The Yellow Sea is one of the most productive continental shelves in the world. This large marine ecosystem is experiencing an epochal change in water temperature, stratification, nutrients, and subsequently in ecological diversity. Research-oriented monitoring of these changes requires a sustainable, multi-disciplinary approach. For this purpose, the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) constructed the Socheongcho Ocean Research Station (S-ORS), a steel-framed tower-type platform, in the central Yellow Sea about 50 km off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula. This station is equipped with about forty sensors for interdisciplinary oceanographic observations. Since its construction in 2014, this station has continuously conducted scientific observations and provided qualified time series: physical oceanographic variables such as temperature, salinity, sea level pressure, wave, and current; biogeochemical variables such as chlorophyll-a, photosynthetically active radiation, and total suspended particles; atmospheric variables including air temperature, wind, greenhouse gasses, and air particles including black carbon. A prime advantage is that this platform has provided stable facilities including a wet lab where scientists can stay and experiment on in situ water samples. Several studies are in process to understand and characterize the evolution of environmental signals, including air-sea interaction, marine ecosystems, wave detection, and total suspended particles in the central Yellow Sea. This paper provides an overview of the research facilities, maintenance, observations, scientific achievements, and next steps of the S-ORS with highlighting this station as an open lab for interdisciplinary collaboration on multiscale process studies.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
With the ongoing, exponential increase in ocean data from autonomous platforms, satellites, models, and in particular, the growing field of quantitative imaging, there arises a need for scalable and cost-efficient visualization tools to interpret these large volumes of data. With the recent proliferation of consumer grade head-mounted displays, the emerging field of virtual reality (VR) has demonstrated its benefit in numerous disciplines, ranging from medicine to archeology. However, these benefits have not received as much attention in the ocean sciences. Here, we summarize some of the ways that virtual reality has been applied to this field. We highlight a few examples in which we (the authors) demonstrate the utility of VR as a tool for ocean scientists. For oceanic datasets that are well-suited for three-dimensional visualization, virtual reality has the potential to enhance the practice of ocean science.
Since 2011, when the first European ocean literacy (OL) project was launched in Portugal, the number of initiatives about this topic in Europe has increased notoriously and their scope has largely widened. These initiatives have drawn from the seven “OL Principles” that were developed by the College of Exploration OL Network in 2005. They represent a source of inspiration for the many endeavors that are aiming to achieve a society that fully understands the influence of themselves – as individuals and as a population – on the ocean and the influence of the ocean on them. OL initiatives throughout the past years, globally, have resulted in the production of countless didactic and communication resources that represent a valuable legacy for new activities. The OL research community recognizes the need to build up the scope of OL by reaching the wider Blue Economy actors such as the maritime industrial sector. It is hoped that building OL in this sector will contribute to the long-term sustainable development of maritime activities. The ERASMUS+ project “MATES” aims to address the maritime industries’ skills shortages and contribute to a more resilient labor market. MATES’ hypothesis is that through building OL in educational, professional and industrial environments, it is possible to build a labor force that matches the skills demand in these sectors and increases their capacity to uptake new knowledge. The MATES partnership will explicitly combine OL and knowledge transfer by applying the “COLUMBUS Knowledge Transfer Methodology” as developed by the H2020-funded COLUMBUS project.
In areas beyond national jurisdiction, there are ten regional fisheries bodies (RFBs) responsible for the management of bottom fisheries (ABNJ). Eight of these organizations are further termed “Regional Fisheries Management Organisations” (RFMOs) and have a legal mandate to regulate the sustainable use of marine living resources on the high seas. The remaining two, both in the equatorial Atlantic, are limited to advisory roles. Here we present comparisons between these organizations’ management of deep-water demersal fisheries, with particular respect to how they have respectively, adopted the suite of available measures for the mitigation of significant adverse impacts (SAIs) upon vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). Each organization was scored against 99 performance criteria that either related to their capacity to implement management measures (“Capacity”); the number and effectiveness of measures they have implemented (“Action”); and the intensity and spatial extent of the activities they regulate (“Need”). For most organizations, action and need scores were proportional, as the more actions an organization takes to reduce risk to VMEs, the more it reduces the scope for improvement. However, comparisons between capacity and action scores indicate that, in some organizations, there remain several aspects of VME impact mitigation that could be improved. In the case of RFBs, or recently established RFMOs, capacity gaps are still considerable, suggesting that these organizations receive additional scientific, technical, legal, and financial support, to ensure that they are able to meet current and future objectives. Further, there is little evidence of significant cooperation between adjacent or overlapping organizations in the development and application of conservation measures, highlighting the need for an agreement on the management of biodiversity, rather than sectors, in ABNJ.
