Since the 1970s, the magnitude of turtle cold-stun strandings have increased dramatically within the northwestern Atlantic. Here, we examine oceanic, atmospheric, and biological factors that may affect the increasing trend of cold-stunned Kemp’s ridleys in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, United States of America. Using machine learning and Bayesian inference modeling techniques, we demonstrate higher cold-stunning years occur when the Gulf of Maine has warmer sea surface temperatures in late October through early November. Surprisingly, hatchling numbers in Mexico, a proxy for population abundance, was not identified as an important factor. Further, using our Bayesian count model and forecasted sea surface temperature projections, we predict more than 2,300 Kemp’s ridley turtles may cold-stun annually by 2031 as sea surface temperatures continue to increase within the Gulf of Maine. We suggest warmer sea surface temperatures may have modified the northerly distribution of Kemp’s ridleys and act as an ecological bridge between the Gulf Stream and nearshore waters. While cold-stunning may currently account for a minor proportion of juvenile mortality, we recommend continuing efforts to rehabilitate cold-stunned individuals to maintain population resiliency for this critically endangered species in the face of a changing climate and continuing anthropogenic threats.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
Systematic conservation planning is essential in the justification and design of protected areas, especially in an era where every piece of land or water is at a high premium. We used satellite tracking data and regular monitoring of Greater flamingos into the spatial prioritization planning tool Marxan to identify the most important zones for the conservation of the greater flamingo and many other species of waterbirds and marine habitats in one of the economically important areas in the coastal zone of Abu Dhabi. Locations from 11 satellite tracked flamingos and monthly count data since 2009 in the Bul Syayeef area showed a predominant use of a relatively small area which when integrated in Marxan provided optimum boundary with minimum cost. Marxan identified 1, 5, 10 and 15 ha planning units and provided the best solution with 15 ha. The reduced total area of 145 km2 is nearly 40% of the originally proposed area for protection, is more pragmatic and easy to establish, given the high importance of the area for economic development. Using approximately the same boundary, the proposed area was declared a Ramsar site in September 2016 and was subsequently declared a protected area through a government decree in September 2017.
Ecological theory predicts that ecosystems with multiple basins of attraction can get locked in an undesired state, which has profound ecological and management implications. Despite their significance, alternative attractors have proven to be challenging to detect and characterize in natural communities. On coral reefs, it has been hypothesized that persistent coral-to-macroalgae “phase shifts” that can result from overfishing of herbivores and/or nutrient enrichment may reflect a regime shift to an alternate attractor, but, to date, the evidence has been equivocal. Our field experiments in Moorea, French Polynesia, revealed the following: (i) hysteresis existed in the herbivory–macroalgae relationship, creating the potential for coral–macroalgae bistability at some levels of herbivory, and (ii) macroalgae were an alternative attractor under prevailing conditions in the lagoon but not on the fore reef, where ambient herbivory fell outside the experimentally delineated region of hysteresis. These findings help explain the different community responses to disturbances between lagoon and fore reef habitats of Moorea over the past several decades and reinforce the idea that reversing an undesired shift on coral reefs can be difficult. Our experimental framework represents a powerful diagnostic tool to probe for multiple attractors in ecological systems and, as such, can inform management strategies needed to maintain critical ecosystem functions in the face of escalating stresses.
Natural resource policies enacted to protect environmental integrity play an important role in promoting sustainability. However, when resources are shared ecologically, economically, or through a common, global interest, policies implemented to protect resource sustainability in one domain can displace, and in some cases magnify, environmental degradation to other domains. Although such displacement has been recognized as a fundamental challenge to environmental and conservation policy within some resource sectors, there has been little cross‐disciplinary and cross‐sectoral integration to address the problem. This suggests that siloed knowledge may be impeding widespread recognition of the ubiquity of displacement and the need for mitigation. Here, we connect research across multiple disciplines to promote a broader discussion and recognition of the processes and pathways that can lead to displaced impacts that countermand or undermine resource policy and outline a number of approaches that can mitigate displacement.
