Indonesia harbours a high diversity of cetaceans, yet effective conservation is hampered by a lack of knowledge about cetacean spatial distribution and habitat preferences. This study aimed to address this knowledge gap at an adequate resolution to support national cetacean conservation and management planning. Maximum Entropy (Maxent) modelling was used to map the distribution of 15 selected cetacean species in seven areas within Indonesian waters using recent cetacean presence datasets as well as environmental predictors (topographic and oceanographic variables). We then combined the individual species suitable habitat maps and overlaid them with provincial marine spatial planning (MSP) jurisdictions, marine protected areas (MPAs), oil and gas contract areas, and marine traffic density. Our results reflect a great heterogeneity in distribution among species and within species among different locations. This heterogeneity reflects an interrelated influence of topographic variables and oceanographic processes on the distribution of cetacean species. Bathymetry, distance to- coast and the −200m isobaths, and chlorophyll-a concentration and sea surface temperature were important variables influencing distribution of most species in many regions. Areas rich in species were mainly related to coastal areas or insular-reef complexity, representing high productivity and upwelling-modified waters. Although some important suitable habitats currently fall within MPAs, other areas are not and overlap with oil and gas exploration activities and marine traffic, indicating potentially high risk areas for cetaceans. The results of this study can support national cetacean conservation and management planning, and be used to reduce or avoid adverse anthropogenic threats. We advise to consider currently unprotected suitable cetacean habitats in MPA and MSP development.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
The floating marine debris (FMD) and the associated rafting communities are one of the major stressors to ecosystem services, global biodiversity and economy and human health. In this study, assemblages of encrusting organisms on different types of stranded FMD along the west coast of Qatar, Arabian/Persian Gulf (hereafter referred to as ‘Gulf’) were examined. The analysis showed 18 fouling species belonging to 5 phyla (Annelida, Anthropoda, Bryozoa, Mollusca and Porifera) on the FMD. The most abundant fouling species were the encrusting Amphibalanus amphitrite, polychaete Spirobranchus kraussii, Bryozoan species and Megabalanus coccopoma. More number of taxa were found on larger size FMD than on smaller FMD. Some of the barnacle rafting types were found to be non-indigenous species. The central and northwest parts of the Qatar had more FMD and fouled species than in other locations. Winds and the prevailing hydrodynamic conditions (waves and currents) played an important role in the transportation and distribution of FMD and associated organisms along the west coast of Qatar. The present study confirmed that huge amount of bio-fouled FMD items, causing great damage to biodiversity, drift in the surface layer of ocean and eventually strand onto the beaches. We propose a simple, but an effective management plan for FMD and associated organisms at regional scale to restore the biodiversity, sustainability and health of the marine ecosystem in the Gulf.
The increase in frequency and duration of marine heatwaves (MHWs) under global warming brings great pressure to society. The high vulnerability of ecosystems to MHWs may lead to severe ecological and socioeconomic impacts. Most studies assessed future climate responses at the Paris Agreement temperature goals based on transient, rather than stabilization, model simulations. Here, we investigate the differences between transient and stabilization responses at global warming of 1.5 °C in terms of MHWs. Concentrations of greenhouse gases and response time scales to the anthropogenic forcing differ in these two types of simulations because subsurface ocean temperatures take decades to centuries to adjust under external forcing. While global mean metrics of MHWs show little difference between the transient and stabilization responses, significant regional disparities are revealed worldwide, including many climate change hotspots. Regionally intensified MHWs at stabilized 1.5 °C are mostly due to air-sea interactions and subsurface ocean warming that contributes to the stronger SST warming in eastern boundary upwelling systems and the southern Indian Ocean, indicative of potentially greater impacts on marine ecosystems in these regions. In contrast, MHWs would be alleviated in the central equatorial Pacific and Arctic in stabilization responses. Substantial differences in regional MHWs between the transient and stabilization responses oblige us to reconsider previous assessments regarding 1.5 °C warming and future mitigation pathways.
Neuston samples were collected with a Manta trawl in the rim of the Arctic Ocean, in the Northern Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea at eleven coastal and open-sea locations. All samples contained plastics identified by FTIR microscopy. Altogether, 110 microplastics pieces were classified according to size, shape, and polymer type. The concentrations at the locations were generally low (x̅ = 0.06, SD ± 0.04 particles m−3) as compared to previous observations. The highest concentrations were found towards the Arctic Ocean, while those in the Baltic Sea were generally low. The most abundant polymer type was polyethylene. Detected particle types were mainly fragments. The number of films and fibers was very low. The mean particle size was 2.66 mm (SD ± 1.55 mm). Clustering analyses revealed that debris compositions in the sea regions had characteristic differences possibly reflecting the dependences between compositions, drifting distances, sinking rates, and local oceanographic conditions.