With growing complex and systemic challenges facing the ocean, there is an urgent need to increase the scale and effectiveness of approaches to marine conservation, including protecting and recognizing the value of all of its services. Stronger multi-sector networks of organizations are needed, sharing knowledge and working in unison to create a common narrative for the ocean and the solutions to its protection. In an innovative experiment, the Marine CoLABoration (CoLAB) brings together nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to explore collaboratively how to communicate more effectively. The CoLAB hypothesizes that communicating the full value of the ocean in all its rich diversity connects with people’s deeply held, personal values and leads to more impactful ocean conservation. Through horizon scanning with the wider sector, the CoLAB determines experiment themes to test this hypothesis. These are based predominantly in the United Kingdom and include #OneLess, Agents of Change and We are Ocean. The CoLAB’s work demonstrates that by effectively building and promoting an understanding of the full value of the ocean, it is possible to trigger a wider range of human values to catalyze engagement with marine conservation issues. A joined up, interdisciplinary approach to communicating why the ocean matters, engaging a wide range of actors will be crucial in effecting long term, systemic change for the ocean. The need for greater United Kingdom ocean literacy has also been highlighted across the CoLAB and its experiments and presents an opportunity for further work.
Game theory has been an effective tool to generate solutions for decision making in fisheries involving multiple countries and fleets. Here, we use a coupled bio-economic model based on a Baltic Sea dynamic multispecies food web model called BALMAR and, we compare non-cooperative (NC) and cooperative game (grand coalition: GC) solutions. Applications of game theory based on a food web model under climate change have not been studied before and the present study aims to fill this gap in the literature. The study focuses on the effects of climate variability on the biological, harvest and economic output of the game models by examining two different climate scenarios, a first scenario characterized by low temperature and high salinity and a second scenario by high temperature and low salinity. Our results showed that in the first scenario sprat spawning stock biomass (SSB) and harvest dropped dramatically both in the NC and the GC cases whereas, herring and cod SSBs and harvests were higher compared to a base scenario (BS) keeping temperature and salinity at mean historical levels. In the second scenario, the sprat SSB and the harvest was higher for both GC and NC cases while the cod and the herring SSBs and harvests were lower. The total GC payoffs clearly outperformed the NC payoffs across all scenarios. Likewise, the first and second scenario GC payoffs for countries were higher except for Poland. The findings suggested the climate vulnerability of Baltic Sea multi-species fisheries and these results would support future decision-making processes of Baltic Sea fisheries.
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) emerges as strategic to explain the influences that the ocean, and in particular coastal ecosystems, have on us and how we influence them back. Despite being a term coined several decades ago and being already wide-spread in the scientific community and among policy-makers, the ES concept still lacks recognition among citizens and educators. There is therefore a need to mainstream this concept in formal education and through Ocean Literacy resources. Although important developments in OL were done in the United States, particularly through the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA), this concept was only recently introduced in Europe. In Portugal, several informal OL education programs were developed in the last years, yet formal education on OL and, in particular, on ES is still very deficient. To address this limitation, the “Environmental Education Network for Ecosystem Services” (REASE), founded in 2017 in the Algarve region by a consortium of educational, environmental and scientific institutions, aims to increase OL through the dissemination of the perspective of how ES provided by coastal vegetation may contribute to the human well-being. The projects and activities implemented by REASE focus mostly on formal-education of school children and include: (1) capacity building for K-12 teachers, (2) educational programs to support and develop ES projects in schools, including a citizen science project to evaluate blue carbon stocks in the Algarve, (3) the publication of a children’s book about the ES provided by the local Ria Formosa coastal lagoon, with a community-based participatory design (illustrations made by schoolchildren) and (4) a diverse array of informal education activities to raise awareness on the importance of coastal ecosystems on human well-being. REASE challenges are being successfully addressed by identifying threats to local coastal ecosystems that people worry about, and highlighting solutions to improve and maintain their health.
The United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals have articulated sustainable development requirements at the international level. SDG14: life below water, has in particular, provided a future pathway for sustainable development of the ocean environment. With the establishment of this global perspective has come a renewed emphasis on the need for global ocean knowledge production. The 2015 First World Ocean Assessment (FWOA), which was produced by the first cycle of the United Nations’ Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects, is widely viewed as a primary tool to guiding action on SDG14. This research investigates how effective the FWOA has been at supporting these efforts toward sustainable development of the ocean environment. We use a combination of approaches, including document mining, an internationally distributed survey and semi-structured interviews to better understand the impact of the FWOA as well as the interrelated functioning of the Regular Process’ first cycle. While the FWOA was successful in compiling well accepted and credible ocean information, it was unable to generate the impact on sustainable ocean management activities that had originally been expected of it. Funding restrictions, participation issues and political anxieties seemed to derail the first cycle of the Regular Process from initial recommendations and directed the process into unorthodox operations and substantial political control. With the Second World Ocean Assessment (SWOA) well underway, it is imperative that trust is built and social learning is encouraged between participants in the Regular Process.