South Pacific albacore is a species of primary importance in the longline fishery of a number of Small Island Developing States in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Despite the fact that the stock is assessed as not being subject to overfishing and not overfished, economic returns have declined significantly over the past decade. This has led to calls for management intervention. Given stated biological and economic objectives for the fishery, members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency proposed an interim stock target reference point to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission that would imply a larger stock size, higher catch rates and a more profitable fishery (FFA Members, 2015). The purpose of this study is to examine the biological and economic consequences along the trajectories of two distinct longline effort reduction regimes that achieve the proposed target reference point within 20 years and review the trade-offs in terms of forgone catch or effort and forgone revenue. The two effort regimes examined are a one-off reduction implemented immediately, and a phased reduction under which effort is reduced by a fixed percent each year. The results are discussed in the light of wider Pacific Island objectives for fishery production and fleet profitability and highlights the importance of moving beyond a purely biological stock-based focus when providing management advice.
Dynamic energy budget (DEB) theory offers a comprehensive framework for understanding the overall physiological performance (growth, development, respiration, reproduction, etc.) of an organism over the course of its life cycle. We present here a simplified DEB model for the swimming crab Liocarcinus depurator. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first to be presented for this species. Most applications of the standard DEB model assume continuous growth in all size metrics (length, wet mass, carbon content) of the modelled species. However, in crustaceans growth, measured as an increase of carapace length/width, occurs periodically via moult. To account for this, we have extended the model to track the continuous increase in carbon mass as well as the episodic increase in physical size. Model predictions were consistent with the patterns in the observed data, predicting both the moult increment and the intermoult period of an individual. In addition to presenting the model itself, we also make recommendations for further development, and evaluate the potential applications of such a model, both at the individual level (e.g. aquaculture) and as a potential tool for population level dynamics (e.g. fisheries stock assessment).
In this period of environmental change, understanding how resource users respond to such changes is critical for effective resource management and adaptation planning. Extensive work has focused on natural resource responses to environmental changes, but less has examined the response of resource users to such changes. We used an interdisciplinary approach to analyse changes in resource use among commercial trawl fishing communities in the northwest Atlantic, a region that has shown poleward shifts in harvested fish species. We found substantial community-level changes in fishing patterns since 1996: southern trawl fleets of larger vessels with low catch diversity fished up to 400 km further north, while trawl fleets of smaller vessels with low catch diversity shrank or disappeared from the data set over time. In contrast, trawl fleets (of both large and small vessels) with higher catch diversity neither changed fishing location dramatically or nor disappeared as often from the data set. This analysis suggests that catch diversity and high mobility may buffer fishing communities from effects of environmental change. Particularly in times of rapid and uncertain change, constructing diverse portfolios and allowing for fleet mobility may represent effective adaptation strategies.
The ability to perceive and recognise a reflected mirror image as self (mirror self-recognition, MSR) is considered a hallmark of cognition across species. Although MSR has been reported in mammals and birds, it is not known to occur in any other major taxon. Potentially limiting our ability to test for MSR in other taxa is that the established assay, the mark test, requires that animals display contingency testing and self-directed behaviour. These behaviours may be difficult for humans to interpret in taxonomically divergent animals, especially those that lack the dexterity (or limbs) required to touch a mark. Here, we show that a fish, the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus, shows behaviour that may reasonably be interpreted as passing through all phases of the mark test: (i) social reactions towards the reflection, (ii) repeated idiosyncratic behaviours towards the mirror, and (iii) frequent observation of their reflection. When subsequently provided with a coloured tag in a modified mark test, fish attempt to remove the mark by scraping their body in the presence of a mirror but show no response towards transparent marks or to coloured marks in the absence of a mirror. This remarkable finding presents a challenge to our interpretation of the mark test—do we accept that these behavioural responses, which are taken as evidence of self-recognition in other species during the mark test, lead to the conclusion that fish are self-aware? Or do we rather decide that these behavioural patterns have a basis in a cognitive process other than self-recognition and that fish do not pass the mark test? If the former, what does this mean for our understanding of animal intelligence? If the latter, what does this mean for our application and interpretation of the mark test as a metric for animal cognitive abilities?
