To evaluate the current microplastics (MPs) contamination on the NW coast of Portugal, opportunistic samples from coastal areas with different levels of anthropogenic impacts were analyzed. Water samples were collected from a coastal marine protected area, an urban estuary, a submarine wreck, and a recreational marina. An optimized protocol for the quantification of MPs, followed by visual identification and FTIR spectroscopy analysis was used to characterize MPs (polymer, type, size, color). MPs were found in all the case studies. A total of 2456 MPs particles were identified and classified as fibers (39%), film (39%), and fragments (22%). Up to 54% of MPs had a size range between 1 and 3 mm. Transparent was the dominant color (56%), followed by white (19%). Polyethylene and polypropylene were the main MPs polymers detected. Higher MPs concentration were found in areas associated with high intense fishing and shipping activities. This study showed that different types of MPs were present in all the aquatic environments surveyed, mainly in areas with more anthropogenic activities, emphasizing the need for measures to properly manage plastic litter and mitigate marine plastic pollution.
To generate innovative solutions for marine sustainability challenges, scientists, policymakers, and funders are increasingly calling for interdisciplinary research that transcends disciplinary boundaries. However, challenges associated with doing interdisciplinary research persist and undermine progress toward tackling the complex challenges faced by marine social-ecological systems. One barrier for engaging in effective interdisciplinary research is a lack of understanding about the institutional capacities that support interdisciplinary knowledge production. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews with members of the Centre for Marine Socioecology in Australia, we identify five principles that underpin effective interdisciplinary research organizations. The principles are: (1) support female leadership; (2) forge partnerships outside of academia; (3) develop impact-based performance metrics; (4) focus on long-term funding; and (5) cultivate a visible brand. Going forward, these principles could be used to inform organizational design that transforms institutional barriers into enablers of innovative interdisciplinary research for more sustainable, desirable, and equitable futures.
CircularSeas European Project, as part of the European Union Circular Economy , aims at promoting the Green Economy by encouraging the development of green products, parts and components by Maritime Industries. The strategy is a combination of Circular Economy principles, with the use of ocean plastic waste for developing new greener materials, and the uptake of advanced manufacturing technology, 3D printing, flexible enough to adapt to the manufacturing conditions for new eco-innovative small and medium parts and components. The paper presents the ongoing research in the project about strategies to introduce Circular Economy in the maritime sector from plastic wastes. This first prospective phase is focused on a series of interviews with each node stakeholders. The paper presents the survey results, together with the challenges to be faced for the implementation of Circular Economy in that specific scenario, despite the -apriori- short term low-profit disadvantages.
Today, many science communicators are using social media to share scientific information with citizens, but, as research has shown, fostering conversational exchanges remains a challenge. This largely qualitative study investigated the communication strategies applied by individual scientists and environmental non-governmental organizations on Twitter and Instagram to determine whether particular social media practices encourage two-way conversations between science communicators and citizens. Data from Twitter and Instagram posts, interviews with the communicators, and a survey of audience members were triangulated to identify emergent communication strategies and the resulting engagement; provide insight into why particular practices are employed by communicators; and explain why audiences choose to participate in social media conversations with communicators. The results demonstrate that the application of interpersonal communication strategies encourage conversational engagement, in terms of the number of comments and unique individuals involved in conversations. In particular, using selfies (images and videos), non-scientific content, first person pronoun-rich captions, and responding to comments result in the formation of communicator-audience relationships, encouraging two-way conversations on social media. Furthermore, the results indicate that Instagram more readily supports the implementation of interpersonal communication strategies than Twitter, making Instagram the preferred platform for promoting conversational exchanges. These findings can be applicable to diverse communicators, subjects, audiences, and environments (online and offline) in initiatives to promote awareness and understanding of science.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are valuable tools for marine conservation that aim to limit human impacts on marine systems and protect valuable species or habitats. However, as species distributions shift due to ocean warming, acidification, and oxygen depletion from climate change, the areas originally designated under MPAs may bear little resemblance to their past state. Different approaches have been suggested for coping with species on the move in conservation. Here, we test the effectiveness of different MPA designs, including dynamic, network, and different directional orientations on protecting shifting species under climate change through ecosystem modeling in a theoretical ecosystem. Our findings suggest that dynamic MPAs may benefit some species (e.g., whiting and anchovy) and fishing fleets, and these benefits can inform the design or adaptation of MPAs worldwide. In addition, we find that it is important to design MPAs with specific goals and to account for the effects of released fishing pressure and species interactions in MPA design.