Frequent upwelling of deep, cold water, rich in dissolved inorganic nutrients and carbon dioxide but low in oxygen concentrations and pH, is well documented in eastern boundary systems. As a consequence, waters in vast areas of the continental shelf can turn corrosive to the mineral aragonite, vital to a number of marine organisms. This phenomenon is projected to become more severe with ongoing ocean acidification. Although upwelling is also known to occur in western boundary systems, the impact on present day aragonite saturation state (Ωarag) is virtually unknown, let alone for the decades to come. Here we identified 32 events during 18 weeks of continuous measurements in Cape Byron Marine Park, Australia, with prolonged drops in ocean temperature of up to 5°C, oxygen concentrations by 34%, pH by 0.12 and Ωarag by 0.9 in a matter of hours. Temperature, salinity and oxygen saturation during these events hint at a water mass from 200 to 250 m depth off the Central East Australian shelf. Extrapolating present day upwelling to a preindustrial setting shows that ongoing ocean acidification has already lead to the crossing of a number of biological and geochemical Ωarag thresholds. The future intensity of these events critically depends on carbon dioxide emission scenario, and might be even more pronounced in the Great Barrier Reef where current day shelf associated waters carry a stronger deep water signal (based on oxygen levels) than at the study location. Finally, the proposed use of artificially upwelled water to cool increasingly temperature-stressed coral reef communities will need to take its unique carbonate chemistry properties into account.
Plastic waste has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, and the production of plastic continues to rise steadily. Plastic represents a diverse array of commonly used synthetic polymers that are extremely useful as durable, economically beneficial alternatives to other materials; however, despite the wide-ranging utility of plastic, the increasing accumulation of plastic waste in the environment has had numerous detrimental impacts. In particular, plastic marine debris can transport invasive species, entangle marine organisms, and cause toxic chemical bioaccumulation in the marine food web. The negative impacts of plastic waste have motivated research on new ways to reduce and eliminate plastic. One unique approach to tackle the plastic waste problem is to turn to nature’s solutions for degrading polymers by leveraging the biology of naturally occurring organisms to degrade plastic. Advances in metagenomics, next generation sequencing, and bioengineering have provided new insights and new opportunities to identify and optimize organisms for use in plastic bioremediation. In this review, we discuss the plastic waste problem and possible solutions, with a focus on potential mechanisms for plastic bioremediation. We pinpoint two key habitats to identify plastic-biodegrading organisms: (1) habitats with distinct enrichment of plastic waste, such as those near processing or disposal sites, and (2) habitats with naturally occurring polymers, such as cutin, lignin, and wax. Finally, we identify directions of future research for the isolation and optimization of these methods for widespread bioremediation applications.
Fisheries are constrained by ecosystem productivity and management effectiveness. Climate change is already producing impacts on marine ecosystems through overall changes in habitats, productivity and increased variability of environmental conditions. The way how these will affect fisheries is under debate and, also there is uncertainty on the best course of action to mitigate climate change impacts on fisheries. Harvest control rules are sets of pre-agreed rules that can be used to determine catch limits periodically and describe how harvest is automatically controlled by management in relation to the state of some indicator of stock status. In 2017, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas adopted a harvest control rule for North Atlantic albacore. This harvest control rule was evaluated using Management Strategy Evaluation against the main sources of uncertainty inherent to this fishery. Here, we used the same framework to evaluate the robustness of the adopted rule against two types of potential climate change impacts on North Atlantic albacore dynamics. First, we evaluated how the control rule would perform in the event of overall changes in productivity in the North Atlantic and second, against increases in climate driven recruitment variability. Overall, our results suggest that the adopted harvest control rule is robust to these climate driven impacts and also suggests bounds at which the current management framework would be vulnerable to climate change. Throughout the manuscript we also discuss the potential of harvest control rules and harvest strategies to adapt fisheries management to a changing environment. Our main conclusion is that despite the many uncertainties on climate impacts on fisheries, efficient fisheries management and HCRs will be critical to ensure the sustainability of fisheries in the future.
