The world’s coastal zones are experiencing rapid development and an increase in storms and flooding. These hazards put coastal communities at heightened risk, which may increase with habitat loss. Here we analyse globally the role and cost effectiveness of coral reefs in risk reduction. Meta-analyses reveal that coral reefs provide substantial protection against natural hazards by reducing wave energy by an average of 97%. Reef crests alone dissipate most of this energy (86%). There are 100 million or more people who may receive risk reduction benefits from reefs or bear hazard mitigation and adaptation costs if reefs are degraded. We show that coral reefs can provide comparable wave attenuation benefits to artificial defences such as breakwaters, and reef defences can be enhanced cost effectively. Reefs face growing threats yet there is opportunity to guide adaptation and hazard mitigation investments towards reef restoration to strengthen this first line of coastal defence.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
Restoration of degraded land is recognized by the international community as an important way of enhancing both biodiversity and ecosystem services, but more information is needed about its costs and benefits. In Cambridgeshire, U.K., a long-term initiative to convert drained, intensively farmed arable land to a wetland habitat mosaic is driven by a desire both to prevent biodiversity loss from the nationally important Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve (Wicken Fen NNR) and to increase the provision of ecosystem services. We evaluated the changes in ecosystem service delivery resulting from this land conversion, using a new Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) to estimate biophysical and monetary values of ecosystem services provided by the restored wetland mosaic compared with the former arable land. Overall results suggest that restoration is associated with a net gain to society as a whole of $199 ha−1y−1, for a one-off investment in restoration of $2320 ha−1. Restoration has led to an estimated loss of arable production of $2040 ha−1y−1, but estimated gains of $671 ha−1y−1 in nature-based recreation, $120 ha−1y−1 from grazing, $48 ha−1y−1 from flood protection, and a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worth an estimated $72 ha−1y−1. Management costs have also declined by an estimated $1325 ha−1y−1. Despite uncertainties associated with all measured values and the conservative assumptions used, we conclude that there was a substantial gain to society as a whole from this land-use conversion. The beneficiaries also changed from local arable farmers under arable production to graziers, countryside users from towns and villages, and the global community, under restoration. We emphasize that the values reported here are not necessarily transferable to other sites.
The aim of this study is to predict changes in the distribution and extent of habitat forming species defined as “Priority Marine Habitats” (PMHs) in the North-East (NE) Atlantic under future scenarios of climate-induced environmental change. A Species Distribution Modelling method was used for each PMH to map the potential distribution of “most suitable” habitat. The area and percentage cover was calculated within each country׳s Exclusive Economic Zone for the baseline (2009) and the projected (2100) years. In addition, a conservation management score was calculated based on the number of PMHs that co-occur in assessment units. Overall, this study reveals the potential for movement and/or change in the extent of some PMHs across the NE Atlantic under an increased ocean temperature scenario (4 °C) by 2100. There are regional differences in the predicted changes and some countries will experience greater/different changes than others. The movement of biodiversity hotspots (where one or more PMHs occur in the same broad area) provides both opportunities and risks for conservation management that are discussed. Co-operation between neighbouring countries and marine regions will require substantial enhancement in order to provide a robust adaptive management strategy going forward.
Large-scale extraction of power from tidal streams within the Pentland Firth is expected to be underway in the near future. The Inner Sound of Stroma in particular has attracted significant commercial interest. To understand potential environmental impacts of the installation of a tidal turbine array a case study based upon the Inner Sound is considered. A numerical computational fluid dynamics model, Fluidity, is used to conduct a series of depth-averaged simulations to investigate velocity and bed shear stress changes due to the presence of idealised tidal turbine arrays. The number of turbines is increased from zero to 400. It is found that arrays in excess of 85 turbines have the potential to affect bed shear stress distributions in such a way that the most favourable sites for sediment accumulation migrate from the edges of the Inner Sound towards its centre. Deposits of fine gravel and coarse sand are indicated to occur within arrays of greater than 240 turbines with removal of existing deposits in the shallower channel margins also possible. The effects of the turbine array may be seen several kilometres from the site which has implications not only on sediment accumulation, but also on the benthic fauna.