There is a growing number of methods to assess data-limited stocks. However, most of these methods require at least some basic data, such as commercial catches and life history information. Meanwhile, there are many commercial stocks with an even higher level of data limitation, for which the inference of stock status and the formulation of advice remain challenging. Here, we present a stepwise approach to achieve the best possible understanding of extremely data-limited stocks and facilitate their management. As a case study we use a stock of the shrimp Plesionika edwardsii (Decapoda, Pandalidae) from the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where the only available data was a sub-optimal sample of length frequencies coming from a small-scale trap fishery. We use a suite of different methods to explore and process the data, estimate the growth parameters, estimate the natural and fishing mortalities, and approximate the reference points, in order to provide a preliminary evaluation of stock status. We implement multiple methods for each step of this process, highlighting the strong and weak points of each one of them. Our approach illustrates the better insights that can be gained by applying ensembles of models, rather than a single ‘best’ model when working with limited data of poor quality. The stepwise approach we propose here is transferable to other extremely data-limited stocks to elucidate their status and inform their management.
Male fin whales sing by producing 20 Hz pulses in regular patterns of inter-note intervals. While singing, fin whales may also alternate the frequency ranges of their notes. Different song patterns have been observed in different regions of the world's oceans. New song patterns suddenly emerging in an area have been hypothesized to either be indicators of new groups of whales in the area or signs of cultural transmission between groups. Since the status of fin whales around Hawaii is unknown and visual surveys are expensive and difficult to conduct in offshore areas, passive acoustic monitoring has been proposed as a way to monitor these whales. We used passive acoustic recordings from an array of 14 hydrophones to analyze the song patterns of 115 fin whale encounters made up of 50,034 unique notes off Kauai, Hawaii from 2011 to 2017. Fin whale singing patterns were more complicated than previously described. Fin whales off Hawaii sang in five different patterns made of two 20 Hz note types and both singlet and doublet inter-note interval patterns. The inter-note intervals present in their songs were 28/33 s for the lower frequency doublet, 30 s for the lower frequency singlet, 17/24 s for the higher frequency doublet, 17 s for the higher frequency singlet, and 12/20 s for the doublet that alternated between both note types. Some of these song patterns were unique to these fin whales in Hawaiian waters, while others were similar to song patterns recorded from fin whales off the U.S. west coast. Individual fin whales often utilized several different song patterns which suggests that multiple song patterns are not necessarily indicators of different individuals or groups. The dominant song pattern also changed over these years. Cultural transmission may have occurred between fin whales in Hawaiian waters and off the U.S. west coast, which has resulted in similar songs being present at both locations but on lagged timescales. Alternatively, groups occupying the Hawaiian waters could shift over time resulting in different song patterns becoming dominant. This work has implications for the population structure and behavior of Hawaii fin whales.
The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) has been hypothesized to drive interannual variability in Bermudan coral extension rates and reef-scale calcification through the provisioning of nutritional pulses associated with negative NAO winters. However, the direct influence of the NAO on Bermudan coral calcification rates remains to be determined and may vary between species and reef sites owing to implicit differences in coral life history strategies and environmental gradients across the Bermuda reef platform. In this study, we investigated the connection between negative NAO winters and Bermudan Diploria labyrinthiformis, Pseudodiploria strigosa, and Orbicella franksi coral calcification rates across rim reef, lagoon, and nearshore reef sites. Linear mixed effects modeling detected an inverse correlation between D. labyrinthiformis calcification rates and the winter NAO index, with higher rates associated with increasingly negative NAO winters. Conversely, there were no detectable correlations between P. strigosa or O. franksi calcification rates and the winter NAO index suggesting that coral calcification responses associated with negative NAO winters could be species-specific. The correlation between coral calcification rates and winter NAO index was significantly more negative at the outer rim of the reef (Hog Reef) compared to a nearshore reef site (Whalebone Bay), possibly indicating differential influence of the NAO as a function of the distance from the reef edge. Furthermore, a negative calcification anomaly was observed in 100% of D. labyrinthiformis cores in association with the 1988 coral bleaching event with a subsequent positive calcification anomaly in 1989 indicating a post-bleaching recovery in calcification rates. These results highlight the importance of assessing variable interannual coral calcification responses between species and across inshore-offshore gradients to interannual atmospheric modes such as the NAO, thermal stress events, and potential interactions between ocean warming and availability of coral nutrition to improve projections for future coral calcification rates under climate change.