The territorial waters and the EEZ of the Netherlands form a part of the southern North Sea. The area is intensely used and for several of these uses considerable growth is forecast. For years, industrial freedom and market forces prevailed during discussions on marine spatial planning in the Netherlands. But in 2005 it became clear that this might lead to increasing conflicts with the environment and between users. The introduction of a new spatial planning framework was in response to an increasing interest in new developments and a growing demand for governmental coordination of these developments. During the years after, societal demands changed rapidly, especially with regard to renewable energy and demand for sand to strengthen the coast. At a regular interval of 6 years, revised Marine Spatial Plans have been developed which are adapted to the new knowledge and experience acquired and the new societal demands. Each cycle has a strong stakeholder involvement, both informal and formal.
Implementing a governance transformation entails the creation of a new institutional system when ecological, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable. It involves building capacities, establishing viable formal and informal institutions, and triggering major societal changes. Early assessments (EAs) provide a mechanism to fine-tune and support institutional learning processes, which are needed to provide legitimacy and political acceptability of transformational change. We performed an EA of a governance transformation aimed at implementing ecosystem-based, multilevel participatory fisheries management in Chile. We performed individual interviews and workshops and synthesized existing reports to assess the main challenges of the institutionalization of the new policy. Results showed that successful implementation of the governance transformation would need to address key issues related to building trust and improving transparency, including clear protocols for cocreating knowledge and securing resources and capacities. The EA allowed us to define specific recommendations associated with legal reforms, issuing of new executive orders to clarify implementation, and improvement in operational standards by government agencies. EAs provide a fundamental tool that helps build legitimacy and sustainability of new governance systems. They bring a sense of reality, informed by social science, that allows us to understand progress in the implementation of governance transformations, by identifying rigidities that fail to accommodate emerging realities.
Marine ecosystems are changing rapidly as the oceans warm and become more acidic. The physical factors and the changes to ocean chemistry that they drive can all be measured with great precision. Changes in the biological composition of communities in different ocean regions are far more challenging to measure because most biological monitoring methods focus on a limited taxonomic or size range. Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis has the potential to solve this problem in biological oceanography, as it is capable of identifying a huge phylogenetic range of organisms to species level. Here we develop and apply a novel multi-gene molecular toolkit to eDNA isolated from bulk plankton samples collected over a five-year period from a single site. This temporal scale and level of detail is unprecedented in eDNA studies. We identified consistent seasonal assemblages of zooplankton species, which demonstrates the ability of our toolkit to audit community composition. We were also able to detect clear departures from the regular seasonal patterns that occurred during an extreme marine heatwave. The integration of eDNA analyses with existing biotic and abiotic surveys delivers a powerful new long-term approach to monitoring the health of our world’s oceans in the context of a rapidly changing climate.
Understanding the mechanisms which determine the capacity of any species to adapt to changing environmental conditions is one of the foremost requirements in accurately predicting which populations, species and clades are likely to survive ongoing, rapid climate change. The polar oceans are amongst the most rapidly changing environments on Earth with reduced regional sea ice duration and extent, and their fauna's expected sensitivity to warming and acidification. These changes potentially pose a significant threat to a number of polar fauna. There is, therefore, a critical need to assess the vulnerability of a wide range of species to determine the tipping points or weak links in marine assemblages. Knowledge of the effect of multiple stressors on polar marine fauna has advanced over the last 40 years, but there are still many data gaps. This study applies ecological risk assessment techniques to the increasing knowledge of polar species' physiological capacities to identify their exposure to climate change and their vulnerability to this exposure. This relatively rapid, semi-quantitative assessment provides a layer of vulnerability on top of climate envelope models, until such times as more extensive physiological data sets can be produced. The risk assessment identified more species that are likely to benefit from the near-future predicted change (the winners), especially predators and deposit feeders. Fewer species were scored at risk (the losers), although animals that feed on krill scored consistently as under the highest risk.