The expansion of fisheries and its increased efficiency are causing severe detrimental impacts on marine species and ecosystems, that can be categorised into operational and ecological effects. While impacts directly caused by fishing activities have been extensively documented, it is difficult to set an empirical link between fisheries and changes in predator biomass and abundance. Therefore, exploring the functioning of ecosystems as a whole, the interactions between the different species within them and the impact of human activities, is key to understanding the ecological effects of fisheries on top predators and ecosystems, and to develop effective conservation measures, while ensuring a more sustainable exploitation of fishing resources. For instance, mass balance models, such as Ecopath with Ecosim, have proven to be a useful tool to develop more holistic fisheries management and conservation strategies. In this study, Ecopath with Ecosim was used to investigate the temporal dynamics of the Rías Baixas shelf ecosystem (North-West Spain) between 2005 and 2017. Additionally, nine 30-year forward projecting simulations covering the period 2018–2047 were developed to examine the effects of differing fisheries management strategies on common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Results from these models suggest that when intense fishing increases it poses a major threat to the conservation of these top predators in the area, by reducing the variety of their available prey and potentially enhancing competition amongst them. The study highlights the applicability of Ecopath with Ecosim to develop cetacean conservation measures and despite its small spatial scale, it provides a general framework that can be used to assess cetacean conservation in larger and impacted areas.
Plastic pollution has become a global threat to the marine environment. Many studies have indicated that marine creatures are at risk of plastic ingestion, but relevant studies are still lacking in Taiwan. In this study, we quantified plastic debris ingestion by marine fish in the coastal waters of the Hengchun Peninsula, including the Kenting National park, located in southern Taiwan. We also investigated possible biotic and abiotic factors associated with the quantity of ingested plastic by fish. In the 117 fish samples we examined, 94.87% of them had ingested plastic debris, and all of the observed debris was microplastics (<5 mm). The average number of ingested microplastics was 5.6 ± 5.1 pieces per fish (ranged 0–32 pieces per fish). The major type and color of microplastics were fiber (96%) and blue (43%), respectively. The quantity of ingested microplastics was not significantly different between the reef and pelagic fish. However, reef fish from the more populated west and south coast ingested more microplastics than that from the east coast, suggesting that microplastic ingestion by fish is related to human activity. Regarding biotic factors, the size, trophic level, and taxonomic family of the fish were not significantly associated with the number of ingested microplastics. Our results, the first investigation of microplastic ingestion in marine fish of Taiwan, show a high prevalence of microplastic ingestion but no biomagnification of microplastics in the fish. More research is much needed to better characterize the biological and ecological impacts of plastic debris on fish.
Soundscape ecology is an emerging field in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and provides a powerful approach for assessing habitat quality and the ecological response of sound-producing species to natural and anthropogenic perturbations. Little is known of how underwater soundscapes respond during and after severe episodic disturbances, such as hurricanes. This study addresses the impacts of Hurricane Irma on the coral reef soundscape at two spur-and-groove fore-reef sites within the Florida Keys USA, using passive acoustic data collected before and during the storm at Western Dry Rocks (WDR) and before, during and after the storm at Eastern Sambo (ESB). As the storm passed, the cumulative acoustic exposure near the seabed at these sites was comparable to a small vessel operating continuously overhead for 1–2 weeks. Before the storm, sound pressure levels (SPLs) showed a distinct pattern of low frequency diel variation and increased high frequency sound during crepuscular periods. The low frequency band was partitioned in two groups representative of soniferous reef fish, whereas the high frequency band represented snapping shrimp sound production. Daily daytime patterns in low-frequency sound production largely persisted in the weeks following the hurricane. Crepuscular sound production by snapping shrimp was maintained post-hurricane with only a small shift (~1.5dB) in the level of daytime vs nighttime sound production for this high frequency band. This study suggests that on short time scales, temporal patterns in the coral reef soundscape were relatively resilient to acoustic energy exposure during the storm, as well as changes in the benthic habitat and environmental conditions resulting from hurricane damage.
