Official state response from Australia to the World Heritage Committee, in regards to Decision WHC 38 COM 7B.63, which essentially says Australia is indeed working to protect the GBR and that the Reef is not "in danger."
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
Consequences of reef phase shifts on fish communities remain poorly understood. Studies on the causes, effects and consequences of phase shifts on reef fish communities have only been considered for coral-to-macroalgae shifts. Therefore, there is a large information gap regarding the consequences of novel phase shifts and how these kinds of phase shifts impact on fish assemblages. This study aimed to compare the fish assemblages on reefs under normal conditions (relatively high cover of corals) to those which have shifted to a dominance of the zoantharian Palythoa cf. variabilis on coral reefs in Todos os Santos Bay (TSB), Brazilian eastern coast. We examined eight reefs, where we estimated cover of corals and P. cf. variabilis and coral reef fish richness, abundance and body size. Fish richness differed significantly between normal reefs (48 species) and phase-shift reefs (38 species), a 20% reduction in species. However there was no difference in fish abundance between normal and phase shift reefs. One fish species, Chaetodon striatus, was significantly less abundant on normal reefs. The differences in fish assemblages between different reef phases was due to differences in trophic groups of fish; on normal reefs carnivorous fishes were more abundant, while on phase shift reefs mobile invertivores dominated.
The seas and oceans are the scene of multiple human actions, all of which cause pressures on the marine environment. Marine spatial planning (MSP) systematizes the evaluations of the spatial impacts of the human actions and take into consideration the cumulative impacts of the actions. A probabilistic model is constructed to estimate the impacts of oil shipping and offshore wind power on 16 species. The quantitative indicators of impacts are the loss of breeding success of 5 birds, the loss of the early development stages of 3 fish species and the change in the probability of presence/absence of 3 benthic species and 5 algae. The thesis model works as an independent application, but can be merged as such into an MSP tool that works with a geoinformatic system (GIS) interface. The impacts of offshore wind power and oil shipping, and especially the possible oil spill, have been studied at other marine areas, but there are only few studies about their impacts in the brackish water conditions of the Baltic Sea. The study area of this thesis is the eastern Gulf of Finland (EGOF).
The model is constructed using Bayesian networks (BNs) which are graphical probabilistic models. The most important human pressures caused by the actions are identified based on literature and placed in the model accordingly. The pressures caused by operational offshore wind power are the disturbance to birds and underwater noise. The pressures caused by oil shipping are underwater noise and the oil exposure of species after a possible oil spill. The attenuation of the pressures as a function of increasing distance from the source of pressure is calculated mathematically, where possible. Expert elicitation is conducted to fill in the gaps in existing data over the subject. Altogether 6 experts were interviewed and another two were consulted informally. The different types of data are integrated in the BN, which allows quantified comparisons between different management options and alternative scenarios.
The model predicts that both human actions have negative impacts on the marine environment of the EGOF. The impacts of an offshore wind mill will realize without uncertainty but they will be negligible. An oil spill, on the other hand, is unlikely to happen, but if it does, the losses will be extensive. The disturbance of the wind mill on birds extends to some hundreds of metres from the mill, depending on the bird species. The losses of the early development stages of fish caused by the underwater noise of a wind mill are nearly certainly below 20% at all distances from the mill for all studied species. With the most likely sound pressure levels of tankers, the losses to the early development stages of the fish also remain below 20% with a high level of certainty at all distances. At these tanker noise levels, the harmless noise class of <90 dB re 1µPa will be reached at some kilometres of the fairway, depending on the original noise level from a tanker. Three alternative oil shipping scenarios for 2020 were compared. The differences among the scenarios are negligible both when it comes to the impacts of underwater noise on fish and to the probability of a species to get exposed to oil.