Coral reefs are critically important marine ecosystems that are threatened worldwide by cumulative impacts of global climate change and local stressors. The Solomon Islands comprise the southwestern boundary of the Coral Triangle, the global center of coral diversity located in the Indo-Pacific, and represent a bright spot of comparatively healthy coral reef ecosystems. However, reports on the status of coral reefs in the Solomon Islands are based on monitoring conducted at 5 stations in 2003–2004 and 2006–2007, with no information on how corals in this region have responded to more recent global bleaching events and other local stressors. In this study, we compare reef condition (substrate composition) and function (taxonomic and morphological diversity of hard corals) among 15 reefs surveyed in the Western Province, Solomon Islands that span a range of local disturbance and conservation histories. Overall, we found high cover of live hard coral (15–64%) and diverse coral assemblages despite an unprecedented 36-month global bleaching event in the three years leading up to our surveys in 2018. However, there was significant variation in coral cover and diversity across the 15 reefs surveyed, suggesting that impacts of global disturbance events are moderated at smaller scales by local anthropogenic factors (fisheries extraction, land-use impacts, marine management) and environmental (hydrodynamics) conditions. Our study provides evidence that relatively healthy reefs persist at some locations in the Solomon Islands and that local stewardship practices have the potential to impact reef condition at subregional scales. As coral reef conservation becomes increasingly urgent in the face of escalating cumulative threats, prioritising sites for management efforts is critical. Based on our findings and the high dependency of Solomon Islanders on coral reef ecosystem services, we advocate that the Western Province, Solomon Islands be considered of high conservation priority.
Along the Florida reef tract, stony-coral-tissue-loss disease (SCTLD) has caused extensive mortality of more than 20 scleractinian coral species. The pathogen is unknown, but its epizoology indicates that the disease, facilitated by water currents, has progressed linearly along the tract, affecting reefs at the scale of hundreds of kilometers. To inform ongoing disease mitigation efforts, we examined the small-scale spatial and temporal epidemiology of SCTLD. We established a series of sites in the middle Florida Keys at offshore and inshore locations that had not yet shown signs of SCTLD. We then conducted high-frequency monitoring from February 2018 through September 2019 and documented the onset of SCTLD and its progression through the sites. SCTLD was first observed at one site during early February 2018 and by early March 2018 all sites showed signs of the disease. A dynamic multistate model suggested that disease transmission was independent of coral density and found little evidence of a positive association between a colony showing signs of SCTLD and the condition or distance to its neighboring colonies. The model did, however, indicate that the probability of a colony showing signs of SCTLD increased with increasing colony surface area. These results are consistent with the water-borne transmission of a pathogen that progressed rapidly through the survey area. However, by the end of our survey the progression of SCTLD had slowed, particularly at inshore sites. Many affected colonies no longer exhibited progressive tissue mortality typical of the disease, suggesting the existence of differentially resilient colonies or coral communities, meriting their use for future coral rescue and propagation and disease research. These results are useful for refining ongoing SCTLD mitigation strategies, particularly by determining when disease rates are sufficiently low for direct intervention efforts designed to arrest disease progression on individual coral colonies will be most effective.