Tropical reefs are declining rapidly due to climate changes and local stressors such as water quality deterioration and overfishing. The so-called marginal reefs sustain significant coral cover and growth but are dominated by fewer species adapted to suboptimal conditions to most coral species. However, the dynamics of marginal systems may diverge from that of the archetypical oligotrophic tropical reefs, and it is unclear whether they are more or less susceptible to anthropogenic stress. Here, we present the largest (100 fixed quadrats at five reefs) and longest time series (13 years) of benthic cover data for Southwestern Atlantic turbid zone reefs, covering sites under contrasting anthropogenic and oceanographic forcing. Specifically, we addressed how benthic cover changed among habitats and sites, and possible dominance-shift trends. We found less temporal variation in offshore pinnacles’ tops than on nearshore ones and, conversely, higher temporal fluctuation on offshore pinnacles’ walls than on nearshore ones. In general, the Abrolhos reefs sustained a stable coral cover and we did not record regional-level dominance shifts favoring other organisms. However, coral decline was evidenced in one reef near a dredging disposal site. Relative abundances of longer-lived reef builders showed a high level of synchrony, which indicates that their dynamics fluctuate under similar drivers. Therefore, changes on those drivers could threaten the stability of these reefs. With the intensification of thermal anomalies and land-based stressors, it is unclear whether the Abrolhos reefs will keep providing key ecosystem services. It is paramount to restrain local stressors that contributed to coral reef deterioration in the last decades, once reversal and restoration tend to become increasingly difficult as coral reefs degrade further and climate changes escalate.
Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) populations have experienced widespread declines in abundance and abrupt shifts toward younger and smaller adults returning to spawn in rivers. The causal agents underpinning these shifts are largely unknown. Here we investigate the potential role of late-stage marine mortality, defined as occurring after the first winter at sea, in driving this species’ changing age structure. Simulations using a stage-based life cycle model that included additional mortality during after the first winter at sea better reflected observed changes in the age structure of a well-studied and representative population of Chinook salmon from the Yukon River drainage, compared with a model estimating environmentally-driven variation in age-specific survival alone. Although the specific agents of late-stage mortality are not known, our finding is consistent with work reporting predation by salmon sharks (Lamna ditropis) and marine mammals including killer whales (Orcinus orca). Taken as a whole, this work suggests that Pacific salmon mortality after the first winter at sea is likely to be higher than previously thought and highlights the need to investigate selective sources of mortality, such as predation, as major contributors to rapidly changing age structure of spawning adult Chinook salmon.
Maritime piracy constitutes a major threat to global shipping and international trade. We argue that fishers turn to piracy to smooth expected income losses and to deter illegal foreign fishing fleets. Previous investigations have generally focused on cross-national determinants of the incidence of piracy in territorial waters. These investigations neglect piracy in international waters and ignore its spatial dependence, whereby pirate attacks cluster in certain locations due to neighborhood and spillover effects. We conduct a geographically disaggregated analysis using geo-referenced data of piracy and its covariates between 2005 and 2014. We demonstrate that the incidence of piracy in a particular location is associated with higher catch volumes from high-bycatch and habitat-destroying fishing, even when controlling for conditions in proximate coastal areas. We find, additionally, that illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing exerts an especially pronounced effect on piracy. These findings highlight the need for anti-piracy solutions beyond enforcement to include the policing of fishing practices that are illegal or are perceived by local fishers in vulnerable coastal areas to be harmful to small-scale fishing economies.
Monitoring of marine protected areas (MPAs) is critical for marine ecosystem management, yet current protocols rely on SCUBA-based visual surveys that are costly and time consuming, limiting their scope and effectiveness. Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding is a promising alternative for marine ecosystem monitoring, but more direct comparisons to visual surveys are needed to understand the strengths and limitations of each approach. This study compares fish communities inside and outside the Scorpion State Marine Reserve off Santa Cruz Island, CA using eDNA metabarcoding and underwater visual census surveys. Results from eDNA captured 76% (19/25) of fish species and 95% (19/20) of fish genera observed during pairwise underwater visual census. Species missed by eDNA were due to the inability of MiFish 12S barcodes to differentiate species of rockfishes (Sebastes, n = 4) or low site occupancy rates of crevice-dwelling Lythrypnus gobies. However, eDNA detected an additional 23 fish species not recorded in paired visual surveys, but previously reported from prior visual surveys, highlighting the sensitivity of eDNA. Significant variation in eDNA signatures by location (50 m) and site (~1000 m) demonstrates the sensitivity of eDNA to address key questions such as community composition inside and outside MPAs. Results demonstrate the utility of eDNA metabarcoding for monitoring marine ecosystems, providing an important complementary tool to visual methods.