Measuring the success or failure of natural resource management is a key challenge to evaluate the impact of conservation for ecological, economic and social outcomes. Marine reserves are a popular tool for managing coastal ecosystems and resources yet surprisingly few studies have quantified the social-economic impacts of marine reserves on food security despite the critical importance of this outcome for fisheries management in developing countries. Here, I conducted semi-structured household surveys with 113 women heads-of-households to investigate the influence of two old, well-enforced, no-take marine reserves on food security in four coastal fishing communities in Kenya, East Africa. Multi-model information-theoretic inference and matching methods found that marine reserves did not influence household food security, as measured by protein consumption, diet diversity and food coping strategies. Instead, food security was strongly influenced by fishing livelihoods and household wealth: fishing families and wealthier households were more food secure than non-fishing and poorer households. These findings highlight the importance of complex social and economic landscapes of livelihoods, urbanization, power and gender dynamics that can drive the outcomes of marine conservation and management.
The effects of bottom trawling on benthic invertebrates include reductions of biomass, diversity and body size. These changes may negatively affect prey availability for demersal fishes, potentially leading to reduced food intake, body condition and yield of fishes in chronically trawled areas. Here, the effect of trawling on the prey availability and diet of two commercially important flatfish species, plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) and dab (Limanda limanda), was investigated over a trawling intensity gradient in the Irish Sea. Previous work in this area has shown that trawling negatively affects the condition of plaice but not of dab. This study showed that reductions in local prey availability did not result in reduced feeding of fish. As trawling frequency increased, both fish and prey biomass declined, such that the ratio of fish to prey remained unchanged. Consequently, even at frequently trawled sites with low prey biomass, both plaice and dab maintained constant levels of stomach fullness and gut energy contents. However, dietary shifts in plaice towards energy-poor prey items were evident when prey species were analysed individually. This, together with a potential decrease in foraging efficiency due to low prey densities, was seen as the most plausible cause for the reduced body condition observed. Understanding the relationship between trawling, benthic impacts, fish foraging and resultant body condition is an important step in designing successful mitigation measures for future management strategies in bottom trawl fisheries.
Expectations about ecosystem based management (EBM) differ due to diverging perspectives about what EBM should be and how it should work. While EBM by its nature requires trade-offs to be made between ecological, economic and social sustainability criteria, the diversity of cross-sectoral perspectives, values, stakes, and the specificity of each individual situation determine the outcome of these trade-offs. The authors strive to raise awareness of the importance of interaction between three stakeholder groups (decision makers, scientists, and other actors) and argue that choosing appropriate degrees of interaction between them in a transparent way can make EBM more effective in terms of the three effectiveness criteria salience, legitimacy, and credibility. This article therefore presents an interaction triangle in which three crucial dimensions of stakeholder interactions are discussed: (A) between decision makers and scientists, who engage in framing to foster salience of scientific input to decision making, (B) between decision makers and other actors, to shape participation processes to foster legitimacy of EBM processes, and (C) between scientists and other actors, who collaborate to foster credibility of knowledge production. Due to the complexity of EBM, there is not one optimal interaction approach; rather, finding the optimal degrees of interaction for each dimension depends on the context in which EBM is implemented, i.e. the EBM objectives, the EBM initiator’s willingness for transparency and interaction, and other context-specific factors, such as resources, trust, and state of knowledge.
In 2011 humans caught and consumed 78.9 million tonnes of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other species groups from the world’s oceans, accounting for 16.6% of the world’s animal protein intake (FAO 2012). This is projected to increase further, to over 93 million tonnes by 2030 (World Bank 2013). Global demand for fish products has increased dramatically over recent decades. Fishing is also an important livelihood, globally providing employment to 38.4 million people of whom 90% are employed in small-scale fisheries (FAO 2012). The importance of fisheries continues to rise as coastal populations are increasing, and rapidly growing economies are driving up demand for fish. While aquaculture is increasing to meet some of this demand, wild capture fisheries continue to be critically important.
This review of the scientific literature provides a deep exploration of the importance of mangroves for wild capture fisheries. While mangroves are widely recognized for their role in enhancing both small scale and commercial fisheries, they are rapidly disappearing. A fuller understanding of this ecosystem service and its value in both social and economic terms will help enhance the sustainable management of both mangroves and fisheries.
The report firstly discusses some of the ecological processes which underpin the key role of mangroves in fisheries enhancement, followed by an exploration of the different mangrove- associated fishery types. As the fisheries value of mangroves is highly site specific, the report explores the drivers and mechanisms which can help to explain for different locations how many fish a mangrove produces, how many are caught by humans, and what the fisheries value is, both in economic terms, as a food supply or through the livelihoods that they support. Decision-makers can use this information to determine where fish productivity is highest, which allows them to make adequate decisions relating to conservation and restoration actions and sustainable fishing. We conclude with management recommendations for maintaining or enhancing the value of mangroves for fisheries for the long-term.