Quantifying early life movements is essential to understanding migratory pathways and habitat use that can impact individuals’ success later in life. To gauge how neonatal movements set the stage for later habitat use, we tracked neonate leatherback turtles (n = 94) with acoustic tags from Pacuare, Costa Rica, in 2016 and 2018. We analyzed movements using a first passage time analysis and random walk models, the results of which indicated neonates followed a fixed compass direction as they traveled away from shore and that strong currents in these areas resulted in advection. We combined the tracking data with concurrent environmental variables in a generalized additive mixed model framework. Our results showed the south-east current flow in this area has spatial and temporal structure consistent with large-scale geostrophic currents and not tidal current or local wind speed influences. After accounting for advection by currents, true neonate swimming speed was significantly related to current speed, first passage time, and the year. Neonates had three main response strategies to currents above 0.5 m s–1, with most increasing their swimming speed and the rest maintaining either a constant or decreased swimming speed. Neonates were significantly larger in 2018 than in 2016 but their average swimming speed was not significantly related to body size, indicating that environmental factors were more important contributors to their dispersal. We conclude that abiotic factors, including the strength and direction of the currents, significantly affect the swimming and dispersal strategy of neonate leatherback turtles and these results can help to inform strategies for releases of neonate turtles from hatcheries, future tracking studies, and conservation efforts.
Coastal marine ecosystems provide critical goods and services to humanity but many are experiencing rapid degradation. The need for effective restoration tools capable of promoting large-scale recovery of coastal ecosystems in the face of intensifying climatic stress has never been greater. We identify four major challenges for more effective implementation of coastal marine ecosystem restoration (MER): (1) development of effective, scalable restoration methods, (2) incorporation of innovative tools that promote climate adaptation, (3) integration of social and ecological restoration priorities, and (4) promotion of the perception and use of coastal MER as a scientifically credible management approach. Tackling these challenges should improve restoration success rates, heighten their recognition, and accelerate investment in and promotion of coastal MER. To reverse the accelerating decline of marine ecosystems, we discuss potential directions for meeting these challenges by applying coastal MER tools that are science-based and actionable. For coastal restoration to have a global impact, it must incorporate social science, technological and conceptual advances, and plan for future climate scenarios.
Based on the 2019 assessment of the Global Carbon Project, the ocean took up on average, 2.5 ± 0.6 PgC yr−1 or 23 ± 5% of the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the decade 2009–2018. This sink estimate is based on simulation results from global ocean biogeochemical models (GOBMs) and is compared to data-products based on observations of surface ocean pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) accounting for the outgassing of river-derived CO2. Here we evaluate the GOBM simulations by comparing the simulated surface ocean pCO2 to observations. Based on this comparison, the simulations are well-suited for quantifying the global ocean carbon sink on the time-scale of the annual mean and its multi-decadal trend (RMSE <20 μatm), as well as on the time-scale of multi-year variability (RMSE <10 μatm), despite the large model-data mismatch on the seasonal time-scale (RMSE of 20–80 μatm). Biases in GOBMs have a small effect on the global mean ocean sink (0.05 PgC yr−1), but need to be addressed to improve the regional budgets and model-data comparison. Accounting for non-mapped areas in the data-products reduces their spread as measured by the standard deviation by a third. There is growing evidence and consistency among methods with regard to the patterns of the multi-year variability of the ocean carbon sink, with a global stagnation in the 1990s and an extra-tropical strengthening in the 2000s. GOBMs and data-products point consistently to a shift from a tropical CO2 source to a CO2 sink in recent years. On average, the GOBMs reveal less variations in the sink than the data-based products. Despite the reasonable simulation of surface ocean pCO2 by the GOBMs, there are discrepancies between the resulting sink estimate from GOBMs and data-products. These discrepancies are within the uncertainty of the river flux adjustment, increase over time, and largely stem from the Southern Ocean. Progress in our understanding of the global ocean carbon sink necessitates significant advancement in modeling and observing the Southern Ocean carbon sink including (i) a game-changing increase in high-quality pCO2 observations, and (ii) a critical re-evaluation of the regional river flux adjustment.