Predation mortality can influence the distribution and abundance of fish populations. While predation is often assessed using direct observations of prey consumption, potential predation can be predicted from co-occurring predator and prey densities under varying environmental conditions. Juvenile Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. (i.e., smolts) from the Columbia River Basin experience elevated mortality during the transition from estuarine to ocean habitat, but a thorough understanding of the role of predation remains incomplete. We used a Holling type II functional response to estimate smolt predation risk based on observations of piscivorous seabirds (sooty shearwater [Ardenna griseus] and common murre [Uria aalge]) and local densities of alternative prey fish including northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) in Oregon and Washington coastal waters during May and June 2010–2012. We evaluated predation risk relative to the availability of alternative prey and physical factors including turbidity and Columbia River plume area, and compared risk to returns of adult salmon. Seabirds and smolts consistently co-occurred at sampling stations throughout most of the study area (mean = 0.79 ± 0.41, SD), indicating that juvenile salmon are regularly exposed to avian predators during early marine residence. Predation risk for juvenile coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), yearling Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), and subyearling Chinook salmon was on average 70% lower when alternative prey were present. Predation risk was greater in turbid waters, and decreased as water clarity increased. Juvenile coho and yearling Chinook salmon predation risk was lower when river plume surface areas were greater than 15,000 km2, while the opposite was estimated for subyearling Chinook salmon. These results suggest that plume area, turbidity, and forage fish abundance near the mouth of the Columbia River, all of which are influenced by river discharge, are useful indicators of potential juvenile salmon mortality that could inform salmonid management.
Repeated counts of animal abundance can reveal changes in local ecosystem health and inform conservation strategies. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones, are commonly used to photograph animals in remote locations; however, counting animals in images is a laborious task. Crowd-sourcing can reduce the time required to conduct these censuses considerably, but must first be validated against expert counts to measure sources of error. Our objectives were to assess the accuracy and precision of citizen science counts and make recommendations for future citizen science projects. We uploaded drone imagery from Año Nuevo Island (California, USA) to a curated Zooniverse website that instructed citizen scientists to count seals and sea lions. Across 212 days, over 1,500 volunteers counted animals in 90,000 photographs. We quantified the error associated with several descriptive statistics to extract a single citizen science count per photograph from the 15 repeat counts and then compared the resulting citizen science counts to expert counts. Although proportional error was relatively low (9% for sea lions and 5% for seals during the breeding seasons) and improved with repeat sampling, the 12+ volunteers required to reduce error was prohibitively slow, taking on average 6 weeks to estimate animals from a single drone flight covering 25 acres, despite strong public outreach efforts. The single best algorithm was ‘Median without the lowest two values’, demonstrating that citizen scientists tended to under-estimate the number of animals present. Citizen scientists accurately counted adult seals, but accuracy was lower when sea lions were present during the summer and could be confused for seals. We underscore the importance of validation efforts and careful project design for researchers hoping to combine citizen science with imagery from drones, occupied aircraft, and/or remote cameras.
This article offers a theological response to the Ten Commandments of Food (TCF) in the context of the marine ecological crisis. The TCF is a unique and effective campaign for food security which advocates for sustainable living through the mission of Christian churches. As the campaign includes farmers, it reframes food security and sustainability as a part of ecclesial life. However, the neglect of fish, fisher, and sea in the TCF has negative consequences for marine ecosystem. This exclusion endangers the sustainability of marine life and all those who depend on the sea for livelihood and sustenance. Therefore, this article suggests that it is essential to include fish, fisher, and sea in the TCF – noting that they have a crucial place in Christianity as depicted particularly in the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. This will make the TCF a more comprehensive campaign with positive contributions for marine life.