The model successfully describes the impacts of the human pressures that are known to take place, such as the impacts of offshore wind power, but requires a GIS environment and drift models to be able to predict the probabilities of an oil exposure. The applicability of the model can be increased by taking into consideration additional human actions and a wider selection of human pressures. The thesis model is a part of a MSP tool produced in TOPCONS (Transboundary tools for the spatial planning and conservation of the Gulf of Finland) project, which is a prototype of a tool that can be later applied at marine areas worldwide.
Offshore wind farm (OWF) construction in the UK is progressing rapidly alongside increasing spatial pressures on marine ecosystems and social and economic activities. A need for increased protection of habitats, species and ecological processes that support environmental and economic benefits is being met by designation of marine protected areas (MPAs). Mitigation and spatial planning solutions are required to enable protection of vital ecological habitats, features and processes and support sustainable economic development. A potential solution is to co-locate OWFs and MPAs. This study uses a multi-disciplinary approach to examine if evidence on the environmental effects of existing OWFs and associated effects on fishing activity (as an existing resource use) benefits MPA goals. Through a systematic review and meta-analyses of existing data, knowledge of OWF effects on species abundance and economic effects on fishing were identified as key evidence gaps. The ecological evidence need was approached through a case study of ecological effects of North Hoyle OWF, North Wales, UK, using existing pre and post-construction monitoring data, as well as primary baited remote underwater video data, collected 5 years later (8 years post-construction). Results suggested habitat and species recovered to a stable state that showed some community differences to pre-construction conditions. The presence of OWF monopiles is likely to have increased existing heterogeneity of substratum and increased opportunities for scavenging species. Species benefitting and disadvantaged by habitat provided within the OWF reflected meta-analyses trends. Extended baseline monitoring to provide confident identification of natural levels of variation in sediment and fauna was lacking. Analysis of fishing activity and landings before and after OWF construction in three UK case study regions approached effects on resource users. Fishing activity in the three case study areas showed broad scale similarity to national trends. Small-scale activity patterns indicated greater reductions in mobile (towed) fishing gear effort near to operating OWFs than in static gear activity (using pots or static nets). Semi-structured interviews conducted with fishermen in each region revealed loss of ground and disruption as negative effects from OWFs, in addition to existing pressures. Benefits including habitat creation and species augmentation, as well as reduction of cumulative lost ground, were identified by fishermen from co-location of MPAs and OWFs. Ecological effects of OWFs suggested benefits from habitat creation, species augmentation and potential for protection of sandbank habitats between monopiles. Mitigation requirements were identified to maximise these potential benefits to an MPA network.
- As a consequence of increasing threats to the marine ecosystems, new decision support tools are necessary to support the implementation of the Ecosystem-Based Approach (EBA) to management in order to ensure their sustainable exploitation whilst ensuring their preservation.
- To operationalize Ecosystem-Based Approach (EBA) to management and translate scientific knowledge into decision tools, an innovative Adaptive Marine Policy Toolbox has been created. It provides policymakers with necessary framework and resources to develop adaptive policies according to the EBA.
- The Adaptive Marine Policy Toolbox provides a one-stop single location to access all the guidelines and resources necessary to design and implement adaptive marine policies according to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
- The toolbox presents a high transferability to additional regulations calling for the Ecosystem-Based Approach to management such as the Ecosystem Approach of the Mediterranean Action Plan and the Black Sea´s Strategic Action Plan.
- The Resources existing within the toolbox are presented in a user-friendly format. The presence of assessments and models capable to cope with uncertain conditions allows for high flexibility and adaptation in management strategies when future conditions change.
Coastal zones are under severe pressure from anthropogenic activities, as well as on-going climate change with associated sea level rise and increased storminess. These challenges call for integrated and forward looking solutions. The concept on Integrated Coastal Zone Management, as defined during the last twenty years, provides the overall policy frames, but tools to support the planning and management efforts are almost lacking. Furthermore, the forward-looking dimension to embrace the effects of climate change is nearly absent in most implementations. The BLAST project, financed by the European Union Regional Fund through the INTERREG IV North Sea Region Programme, aimed at developing a web-based decision support system to assist Integrated Coastal Zone Management from a climate change perspective, and the current paper describes the methods used and the computing platform for implementing a decision support system. The software applied in developing the system is mainly Open Source components, thus, facilitating a more widespread use of the system.