Most studies report the abundance of plastic items in the environment, but mass is an equally important currency for monitoring plastic pollution, particularly given attempts to balance the global plastic budget. We determined the size/mass composition of litter stranded on a remote, infrequently-cleaned sandy beach on the west coast of South Africa. Traditional surveys of superficial macro-litter were augmented by sieved transects for buried macro-litter (8-mm mesh), meso-litter (2-mm mesh) and sediment cores for micro-litter. Aggregating the data across all sampling scales, the total density was ∼1.9 × 105 anthropogenic particulate pollutants per linear meter of beach, 99.7% of which were microfibers (most of which are likely not ‘plastic’). Plastics comprised 99.6% of beach macro- and meso-litter by number and 89% by mass. Small items dominated samples numerically, but were trivial relative to larger items in terms of their mass. Buried litter accounted for 86% of macro-plastic items, but only 5% of the mass of macro-plastics, because smaller items are buried more easily than large items. The total density of plastic (∼1.2 kg⋅m–1), at least half of which was from fisheries and shipping, is much lower than predicted by global models of plastic leakage from land-based sources. Ongoing degradation of plastic items already in the environment, particularly on beaches, is likely to result in a marked increase in plastic fragments, even if we stop leaking additional plastic. The collection of large items from beaches is a useful stop-gap measure to limit the formation of micro-plastics while we formulate effective steps to prevent plastic leakage into the environment.
While the observation of the open ocean is well achieved by automated ocean measurement instruments, coastal and shelf seas suffer the lack of sub-surface collection platforms. Commercial fishing gear such as bottom trawls, pots, traps and long lines can act as platforms for sensors, which collect physical oceanographic data concurrently with normal fishing operations. The lack of observed in situ ocean data in coastal and shelf seas limits operational oceanography, weather forecasting, maritime industries, and climate change monitoring. In addition, using fishing gear as an ocean observation platform has auxiliary benefits for fisheries management including stakeholder involvement. This study quantifies and compares the existing sub-surface in situ data coverage with the spatial distribution of fishing activities. The results show that integration with fishing could contribute to filling some of the most pressing gaps in existing ocean observation systems in coastal and shelf seas. There are limitations related to opportunistic data collection, mainly related to spatial and temporal heterogeneity of fishing activities. However, we make the case that fishery-based observations have the potential to complement existing ocean observing systems in areas where oceanographic data are lacking and needed most in order to ensure long term sustainability of ocean monitoring.
On top of conventional necropsy, virtopsy (postmortem computed tomography and postmortem magnetic resonance imaging) has been integrated into the Cetacean Stranding Response Programme in Hong Kong since March 2014. To date, 177 out of 240 local stranded cetaceans have been examined by virtopsy. This integration has modernised the characterisation and documentation of cetacean biological health and profiles, and causes of death. During this 6-year period, critical pitfalls regarding logistics, carcass recovery, handling, and preservation have been identified. A strategic management scheme is crucial for the successful incorporation of virtopsy into this pioneer programme. This study explains the workflow of the Cetacean Virtopsy Stranding Response Programme in Hong Kong waters. Difficulties encountered are highlighted and practical solutions to address management issues are proposed to consolidate the stranding response network.
The Northern Antarctic Peninsula (NAP), located in West Antarctica, is amongst the most impacted regions by recent warming events. Its vulnerability to climate change has already led to an accumulation of severe changes along its ecosystems. This work reviews the current findings on impacts observed in phytoplankton communities occurring in the NAP, with a focus on its causes, consequences, and the potential research priorities toward an integrated comprehension of the physical–biological coupling and climate perspective. Evident changes in phytoplankton biomass, community composition and size structure, as well as potential bottom-up impacts to the ecosystem are discussed. Surface wind, sea ice and meltwater dynamics, as key drivers of the upper layer structure, are identified as the leading factors shaping phytoplankton. Short- and long-term scenarios are suggested for phytoplankton communities in the NAP, both indicating a future increase of the importance of small flagellates at the expense of diatoms, with potential devastating impacts for the ecosystem. Five main research gaps in the current understanding of the phytoplankton response to climate change in the region are identified: (i) anthropogenic signal has yet to be disentangled from natural climate variability; (ii) the influence of small-scale ocean circulation processes on phytoplankton is poorly understood; (iii) the potential consequences to regional food webs must be clarified; (iv) the magnitude and risk of potential changes in phytoplankton composition is relatively unknown; and (v) a better understanding of phytoplankton physiological responses to changes in the environmental conditions is required. Future research directions, along with specific suggestions on how to follow them, are equally suggested. Overall, while the current knowledge has shed light on the response of phytoplankton to climate change, in order to truly comprehend and predict changes in phytoplankton communities, there must be a robust collaboration effort integrating both Antarctic research programs and the whole scientific community under a common research framework.