The role of mangroves in protecting our coasts against natural hazards such as storms, tsunamis and coastal erosion has been widely promoted. But the supposed coastal protection services of mangroves have also been subject to debate. The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International together with the University of Cambridge set out to map the current state of knowledge about the role of mangroves in coastal defence and put the different findings and views in perspective. The conclusion is that mangroves can indeed reduce the risk from a large number of hazards. This practical guidebook summarises the findings of the reviews and provides practical management recommendations to coastal zone managers and policymakers. These are the key messages:
Section 1. Is my shore at risk?
Section 2. The role of mangroves in coastal risk reduction
Section 3. Managing mangroves for coastal defence
Section 4. Recognizing the multiple values of mangroves
Giant clams (Hippopus and Tridacna species) are thought to play various ecological roles in coral reef ecosystems, but most of these have not previously been quantified. Using data from the literature and our own studies we elucidate the ecological functions of giant clams. We show how their tissues are food for a wide array of predators and scavengers, while their discharges of live zooxanthellae, faeces, and gametes are eaten by opportunistic feeders. The shells of giant clams provide substrate for colonization by epibionts, while commensal and ectoparasitic organisms live within their mantle cavities. Giant clams increase the topographic heterogeneity of the reef, act as reservoirs of zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium spp.), and also potentially counteract eutrophication via water filtering. Finally, dense populations of giant clams produce large quantities of calcium carbonate shell material that are eventually incorporated into the reef framework. Unfortunately, giant clams are under great pressure from overfishing and extirpations are likely to be detrimental to coral reefs. A greater understanding of the numerous contributions giant clams provide will reinforce the case for their conservation.
Marine industries face a number of risks that necessitate careful analysis prior to making decisions on the siting of operations and facilities. An important emerging regulatory framework on environmental sustainability for business operations is the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standard 6 (IFC PS6). Within PS6, identification of biodiversity significance is articulated through the concept of “Critical Habitat”, a definition developed by the IFC and detailed through criteria aligned with those that support internationally accepted biodiversity designations. No publicly available tools have been developed in either the marine or terrestrial realm to assess the likelihood of sites or operations being located within PS6-defined Critical Habitat. This paper presents a starting point towards filling this gap in the form of a preliminary global map that classifies more than 13 million km2 of marine and coastal areas of importance for biodiversity (protected areas, Key Biodiversity Areas [KBA], sea turtle nesting sites, cold- and warm-water corals, seamounts, seagrass beds, mangroves, saltmarshes, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps) based on their overlap with Critical Habitat criteria, as defined by IFC. In total, 5798×103 km2 (1.6%) of the analysis area (global ocean plus coastal land strip) were classed as Likely Critical Habitat, and 7526×103 km2 (2.1%) as Potential Critical Habitat; the remainder (96.3%) were Unclassified. The latter was primarily due to the paucity of biodiversity data in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction and/or in deep waters, and the comparatively fewer protected areas and KBAs in these regions. Globally, protected areas constituted 65.9% of the combined Likely and Potential Critical Habitat extent, and KBAs 29.3%, not accounting for the overlap between these two features. Relative Critical Habitat extent in Exclusive Economic Zones varied dramatically between countries. This work is likely to be of particular use for industries operating in the marine and coastal realms as an early screening aid prior to in situ Critical Habitat assessment; to financial institutions making investment decisions; and to those wishing to implement good practice policies relevant to biodiversity management. Supplementary material (available online) includes other global datasets considered, documentation and justification of biodiversity feature classification, detail of IFC PS6 criteria/scenarios, and coverage calculations.
Ornamental marine species (‘OMS’) provide valuable income for developing nations in the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle, from which most of the specimens are exported. OMS culture can help diversify livelihoods in the region, in support of management and conservation efforts to reduce destructive fishing and collection practices that threaten coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. Adoption of OMS culture depends on demonstrating its success as a livelihood, yet few studies of OMS culture exist in the region. We present a case study of a land-based culture project for an endangered seahorse (Hippocampus barbouri) in the Spermonde Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia. The business model demonstrated that culturing can increase family income by seven times. A Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) analysis indicated good collaboration among diverse stakeholders and opportunities for culturing non-endangered species and for offshoot projects, but complicated permitting was an issue as were threats of market flooding and production declines. The OMS international market is strong, Indonesian exporters expressed great interest in cultured product, and Indonesia is the largest exporting country for H. barbouri. Yet, a comparison of Indonesia ornamental marine fish exports to fish abundance in a single local market indicated that OMS culture cannot replace fishing livelihoods. Nevertheless, seahorse and other OMS culture can play a role in management and conservation by supplementing and diversifying the fishing and collecting livelihoods in the developing nations that provide the majority of the global OMS.