Table of Contents
- Coastal zones: achieving sustainable management
- MSFD Implementation: strengths and barriers assessed across European marine regions
- Users value Marine Spatial Planning in pilot project
- Mutual trust between coastal stakeholders key to successful climate change adaptation
- The Irish marine environment: high public awareness, but low trust in management
- Temporary coastal residents are less aware of anti-littering programmes
- Marine Protected Areas: how to improve community support?
- Balanced Scorecard tool could support Integrated Coastal Zone Management
- Baltic nutrient abatement measures identified by hybrid ecological-economic model
- Sustainable coastal adaptation planning links ecosystem services with social needs
- New web-based tool supports Integrated Coastal Zone Management
- Coastal ecosystem services’ valuation by stakeholders improves planning decisions
Science for Environment Policy is a free news and information service published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Environment, which provides the latest environmental policy-relevant research findings.
Science for Environment Policy publishes a weekly News Alert which is delivered by email to subscribers and provides accessible summaries of key scientific studies.
Thematic Issues are special editions of the News Alert which focus on a key policy area.
Long-term changes in nutrient supply and primary production reportedly foreshadow substantial declines in global marine fishery production. These declines combined with current overfishing, habitat degradation, and pollution paint a grim picture for the future of marine fisheries and ecosystems. However, current models forecasting such declines do not account for the effects of ocean fronts as biogeochemical hotspots. Here we apply a fundamental technique from fluid dynamics to an ecosystem model to show how fronts increase total ecosystem biomass, explain fishery production, cause regime shifts, and contribute significantly to global biogeochemical budgets by channeling nutrients through alternate trophic pathways. We then illustrate how ocean fronts affect fishery abundance and yield, using long-term records of anchovy–sardine regimes and salmon abundances in the California Current. These results elucidate the fundamental importance of biophysical coupling as a driver of bottom–up vs. top–down regulation and high productivity in marine ecosystems.
The European Union and other states are moving towards Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management to balance food production and security with wider ecosystem concerns. Fishing is only one of several sectors operating within the ocean environment, competing for renewable and non-renewable resources that overlap in a limited space. Other sectors include marine mining, energy generation, recreation, transport and conservation. Trade-offs of these competing sectors are already part of the process but attempts to detail how the seas are being utilised have been primarily based on compilations of data on human activity at large spatial scales. Advances including satellite and shipping automatic tracking enable investigation of factors influencing fishers’ choice of fishing grounds at spatial scales relevant to decision-making, including the presence or avoidance of activities by other sectors. We analyse the determinants of English and Welsh scallop-dredging fleet behaviour, including competing sectors, operating in the eastern English Channel. Results indicate aggregate mining activity, maritime traffic, increased fishing costs, and the English inshore 6 and French 12 nautical mile limits negatively impact fishers’ likelihood of fishing in otherwise suitable areas. Past success, net-benefits and fishing within the 12 NM predispose fishers to use areas. Systematic conservation planning has yet to be widely applied in marine systems, and the dynamics of spatial overlap of fishing with other activities have not been studied at scales relevant to fisher decision-making. This study demonstrates fisher decision-making is indeed affected by the real-time presence of other sectors in an area, and therefore trade-offs which need to be accounted for in marine planning. As marine resource extraction demands intensify, governments will need to take a more proactive approach to resolving these trade-offs, and studies such as this will be required as the evidential foundation for future seascape planning.