Microbial plankton respiration is the key determinant in the balance between the storage of organic carbon in the oceans or its conversion to carbon dioxide with accompanying consumption of dissolved oxygen. Over the past 50 years, dissolved oxygen concentrations have decreased in many parts of the world’s oceans, and this trend of ocean deoxygenation is predicted to continue. Yet despite its pivotal role in ocean deoxygenation, microbial respiration remains one of the least constrained microbial metabolic processes. Improved understanding of the magnitude and variability of respiration, including attribution to component plankton groups, and quantification of the respiratory quotient, would enable better predictions, and projections of the intensity and extent of ocean deoxygenation and of the integrative impact of ocean deoxygenation, ocean acidification, warming, and changes in nutrient concentration and stoichiometry on marine carbon storage. This study will synthesize current knowledge of respiration in relation to deoxygenation, including the drivers of its variability, identify key unknowns in our ability to project future scenarios and suggest an approach to move the field forward.
Marine carbon dioxide (CO2) system data has been collected from December 2014 to June 2018 in the Northern Salish Sea (NSS; British Columbia, Canada) and consisted of continuous measurements at two sites as well as spatially- and seasonally distributed discrete seawater samples. The array of CO2 observing activities included high-resolution CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) and pHT (total scale) measurements made at the Hakai Institute’s Quadra Island Field Station (QIFS) and from an Environment Canada weather buoy, respectively, as well as discrete seawater measurements of pCO2 and total dissolved inorganic carbon (TCO2) obtained during a number of field campaigns. A relationship between NSS alkalinity and salinity was developed with the discrete datasets and used with the continuous measurements to highly resolve the marine CO2 system. Collectively, these datasets provided insights into the seasonality in this historically under-sampled region and detail the area’s tendency for aragonite saturation state (Ωarag) to be at non-corrosive levels (i.e., Ωarag > 1) only in the upper water column during spring and summer months. This depth zone and time period of reprieve can be periodically interrupted by strong northwesterly winds that drive short-lived (∼1 week) episodes of high-pCO2, low-pH, and low-Ωarag conditions throughout the region. Interannual variability in summertime conditions was evident and linked to reduced northwesterly winds and increased stratification. Anthropogenic CO2 in NSS surface water was estimated using data from 2017 combined with the global atmospheric CO2 forcing for the period 1765 to 2100, and projected a mean value of 49 ± 5 μmol kg-1 for 2018. The estimated trend in anthropogenic CO2 was further used to assess the evolution of Ωarag and pHT levels in NSS surface water, and revealed that wintertime corrosive Ωaragconditions were likely absent pre-1900. The percent of the year spent above Ωarag = 1 has dropped from ∼98% in 1900 to ∼60% by 2018. Over the coming decades, winter pHT and spring and summer Ωarag are projected to decline to conditions below identified biological thresholds for select vulnerable species.
Until the 1990s, beaked whales were one of the least understood groups of large mammals. Information on northern bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus) and Baird’s beaked whales (Berardius bairdii) was available from data collected during whaling, however, little information existed on the smaller species other than occasional data gleaned from beach-cast animals. Recent research advances have been plentiful. Increasing global survey effort, together with morphometric and genetic analyses have shown at least 22 species in this group. Longitudinal field studies of at least four species (H. ampullatus, B. bairdii, Ziphius cavirostris, Mesoplodon densirostris) have become established over the last three decades. Several long-term studies support photo-identification catalogs providing insights into life history, social structure and population size. Tag-based efforts looking at diving, movements and acoustics have provided detail on individual behavior as well as population structure and ranges. Passive acoustic monitoring has allowed long-term and seasonal monitoring of populations. Genetic studies have uncovered cryptic species and revealed contrasting patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity amongst the few species examined. Conservation concern for these species was sparked by mass strandings coincident with military mid-frequency sonar use. Fat and gas emboli have been symptomatic indicators of mortalities related to sonar exposure, suggesting that their vulnerability stems from the physiological exertion of extreme diving for medium-sized whales. Behavioral response experiments have now shown that beaked whales appear to cease foraging and delay their return to foraging and/or leave the area in association with exposure to mid-frequency signals at low acoustic levels. Future priorities for these species will be to (1) continue field-studies to better understand smaller-scale habitat use, vital rates and social structure; (2) develop better detection methods for larger-scale survey work; (3) improve methodology for monitoring energetics, individual body condition and health; (4) develop tools to better understand physiology; (5) use recent genetic advances with improved sample databanks to re-examine global and local beaked whale relationships; (6) further quantify anthropogenic impacts (both sonar and other noise) and their population consequences (7) apply acquired data for realistic mitigation of sonar and other anthropogenic impacts for beaked whale conservation.