Under exploitation and environmental change, it is essential to assess the sensitivity and vulnerability of marine ecosystems to such stress. A species' response to stress depends on its life history. Sensitivity to harvesting is related to the life history “fast–slow” continuum, where “slow” species (i.e., large, long lived, and late maturing) are expected to be more sensitive to fishing than “fast” ones. We analyze life history traits variation for all common fish species in the Barents Sea and rank fishes along fast–slow gradients obtained by ordination analyses. In addition, we integrate species' fast–slow ranks with ecosystem survey data for the period 2004–2009, to assess life history variation at the community level in space and time. Arctic fishes were smaller, had shorter life spans, earlier maturation, larger offspring, and lower fecundity than boreal ones. Arctic fishes could thus be considered faster than the boreal species, even when body size was corrected for. Phylogenetically related species possessed similar life histories. Early in the study period, we found a strong spatial gradient, where members of fish assemblages in the southwestern Barents Sea displayed slower life histories than in the northeast. However, in later, warmer years, the gradient weakened caused by a northward movement of boreal species. As a consequence, the northeast experienced increasing proportions of slower fish species. This study is a step toward integrating life history traits in ecosystem-based areal management. On the basis of life history traits, we assess the fish sensitivity to fishing, at the species and community level. We show that climate warming promotes a borealization of fish assemblages in the northeast, associated with slower life histories in that area. The biology of Arctic species is still poorly known, and boreal species that now establish in the Arctic are fishery sensitive, which calls for cautious ecosystem management of these areas.
The giant bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) has experienced precipitous population declines throughout its range due to its importance as a highly-prized fishery target and cultural resource. Because of its diet, Bolbometopon may serve as a keystone species on Indo-Pacific coral reefs, yet comprehensive descriptions of its reproductive ecology do not exist. We used a variety of underwater visual census (UVC) methods to study an intact population of Bolbometopon at Wake Atoll, a remote and protected coral atoll in the west Pacific. Key observations include spawning activities in the morning around the full and last quarter moon, with possible spawning extending to the new moon. We observed peaks in aggregation size just prior to and following the full and last quarter moon, respectively, and observed a distinct break in spawning at the site that persisted for four days; individuals returned to the aggregation site one day prior to the last quarter moon and resumed spawning the following day. The mating system was lek-based, characterized by early male arrival at the spawning site followed by vigorous defense (including head-butting between large males) of small territories. These territories were apparently used to attract females that arrived later in large schools, causing substantial changes in the sex ratio on the aggregation site at any given time during the morning spawning period. Aggression between males and courtship of females led to pair spawning within the upper water column. Mating interference was not witnessed but we noted instances suggesting that sperm competition might occur. Densities of Bolbometopon on the aggregation site averaged 10.07(±3.24 SE) fish per hectare (ha) with maximum densities of 51.5 fish per ha. By comparing our observations to the results of biennial surveys conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), we confirmed spatial consistency of the aggregation across years as well as a temporal break in spawning activity and aggregation that occurred during the lunar phase. We estimated the area encompassed by the spawning aggregation to be 0.72 ha, suggesting that spawning site closures and temporal closures centered around the full to the new moon might form one component of a management and conservation plan for this species. Our study of the mating system and spawning aggregation behavior of Bolbometopon from the protected, relatively pristine population at Wake Atoll provides crucial baselines of population density, sex ratio composition, and productivity of a spawning aggregation site from an oceanic atoll. Such information is key for conservation efforts and provides a basic platform for the design of marine protected areas for this threatened iconic coral reef fish, as well as for species with similar ecological and life history characteristics.
Describes NOAA’s efforts to support the scientific, policy, and economic framework needed to increase use of information on coastal wetland’s carbon sequestration potential in coastal management.
Many scientific diagnoses of declining marine species and habitats and of recreational use patterns along U.S. coasts point to upland and freshwater sources of imperilment. A growing number of scientists argue that the best hope for protecting marine resources for multiple uses is to consider larger-scale processes, including activities that take place on land, when designing management strategies. But how inclusion of land- and water-use practices in strategies to sustain coastal marine resources affects management outcomes is poorly understood. The goal of this research is to assess the importance of including these practices in the management of coastal marine resources, using an ecosystem services framework. An ecosystem services framework provides a clear and novel path forward—one that integrates ecological processes with socioeconomic behavior and values.