With the passage of the Oceans Act (1996), the Government of Canada has committed to an integrated, ecosystem-based approach to oceans and coastal management. One important element of this approach is the identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs), which are areas of especially high ecological or biological significance where greater risk aversion is required in the management of activities. EBSAs are considered in a broad range of management processes, including the development of marine protected area networks. This report describes a refined set of EBSAs for the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, which falls within the DFO Maritimes Region. It builds on past studies and outlines the ecological or biological rationale for how each area satisfies the DFO EBSA criteria. Two types of EBSAs are described, including: (i) broadly-distributed, single-feature EBSAs, which are discrete significant features or processes that occur throughout the Atlantic coast sub-region (e.g. Piping Plover critical habitat) and (ii) site-specific, multiple-feature EBSAs, which are areas identified for their unique combination of exceptional features. Thirty-eight site-specific, multiple-feature EBSAs are described.
The review and update included a comprehensive assessment of progress to date in meeting the requirements established by the Oceans Act and the initial Ocean Plan, as well as extensive public and expert participation efforts. Along with public hearings, six technical work groups made up of nearly 100 scientists and experts were convened to review scientific data and identify and characterize important trends in ocean resources and uses. Two public workshops were held to share information and solicit input on the findings and recommendations of the work groups. In addition, public meetings with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center were held on offshore wind and transmission, and workshops convened by the Coastal Erosion Commission in May and June 2014 served as forums for dialogue and feedback.
On September 24, 2014, a draft plan including the proposed updates was released, launching a 60-day public comment period. Five regional public hearings were held in Ipswich, Hyannis, New Bedford, Vineyard Haven and Boston to solicit feedback. More than 75 organizations and individuals provided written and oral comments on the draft plan. With consensus guidance from the Ocean Advisory Commission and Ocean Science Advisory Council, adjustments to the draft ocean plan were deliberated and made.
The 2015 ocean plan released today contains the following updates to the original plan:
- Science and Data - The new plan identifies trends in and new data for ocean habitats and ecosystem components, human uses, economics, cultural and archeological aspects and climate change, as well as a series of 11 science and data priorities for the next five years of ocean plan implementation.
- Offshore Wind Project Transmission - Preliminary transmission corridor routes for further investigation have been identified that address concerns raised by commercial fishing interests and local communities and support “smart” offshore wind development to streamline the process for the wind industry.
- Offshore Sand for Beach Nourishment - Many coastal communities are experiencing severe erosion, flooding and storm damage.
Beach nourishment and dune restoration can offer an important alternative for shoreline protection that works with the natural system. Recognizing this, the 2015 Ocean Plan advances initial planning for appropriate potential locations for offshore sand areas, taking into account important criteria including compatible sand resources, potential environmental impacts, interactions with existing water-dependent uses and consideration of other key factors. The 2015 Ocean Plan also calls for the formation of an Offshore Sand Task Force to provide further consultation and recommendations for the potential use of offshore sand for beach nourishment.
- Ocean Development Mitigation Fee - The plan includes a proposed fee structure and accompanying guidance for the determination of mitigation fees for ocean development projects required by the Oceans Act.
To determine fishermen’s perspectives on these changes, the Center for American Progress contracted with Edge Research to conduct a survey of New England commercial fishermen in summer 2014. Edge Research completed telephone surveys of nearly 600 permit holders in the northeast multispecies fishery—better known as the groundfishery because it targets bottom-dwelling fish such as cod, haddock, and flounders—as well as the lobster fisheries in Maine and Massachusetts. The results clearly show that although fishermen generally tend to be politically conservative, they believe climate forces such as ocean warming and acidification are not only happening but also rank among the gravest environmental threats to their employment and the future of their industry and their communities.
This report covers 21 coastal states of interest as identified by The Nature Conservancy: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. The team did not review the policies of Alaska, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and the Great Lakes states.