Converting assemblages of marine protected areas (MPAs) into functional MPA networks requires political will, multidisciplinary information, coordinated action and time. We developed a new framework to assist planning environmental representativity in a network across the marine space of Portugal, responding to a political commitment to protect 14% of its area by 2020. An aggregate conservation value was estimated for each of the 27 habitats identified, from intertidal waters to the deep sea. This value was based on expert-judgment scoring for environmental properties and features relevant for conservation, chosen to reflect the strategic objectives of the network, thus providing an objective link between conservation commitments and habitat representativity in space. Additionally, habitats' vulnerability to existing anthropogenic pressures and sensitivity to climate change were also scored. The area coverage of each habitat in Portugal and within existing MPAs (regionally and nationally) was assigned to a scale of five orders of magnitude (from <0.01% to >10%) to assess rarity and existing representation. Aggregate conservation value per habitat was negatively correlated with area coverage, positively correlated with vulnerability and was not correlated with sensitivity. The proposed framework offers a multi-dimensional support tool for MPA network development, in particular regarding the prioritization of new habitats to protect, when the goal is to achieve specific targets while ensuring representativity across large areas and complex habitat mosaics. It requires less information and computation effort in comparison to more quantitative approaches, while still providing an objective instrument to scrutinize progress on the implementation of politically set conservation targets.
In this study, we estimate the shoreline retreat, the vulnerability and the erosion rates of an open beach-dune system under projected sea level rise (SLR) and the action of wind-waves (separately and in combination). The methodology is based on the combination of two state-of-the-art numerical models (XBeach and Q2D-morfo) applied in a probabilistic framework and it is implemented in an open sandy beach in Menorca Island (Western Mediterranean). We compute the shoreline response to SLR during the 21st century and we assess the changing impacts of storm waves on the aerial beach-dune system. Results demonstrate the relevant role that the beach backshore features, such as the berm, play as coastal defense, reducing the shoreline retreat and dune vulnerability rates in the near-term (a few decades ahead) and highlighting the importance of simulating the beach morphodynamic processes in coastal impacts assessments. Our findings point at SLR as the major driver of the projected impacts over the beach-dune system, leading to an increase of ∼25% of the volume eroded due to storm waves by the end of the century with respect to present-day conditions.
An efficient connectivity-based method for multi-objective optimization applicable to the design of marine protected area networks is described. Multi-objective network optimization highlighted previously unreported step changes in the structure of optimal subnetworks for protection associated with minimal changes in cost or benefit functions. This emphasizes the desirability of performing a full, unconstrained, multi-objective optimization for marine spatial planning. Brute force methods, examining all possible combinations of protected and unprotected sites for a network of sites, are impractical for all but the smallest networks as the number of possible networks grows as 2m, where mis the number of sites within the network. A metaheuristic method based around Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods is described which searches for the set of Pareto optimal networks (or a good approximation thereto) given two separate objective functions, for example for network quality or effectiveness, population persistence, or cost of protection. The optimization and search methods are independent of the choice of objective functions and can be easily extended to more than two functions. The speed, accuracy and convergence of the method under a range of network configurations are tested with model networks based on an extension of random geometric graphs. Examination of two real-world marine networks, one designated for the protection of the stony coral Lophelia pertusa, the other a hypothetical man-made network of oil and gas installations to protect hard substrate ecosystems, demonstrates the power of the method in finding multi-objective optimal solutions for networks of up to 100 sites. Results using network average shortest path as a proxy for population resilience and gene flow within the network supports the use of a conservation strategy based around highly connected clusters of sites.