The specific objectives of the research are to develop a set of linked watershed-marine models with ecosystem service outputs to evaluate management strategies for coastal resources and to apply those models to three case studies: Puget Sound, Galveston Bay, and Chesapeake Bay. In each case, we compare the strength and influence of watershed activities on key ecosystem services and ask how outcomes of marine resource management strategies are affected by including coastal watershed processes. We also explore a limited set of climate change scenarios. We estimate ecosystem services and their values using production function approaches, focusing on how changes in system function driven by land use management and climate change lead to changes in the provisioning of food from selected fisheries. Future work may extend this analysis to aquaculture, recreation, and coastal protection.
Industrial tuna fisheries operate in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but concerns over sustainability and environmental impacts of these fisheries have resulted in increased scrutiny of how they are managed. An important but often overlooked factor in the success or failure of tuna fisheries management is the behaviour of fishers and fishing fleets. Uncertainty in how a fishing fleet will respond to management or other influences can be reduced by anticipating fleet behaviour, although to date there has been little research directed at understanding and anticipating the human dimension of tuna fisheries. The aim of this study was to address gaps in knowledge of the behaviour of tuna fleets, using the Indian Ocean tropical tuna purse seine fishery as a case study. We use statistical modelling to examine the factors that influence the spatial behaviour of the purse seine fleet at broad spatiotemporal scales. This analysis reveals very high consistency between years in the use of seasonal fishing grounds by the fleet, as well as a forcing influence of biophysical ocean conditions on the distribution of fishing effort. These findings suggest strong inertia in the spatial behaviour of the fleet, which has important implications for predicting the response of the fleet to natural events or management measures (e.g., spatial closures).
Ballast water in ships is an important contributor to the secondary spread of invasive species in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Here, we use a model previously created to determine the role ballast water management has played in the secondary spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) to identify the future spread of one current and two potential invasive species in the Great Lakes, the Eurasian Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus), killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus), and golden mussel (Limnoperna fortunei), respectively. Model predictions for Eurasian Ruffe have been used to direct surveillance efforts within the Great Lakes and DNA evidence of ruffe presence was recently reported from one of three high risk port localities identified by our model. Predictions made for killer shrimp and golden mussel suggest that these two species have the potential to become rapidly widespread if introduced to the Great Lakes, reinforcing the need for proactive ballast water management. The model used here is flexible enough to be applied to any species capable of being spread by ballast water in marine or freshwater ecosystems.
A clear understanding of population structure is essential for assessing conservation status and implementing management strategies. A small, non-migratory population of humpback whales in the Arabian Sea is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, an assessment constrained by a lack of data, including limited understanding of its relationship to other populations. We analysed 11 microsatellite markers and mitochondrial DNA sequences extracted from 67 Arabian Sea humpback whale tissue samples and compared them to equivalent datasets from the Southern Hemisphere and North Pacific. Results show that the Arabian Sea population is highly distinct; estimates of gene flow and divergence times suggest a Southern Indian Ocean origin but indicate that it has been isolated for approximately 70,000 years, remarkable for a species that is typically highly migratory. Genetic diversity values are significantly lower than those obtained for Southern Hemisphere populations and signatures of ancient and recent genetic bottlenecks were identified. Our findings suggest this is the world's most isolated humpback whale population, which, when combined with low population abundance estimates and anthropogenic threats, raises concern for its survival. We recommend an amendment of the status of the population to “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
We fish too much, and by doing so, we threaten marine ecosystems and people’s livelihoods. But the curious thing is: we have known this for a long time. Nonetheless, we continue to overfish. How is that possible? Why can we not stop? This paper recounts our search for an answer. We start by giving an overview of how scientists explain overfishing, and suggest that the riddle of its obduracy has not been addressed systematically. We conceptualize overfishing as an unplanned and unintended outcome of a chain of interrelated social and ecological events. We then analyze the chain of events leading to overfishing for two typical cases – the groundfish fishery in the Gulf of Maine and the South African abalone (Haliotis midae, Haliotidae) fishery – and two atypical cases where overfishing has stopped or been substantially reduced – the Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides, Nototheniidae and Dissostichus mawsoni, Nototheniidae) fishery in the Southern Ocean, and the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua, Gadidae) fishery in the Barents Sea. Studying and comparing these cases reveals no sufficient set of factors to explain the persistence of overfishing. Rather, distinct pathways emerge from a concatenation of proximate and remote factors, leading to and sustaining overfishing. Understanding these pathways and their mechanisms can assist in locating leverage points for intervention aimed to stop overfishing.