The management of the coastal environment is a complex issue, which needs for appropriate methodologies. Erosional processes and longshore currents present in the submerged beach represent a serious danger for both people and human infrastructures. A proper integration between traditional and innovative techniques can help in the characterization and management of the beach environment. Several different multispectral and hyperspectral techniques were used to retrieve information about the hydro and morphodynamic settings of the Pisa province coast (Tuscany, Italy). Results were validated using about 130 samples collected along the study area, between the mouths of the Serchio river and the Scolmatore canal. The composition of sand samples was evaluated by means of petrographic microscopy and grain size analyses. The same samples were analyzed using an Analytical Spectral Device (ASD) Fieldspec. The obtained sediment spectral library was used to evaluate the differences in mineralogical composition, which can be related to different source areas. Results coming from spectroscopy were compared to those obtained from the petrographic and grain size analysis. Furthermore a multispectral aerial image was used to evaluate sediment distribution along the submerged beach, to map the geomorphic features and to detect the presence of longshore and rip currents. This works suggests that optical remote sensing technique can be profitably used in order to reduce the need for expensive and time consuming conventional analysis.
The designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) may have intense social and economic effects on human communities. Driven by overarching global and European policies and national legislations, current systematic conservation planning in the UK and France requires an ecosystem approach that takes into account not only nature but also the human activities that take place in an area. Here, we identified a set of 64 socioeconomic variables potentially relevant for marine and coastal stakeholders in a European context and a comprehensive set of 20 marine and coastal stakeholder categories. Ninety national organisations in the UK and France belonging to those categories and potentially affected by/interested in the designation of multiple-use MPAs were identified and surveyed. Results show that environmental NGOs, research centres, local councils, managing agencies and statutory nature conservation bodies perceived that they are positively affected by these MPAs, whereas fishers’ organisations, shipping and aggregate industrial organisations and recreational organisations perceived to be chiefly negatively affected by MPAs. On average, the ecological effects of multiple-use MPAs are perceived as ‘largely positive’, though 30% of respondents did not perceive any positive ecological effects from these MPAs. The social, economic and cultural effects of such MPAs are perceived as ‘moderately positive’. Most respondents perceived broad range (>10 km) and permanent ecological, social, economic and cultural effects from multiple-use MPA designation suggesting high societal expectations towards these areas. However, only five variables were perceived to vary in intensity after the designation of multiple-use MPAs: ‘research’, ‘environmental performance by citizens, businesses and towns’, ‘number of green businesses’, ‘tourism’ and ‘economic activities’. The most important ‘social’ variables for stakeholder organisations referred to local populations’ engagement with the MPA, tourism and research. The most important ‘economic’ variables were linked to fishing, shipping and aquaculture activities. These variables highlight relevant topics to be considered in MPA planning, designation and management processes, especially in the UK and France. There were statistically significant differences in the ratings of socioeconomic variables between many organisations belonging to the same intuitive stakeholder categories, suggesting the importance of including as wide a range of stakeholder organisations as feasible in MPA socioeconomic-related processes. Our methods and findings can help to inform and streamline ongoing and future participatory MPA planning, management and monitoring processes in Europe and in other regions with similar socioeconomic characteristics.
Fishery management measures to reduce interactions between fisheries and endangered or threatened species have typically relied on static time-area closures. While these efforts have reduced interactions, they can be costly and inefficient for managing highly migratory species such as sea turtles. The NOAA TurtleWatch product was created in 2006 as a tool to reduce the rates of interactions of loggerhead sea turtles with shallow-set longline gear deployed by the Hawaii-based pelagic longline fishery targeting swordfish. TurtleWatch provides information on loggerhead habitat and can be used by managers and industry to make dynamic management decisions to potentially reduce incidentally capturing turtles during fishing operations. TurtleWatch is expanded here to include information on endangered leatherback turtles to help reduce incidental capture rates in the central North Pacific. Fishery-dependent data were combined with fishing effort, bycatch and satellite tracking data of leatherbacks to characterize sea surface temperature (SST) relationships that identify habitat or interaction ‘hotspots’. Analysis of SST identified two zones, centered at 17.2° and 22.9°C, occupied by leatherbacks on fishing grounds of the Hawaii-based swordfish fishery. This new information was used to expand the TurtleWatch product to provide managers and industry near real-time habitat information for both loggerheads and leatherbacks. The updated TurtleWatch product provides a tool for dynamic management of the Hawaii-based shallow-set fishery to aid in the bycatch reduction of both species. Updating the management strategy to dynamically adapt to shifts in multi-species habitat use through time is a step towards an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management in pelagic ecosystems.