Discarding of prohibited, under-sized, or non-target finfish is a major problem globally. Many such unwanted or banned catches do not survive long enough to be released alive, creating complex ecological and policy issues for the fishing industry. In U.S. Federal waters, regulation requires bycatch to be avoided as practicable and bycatch of some finfish species is designated as prohibited species catch (PSC). By regulation, PSC cannot be retained or sold and it must be returned to the sea (dead or alive). Some PSC species have strict limits to further incentivize their avoidance and limit bycatch mortality and these limits can lead to fishery closures. Despite extensive efforts to avoid bycatch in the U.S. and elsewhere, unwanted catches still occur, creating the potential for substantial food waste. We present one rarely discussed approach to maximize the value of dead, unwanted or prohibited finfish catches. The Prohibited Species Donation (PSD) program utilizes trawl fishery PSC that would otherwise be discarded by instead donating it to hunger relief organizations. This program simultaneously provides food and reduces waste while avoiding inadvertent incentives for catching prohibited species. For 26 years, the non-profit organization, SeaShare, has worked with the Alaska seafood industry to distribute 2,660 t (∼23.5 million servings) of prohibited species donations (salmon and halibut), high quality seafood that would have otherwise been discarded due to prohibition on retention. The PSD program provides an example that addresses food security and social value, an under-represented perspective in the global dialogue on unwanted catches.
Surface and sub-surface ocean temperature observations collected by sea turtles (ST) during the first phase (Jan 2019–April 2020) of the Sea Turtle for Ocean Research and Monitoring (STORM) project are compared against in-situ and satellite temperature measurements, and later relied upon to assess the performance of the Glo12 operational ocean model over the west tropical Indian Ocean. The evaluation of temperature profiles collected by STs against collocated ARGO drifter measurements show good agreement at all sample depths (0–250 m). Comparisons against various operational satellite sea surface temperature (SST) products indicate a slight overestimation of ST-borne temperature observations of ∼0.1°±°0.6° that is nevertheless consistent with expected uncertainties on satellite-derived SST data. Comparisons of ST-borne surface and subsurface temperature observations against Glo12 temperature forecasts demonstrate the good performance of the model surface and subsurface (<50 m) temperature predictions in the West tropical Indian Ocean, with mean bias (resp. RMS) in the range of 0.2° (resp. 0.5–1.5°). At deeper depths (>50 m), the model is, however, shown to significantly underestimate ocean temperatures as already noticed from global evaluation scores performed operationally at the basin scale. The distribution of model errors also shows significant spatial and temporal variability in the first 50 m of the ocean, which will be further investigated in the next phases of the STORM project.
This study documented the levels of microplastics in three commercially important small pelagic fish species in South African waters, namely European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), West Coast round herring (Etrumeus whiteheadi) and South African sardine (Sardinops sagax). Data suggested variation between species with a higher concentration of microplastics for S. sagax (mean of 1.58 items individual–1) compared to Et. whiteheadi (1.38 items individual–1) and En. encrasicolus (1.13 items individual–1). The occurrence of microplastics was also higher for S. sagax (72%) and Et. whiteheadi (72%) compared to En. encrasicolus (57%). Microfibers accounted for 80% of ingested microplastics (the remainder were plastic fragments) with the main ingested polymers being poly(ethylene:propylene:diene) (33% occurrence), polyethylene (20%), polyamide (20%), polyester (20%), and polypropylene (7%). The abundance of ingested items was not significantly correlated with fish caudal length or body weight, and spatial investigation indicated an increase in the abundance of ingested items from the West to the South coast. Etrumeus whiteheadi is proposed as a bio-indicator for microplastics for South Africa.