The trade in coral reef fishes for aquariums encompasses over 1,800 species from over 40 exporting countries, yet the population status for most traded species is unknown and unevaluated. At the same time, these coral reef fishes face a growing number of threats and often occur in jurisdictions with limited management capacity and data. In response, we assess vulnerability to overfishing for 72 coral reef fishes popular in the aquarium trade for the United States – the top importer – from the top exporting countries (Indonesia and the Philippines). We use a data-limited assessment approach: productivity susceptibility analysis (PSA). PSA estimates relative vulnerability of species by assessing their biological productivity and susceptibility to overfishing. The most and least vulnerable stocks were differentiated by attributes related to the reproductive biology (e.g., breeding strategy, recruitment pattern, and fecundity), appropriateness, for an average home aquarium, ease of capture (e.g., schooling and aggregation), and rates of natural mortality. Our analysis identifies several of the most and least vulnerable species popular in the aquarium fish trade. The species that ranked as least vulnerable to overcollection were Gobiodon okinawae, Nemateleotris magnifica, Gobiodon acicularis, Salarias fasciatus, Ptereleotris zebra, Gobiodon citrinus, Pseudocheilinus hexataenia, Chaetodon lunula, Nemateleotris decora, and Halichoeres chrysus. In contrast, the ten most vulnerable species were Chromileptes altivelis, Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides, Pterapogon kauderni, Premnas biaculeatus, Echidna nebulosa, Centropyge bicolor, Zebrasoma veliferum, Pomacanthus semicirculatus, Zebrasoma scopas, and Thalassoma lunare. In a data-limited context, we suggest how these vulnerability rankings can help guide future efforts for reducing vulnerability risk. In particular, species that are relatively high-vulnerability are prime targets for research and aquaculture efforts, increased monitoring of collection and exports, species-specific stock assessments, and voluntary reductions by retailers and consumers to avoid overexploitation.
In just four decades, hundreds of hydrothermal vent fields have been discovered, widely distributed along tectonic plate boundaries on the ocean floor. Vent invertebrate biomass reaching up to tens of kilograms per square meter has attracted attention as a potential contributor to the organic carbon pool available in the resource-limited deep sea. But the rate of chemosynthetic production of organic carbon at deep-sea hydrothermal vents is highly variable and still poorly constrained. Despite the advent of molecular techniques and in situ sensing technologies, the factors that control the capacity of vent communities to exploit the available chemical energy resources remain largely unknown. Here, we review key drivers of hydrothermal ecosystem productivity, including (a) the diverse mechanisms governing energy transfer among biotic and abiotic processes; (b) the tight linkages among these processes; and (c) the nature and extent of spatial and temporal diversity within a variety of geological settings; and (d) the influence of these and other factors on the turnover of microbial primary producers, including those associated with megafauna. This review proposes a revised consideration of the pathways leading to the biological conversion of inorganic energy sources into biomass in different hydrothermal habitats on the seafloor. We propose a conceptual model that departs from the canonical conservative mixing-continuum paradigm by distinguishing low-temperature diffuse flows (LT-diffuse flows) derived from seawater and high-temperature fluids (HT-diffuse flow) derived from end-member fluids. We further discuss the potential for sustained organic matter production at vent-field scale, accounting for the natural instability of hydrothermal ecosystems, from the climax vent communities of exceptional productivity to the long-term lower-activity assemblages. The parameterization of such a model crucially needs assessment of in situ rates and of the largely unrecognized natural variability on relevant temporal scales. Beyond the diversity of hydrothermal settings, the depth range and water mass distribution over oceanic ridge crests, volcanic arcs and back-arc systems are expected to significantly influence biomass production rates. A particular challenge is to develop observing strategies that will account for the full range of environmental variables while attempting to derive global or regional estimates.