This study aims to evaluate the potential for impacts of ocean acidification on North Atlantic deep-sea ecosystems in response to IPCC AR5 Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). Deep-sea biota is likely highly vulnerable to changes in seawater chemistry and sensitive to moderate excursions in pH. Here we show, from seven fully coupled Earth system models, that for three out of four RCPs over 17% of the seafloor area below 500 m depth in the North Atlantic sector will experience pH reductions exceeding −0.2 units by 2100. Increased stratification in response to climate change partially alleviates the impact of ocean acidification on deep benthic environments. We report on major pH reductions over the deep North Atlantic seafloor (depth >500 m) and at important deep-sea features, such as seamounts and canyons. By 2100, and under the high CO2 scenario RCP8.5, pH reductions exceeding −0.2 (−0.3) units are projected in close to 23% (~15%) of North Atlantic deep-sea canyons and ~8% (3%) of seamounts – including seamounts proposed as sites of marine protected areas. The spatial pattern of impacts reflects the depth of the pH perturbation and does not scale linearly with atmospheric CO2 concentration. Impacts may cause negative changes of the same magnitude or exceeding the current target of 10% of preservation of marine biomes set by the convention on biological diversity, implying that ocean acidification may offset benefits from conservation/management strategies relying on the regulation of resource exploitation.
Short, 6-page leaflet summarizing the European Union's Maritime Spatial Planning directive.
It has long been recognised that there are strong interactions and feedbacks between climate, upper ocean biogeochemistry and marine food webs, and also that food web structure and phytoplankton community distribution are important determinants of variability in carbon production and export from the euphotic zone. Numerical models provide a vital tool to explore these interactions, given their capability to investigate multiple connected components of the system and the sensitivity to multiple drivers, including potential future conditions. A major driver for ecosystem model development is the demand for quantitative tools to support ecosystem-based management initiatives. The purpose of this paper is to review approaches to the modelling of marine ecosystems with a focus on the North Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent shelf seas, and to highlight the challenges they face and suggest ways forward. We consider the state of the art in simulating oceans and shelf sea physics, planktonic and higher trophic level ecosystems, and look towards building an integrative approach with these existing tools. We note how the different approaches have evolved historically and that many of the previous obstacles to harmonisation may no longer be present. We illustrate this with examples from the on-going and planned modelling effort in the Integrative Modelling Work Package of the EURO-BASIN programme.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are used to protect species, communities, and their associated habitats, among other goals. Measuring MPA efficacy can be challenging, however, particularly when considering responses at the community level. We gathered 36 abundance and 14 biomass data sets on fish assemblages and used meta-analysis to evaluate the ability of 22 distinct community diversity metrics to detect differences in community structure between MPAs and nearby control sites. We also considered the effects of 6 covariates—MPA size and age, MPA size and age interaction, latitude, total species richness, and level of protection—on each metric. Some common metrics, such as species richness and Shannon diversity, did not differ consistently between MPA and control sites, whereas other metrics, such as total abundance and biomass, were consistently different across studies. Metric responses derived from the biomass data sets were more consistent than those based on the abundance data sets, suggesting that community-level biomass differs more predictably than abundance between MPA and control sites. Covariate analyses indicated that level of protection, latitude, MPA size, and the interaction between MPA size and age affect metric performance. These results highlight a handful of metrics, several of which are little known, that could be used to meet the increasing demand for community-level indicators of MPA effectiveness.