Characterizing the response of ecosystems to global climate change requires that multiple aspects of environmental change be considered simultaneously, however, it can be difficult to describe the relative importance of environmental metrics given their collinearity. Here, we present a novel framework for disentangling the complex ecological effects of environmental variability by documenting the emergent properties of eelgrass (Zostera marina) ecosystems across ∼225 km of the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, representing gradients in temperature, light, sediment properties, and water motion, and evaluate the relative importance of different metrics characterizing these environmental conditions (e.g., means, extremes, variability on different time scales) for eelgrass bioindicators using lasso regression and commonality analysis. We found that eelgrass beds in areas that were warmer, shallower, and had low water motion had lower productivity and resilience relative to beds in deeper, cooler areas that were well flushed, and that higher temperatures lowered eelgrass tolerance to low-light conditions. There was significant variation in the importance of various metrics of temperature, light, and water motion across biological responses, demonstrating that different aspects of environmental change uniquely impact the cellular, physiological, and ecological processes underlying eelgrass productivity and resilience, and contribute synergistically to the observed ecosystem response. In particular, we identified the magnitude of temperature variability over daily and tidal cycles as an important determinant of eelgrass productivity. These results indicate that ecosystem responses are not fully resolved by analyses that only consider changes in mean conditions, and that the removal of collinear variables prior to analyses relating environmental metrics to biological change reduces the potential to detect important environmental effects. The framework we present can help to identify the conditions that promote high ecosystem function and resilience, which is necessary to inform nearshore conservation and management practices under global climate change.
The paper aims to elucidate the physico-chemical characteristics of the shell of mangrove horseshoe crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) and determine the compilation matrix for the first time. The shell composition matrix of C. rotundicauda has never been studied in detail before, especially the shape of the foam, the chemical composition, the functional groups and the mechanical-physical and thermal properties of the shell. Based on this study, the shell structure of the mangrove horseshoe crab has the potential to be used as the base structure for developing bio-foam insulator material in the future. Therefore, the shell of mangrove horseshoe crabs has a unique natural structure in the form of foam. Its robust and elastic structure has the potential for further development for new marine biomaterials. The formation and composition of horseshoe crab shells foam are also believed to be multifunctional in mobility, used for defense mechanisms and thermal stability. The horseshoe crab samples were collected from Pacitan coastal waters, East Java, Indonesia. The research was conducted using physico-chemical and mechanical-physical analysis. The scanning electron microscopy was used in order to clarify the physico-chemical characteristics. The measurements of the mechanical-physical characteristics included density, unit cell size, and water absorption. The tensile strength and compressive strength were analyzed based on the American Society for Testing Material. Thermal resistance was measured by thermal gravimetric analysis. The results showed that the horseshoe crab shells have a unique structure, where chitin, protein and some minerals are the main chemical elements. The combination and major constituents of the horseshoe crab shell material provide strong and plastic mechanical properties with a maximum tensile strength of 60.46 kPa and maximum compressive strength of 110.55 kPa, water absorption of 0.01195 ± 0.001% and a density value of 0.1545 ± 0.011 g/cm3 as well as the capability to withstand thermal loads with peak decomposition values of 267.4–823.2°C and thermal stability of 60.59%. Using natural marine biomaterials in the future will be beneficial because it leaves no harmful residues and therefore has environmental advantages and at the same time, it is also more cost-effective.
Identifying threatened populations and quantifying their vulnerability is crucial for establishing priorities for conservation and providing robust information for decision-making. Lahille’s bottlenose dolphins have been long subjected to by-catch mortality in gillnet fisheries in coastal waters of southern Brazil, particularly in the Patos Lagoon estuary (PLE) and adjacent coastal waters, where dolphins from three populations (or Management Units) show overlapping home ranges. In this study we used a stage-classified matrix population model to conduct a demographic analysis of the PLE’s population with life-history data estimated through an 8 years mark-recapture study. A population viability analysis (PVA) was used to run a series of simulations where the risk was assessed under different by-catch scenarios, taking into account the effects of parameter uncertainty and stochasticity in the projections. In the absence of by-catch, we estimated that this dolphin population would growth at a rate of about 3% annually (95% CI: 1.2–5.8%). Under current by-catch rates, prognoses indicated high probabilities of viability over the next 60 years. These optimistic prognoses appear to be associated with the high survival of adult females. However, the eventual removal of very few mature females (one every year or two) would result in a prominent likelihood of decline from its current abundance at all pre-specified levels. The viability of the population would be substantially improved if the survival of juveniles/sub-adults could be increased. This may be achieved through the recently implemented dolphin protection area, which prohibits gillnet fisheries in the core area of this population. If the protection area reduces the entanglement rates of the most impacted life-stages (i.e., juvenile/sub-adult dolphins), there would be a substantial chance of the PLE’s dolphin population increasing above 20% of its current size, which is here proposed as conservation goal. If met, this goal has the potential to promote habitat quality, increase genetic diversity and connectivity with adjacent populations, enhancing the ability of bottlenose dolphins in southern Brazil to cope with environmental change and potential disease outbreaks.
