, will ever be feasible in the marine context at the national scale. Land cover approaches are also fundamentally insufficient for the marine environment because they do not take account of the water column, the significant interconnections between spatially disparate components, or the highly dynamic nature of the marine ecosystem, for example the high spatial mobility of many species. Data gaps have been a significant impediment to progress, so alternative methods that use proxies for quality information as well as the opportunities for remote sensing should be explored further. Greater effort to develop methodologies specifically for the marine environment is required, which should be interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral, coherent across policy areas, and applicable across a range of contexts.
The most recently revised CFP Regulation, adopted in 2013, includes a number of significant changes with the aim to make fisheries more in tune with concept of the ecosystem approach and to avoid unsustainable exploitation of marine biological resources, including fish, as a natural resource. As part of that the CFP Regulation introduced the landing obligation, an obligation to land all catches as opposed to previous praxis where fisheries have been relying on a system of discarding fish and other marine biological resources in order to optimize their catch. One aim with the landing obligation is to push for new adaptive fishing methods and in a way to implement an ecosystem approach since the fishing strategies are meant to be adjusted to ecosystem factors. To be effective, the system for controlling implementation must be adjusted to take different aspects of the ecosystem approach into account. The paper presents some reflections on the required balance between adaptive approaches connected to the ecosystem approach and the strictness established by principles of rule of law in relation to the so called EU CFP landing obligation. It is concluded that the best way to create a control system adjusted to these factors seems to be by giving more influence to the industry itself. Involving those concerned at all levels, and thus applying all aspects of the regulatory governance under an ecosystem approach, would create an effective adaptive system where the rule of law is also safe-guarded.
Worldwide, as wild-caught commercial fisheries plateau and human demands for protein increase, marine aquaculture is expanding. Much marine aquaculture is inherently adaptable to changing climatic and chemical conditions. Nevertheless, siting of marine aquaculture operations is subject to competing environmental, economic, and social demands upon and priorities for ocean space, while some forms of marine aquaculture can also impose other externalities on marine systems, such as pollution from wastes (nutrients) and antibiotics, consumption of wild fish as food, and introduction of non-native or genetically modified species. As a result, governmental policy decisions to promote both marine aquaculture that can adapt to a changing ocean and adaptive governance for that aquaculture can become contested, requiring attention to their social legitimacy.
This article explores how the law can promote the adaptability of marine aquaculture to climate change and ocean acidification—adaptive marine aquaculture—while still preserving key rule-of-law values, such as public participation and accountability. Perhaps most obviously, law can establish substantive requirements for marine aquaculture that minimize its impacts, promoting marine resilience overall. However, to foster truly adaptive marine aquaculture, including adaptive governance institutions, coastal nations should also procedurally reform their marine spatial planning efforts to legally connect the procedures for aquaculture permitting, marine spatial planning (MSP), and adaptive management. The goals for such connections, moreover, should be to mandate new forums for public participation and creative collaboration, promote experimentation with accountability that leads to increased knowledge, and foster the emergence of adaptive governance regarding the use of marine space.
The history of commercial exploitation of fish stocks is replete with instances of over-exploitation and stock collapse. Particularly in situations where little is known about a species or a particular fish stock, unregulated expansion into new fisheries may effectively wipe out a species or stock before its existence is even formally recognised or understood. Globally, there has been a strong interest in ensuring that such a fate does not befall any fish stocks that either exist in or may migrate in future into the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean. The Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean establishes a framework for the acquisition of science upon which precautionary, ecosystem-based management measures can be based, if and when they become necessary in the future. This article examines the role of international law in facilitating both the adoption of the Agreement and the adaptive management of fisheries in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean. It will be shown that the Agreement provides the initial framework for precautionary, ecosystem-based, adaptive and environmentally sound decision making regarding potential future fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean.
The deep ocean below 200 m water depth is the least observed, but largest habitat on our planet by volume and area. Over 150 years of exploration has revealed that this dynamic system provides critical climate regulation, houses a wealth of energy, mineral, and biological resources, and represents a vast repository of biological diversity. A long history of deep-ocean exploration and observation led to the initial concept for the Deep-Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS), under the auspices of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). Here we discuss the scientific need for globally integrated deep-ocean observing, its status, and the key scientific questions and societal mandates driving observing requirements over the next decade. We consider the Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) needed to address deep-ocean challenges within the physical, biogeochemical, and biological/ecosystem sciences according to the Framework for Ocean Observing (FOO), and map these onto scientific questions. Opportunities for new and expanded synergies among deep-ocean stakeholders are discussed, including academic-industry partnerships with the oil and gas, mining, cable and fishing industries, the ocean exploration and mapping community, and biodiversity conservation initiatives. Future deep-ocean observing will benefit from the greater integration across traditional disciplines and sectors, achieved through demonstration projects and facilitated reuse and repurposing of existing deep-sea data efforts. We highlight examples of existing and emerging deep-sea methods and technologies, noting key challenges associated with data volume, preservation, standardization, and accessibility. Emerging technologies relevant to deep-ocean sustainability and the blue economy include novel genomics approaches, imaging technologies, and ultra-deep hydrographic measurements. Capacity building will be necessary to integrate capabilities into programs and projects at a global scale. Progress can be facilitated by Open Science and Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable (FAIR) data principles and converge on agreed to data standards, practices, vocabularies, and registries. We envision expansion of the deep-ocean observing community to embrace the participation of academia, industry, NGOs, national governments, international governmental organizations, and the public at large in order to unlock critical knowledge contained in the deep ocean over coming decades, and to realize the mutual benefits of thoughtful deep-ocean observing for all elements of a sustainable ocean.
Penguins face a wide range of threats. Most observed population changes have been negative and have happened over the last 60 years. Today, populations of 11 penguin species are decreasing. Here we present a review that synthesizes details of threats faced by the world’s 18 species of penguins. We discuss alterations to their environment at both breeding sites on land and at sea where they forage. The major drivers of change appear to be climate, and food web alterations by marine fisheries. In addition, we also consider other critical and/or emerging threats, namely human disturbance near nesting sites, pollution due to oil, plastics and chemicals such as mercury and persistent organic compounds. Finally, we assess the importance of emerging pathogens and diseases on the health of penguins. We suggest that in the context of climate change, habitat degradation, introduced exotic species and resource competition with fisheries, successful conservation outcomes will require new and unprecedented levels of science and advocacy. Successful conservation stories of penguin species across their geographical range have occurred where there has been concerted effort across local, national and international boundaries to implement effective conservation planning.