Understanding the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to ocean acidification is a critical issue, especially in the Southern Ocean (SO), which is likely to be the one of the first, and most severely affected regions. Since the industrial revolution, ~30% of anthropogenic CO2 has been absorbed by the global oceans. Average surface seawater pH levels have already decreased by 0.1 and are projected to decline by ~0.3 by the year 2100. This process, known as ocean acidification (OA), is shallowing the saturation horizon, which is the depth below which calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolves, likely increasing the vulnerability of many resident marine calcifiers to dissolution. The negative impact of OA may be seen first in species depositing more soluble CaCO3 mineral phases such as aragonite and high-Mg calcite (HMC). Ocean warming could further exacerbate the effects of OA in these particular species. Here we combine a review and a quantitative meta-analysis to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge about skeletal mineralogy of major taxonomic groups of SO marine calcifiers and to make projections about how OA might affect a broad range of SO taxa. We consider a species' geographic range, skeletal mineralogy, biological traits, and potential strategies to overcome OA. The meta-analysis of studies investigating the effects of the OA on a range of biological responses such as shell state, development and growth rate illustrates that the response variation is largely dependent on mineralogical composition. Species-specific responses due to mineralogical composition indicate that taxa with calcitic, aragonitic, and HMC skeletons, could be at greater risk to expected future carbonate chemistry alterations, and low-Mg calcite (LMC) species could be mostly resilient to these changes. Environmental and biological control on the calcification process and/or Mg content in calcite, biological traits, and physiological processes are also expected to influence species-specific responses.
The manuscript assesses the current and expected future global drivers of Southern Ocean (SO) ecosystems. Atmospheric ozone depletion over the Antarctic since the 1970s, has been a key driver, resulting in springtime cooling of the stratosphere and intensification of the polar vortex, increasing the frequency of positive phases of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). This increases warm air-flow over the East Pacific sector (Western Antarctic Peninsula) and cold air flow over the West Pacific sector. SAM as well as El Niño Southern Oscillation events also affect the Amundsen Sea Low leading to either positive or negative sea ice anomalies in the west and east Pacific sectors, respectively. The strengthening of westerly winds is also linked to shoaling of deep warmer water onto the continental shelves, particularly in the East Pacific and Atlantic sectors. Air and ocean warming has led to changes in the cryosphere, with glacial and ice sheet melting in both sectors, opening up new ice free areas to biological productivity, but increasing seafloor disturbance by icebergs. The increased melting is correlated with a salinity decrease particularly in the surface 100 m. Such processes could increase the availability of iron, which is currently limiting primary production over much of the SO. Increasing CO2 is one of the most important SO anthropogenic drivers and is likely to affect marine ecosystems in the coming decades. While levels of many pollutants are lower than elsewhere, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and plastics have been detected in the SO, with concentrations likely enhanced by migratory species. With increased marine traffic and weakening of ocean barriers the risk of the establishment of non-indigenous species is increased. The continued recovery of the ozone hole creates uncertainty over the reversal in sea ice trends, especially in the light of the abrupt transition from record high to record low Antarctic sea ice extent since spring 2016. The current rate of change in physical and anthropogenic drivers is certain to impact the Marine Ecosystem Assessment of the Southern Ocean (MEASO) region in the near future and will have a wide range of impacts across the marine ecosystem.
Under certain conditions, dispersed crude oil in the sea combines with organisms, organic matter, and minerals to form marine oil snow (MOS), thereby contributing to the sinking of oil to the seafloor. Marine microbes are the main players in MOS formation, particularly via the production of extracellular polymeric substances. Distinct groups of microbes also consume the majority of the hydrocarbons during descent, leading to enrichment of the less bioavailable hydrocarbons and asphaltenes in the residue. Here we discuss the dynamics of microbial communities in MOS together with their impacts on MOS evolution. We explore the effects of dispersant application on MOS formation, and consider ways in which laboratory experiments investigating MOS formation can be more representative of the situation in the marine environment, which in turn will improve our understanding of the contribution of MOS to the fate of spilled oil.