China is the world's largest capture fisheries and aquaculture producer. Over recent decades, China's domestic marine catch composition has changed markedly, from large volumes of a few high‐valued food species to multiple, small, low‐valued, species, a significant proportion of which is primarily used as animal, especially fish, feed. Despite the growing volume and economic importance of the feed catches, their species composition, catch volumes and socio‐environmental impacts are all poorly understood. Based on a nationwide survey of >800 fishing vessels, and the identification and measurement of >12,000 fish and invertebrate individuals, the present study provides an overview of the feed component of China's domestic marine catch, by volumes, species and sizes, and found it to be substantial and biologically unsustainable. Half of the trawler catch (3 million metric tons, mmt), or 35% of the total catch (4.6 mmt) in China's exclusive economic zone, are now comprised of low‐valued “feed‐grade fish”. The present study identified 218 fish species, 50 crustaceans and five cephalopods, and of these, 102 fish species were food species with 89% individuals in their juvenile size ranges. Feed‐grade fish were mainly used as aquaculture feed directly, or indirectly, through the feed industry after reduction to fishmeal and fish oil. The unparalleled scale and poor fisheries resource condition of China's domestic marine fisheries, in parallel with severe overfishing of juveniles, creates a demand for fundamental changes to fishery management practices, including a significant reduction of fishing effort to ensure productivity and ecosystem resilience.
Strategic science communicators need to select tactics that can help them achieve both their short-term communication objectives and long-term behavioral goals. However, little previous research has sought to develop theory aimed at understanding what makes it more likely that a communicator will prioritize specific communication tactics. The current study aims to advance the development of a theory of strategic science communication as planned behavior based on the Integrated Behavioral Model. It does so in the context of exploring Canadian scientists’ self-reported willingness to prioritize six different tactics as a function of attitudinal, normative, and efficacy beliefs. The results suggest that scientists’ beliefs about ethicality, norms, response efficacy, and self-efficacy, are all meaningful predictors of willingness to prioritize specific tactics. Differences between scientists in terms of demographics and related variables provide only limited benefit in predicting such willingness.
The prevalence of social media platforms that share photos and videos could prove useful for wildlife research and conservation programs. When social media users post pictures and videos of animals, near real-time data like individual identification, sex, location, or other information are made accessible to scientists. These data can help inform researchers about animal occurrence, behavior, or threats to survival. The endangered Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi) population has only 1,400 seals remaining in the wild. A small but growing population of seals has recently reestablished itself in the human-populated main Hawaiian Islands. While this population growth raises concerns about human-seal interactions it also provides the opportunity to capitalize on human observations to enhance research and conservation activities. We measured the potential utility of non-traditional data sources, in this case Instagram, to supplement current population monitoring of monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands. We tracked all Instagram posts with the identifier #monkseal for a one-year period and assessed the photos for biological and geographical information, behavioral concerns, human disturbance and public perceptions. Social media posts were less likely to provide images suitable for individual seal identification (16.5%) than traditional sighting reports (79.9%). However, social media enhanced the ability to detect human-seal interactions or animal disturbances: 22.1%, of the 2,392 Instagram posts examined showed people within 3 meters of a seal, and 17.8% indicated a disturbance to the animal, meanwhile only 0.64% of traditional reports noted a disturbance to the animal. This project demonstrated that data obtained through social media posts have value to monk seal research and management strategies beyond traditional data collection, and further development of social media platforms as data resources is warranted. Many conservation programs may benefit from similar work using social media to supplement the research and conservation activities they are undertaking.
Mass extinction at the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary coincides with the Chicxulub bolide impact and also falls within the broader time frame of Deccan trap emplacement. Critically, though, empirical evidence as to how either of these factors could have driven observed extinction patterns and carbon cycle perturbations is still lacking. Here, using boron isotopes in foraminifera, we document a geologically rapid surface-ocean pH drop following the Chicxulub impact, supporting impact-induced ocean acidification as a mechanism for ecological collapse in the marine realm. Subsequently, surface water pH rebounded sharply with the extinction of marine calcifiers and the associated imbalance in the global carbon cycle. Our reconstructed water-column pH gradients, combined with Earth system modeling, indicate that a partial ∼50% reduction in global marine primary productivity is sufficient to explain observed marine carbon isotope patterns at the K-Pg, due to the underlying action of the solubility pump. While primary productivity recovered within a few tens of thousands of years, inefficiency in carbon export to the deep sea lasted much longer. This phased recovery scenario reconciles competing hypotheses previously put forward to explain the K-Pg carbon isotope records, and explains both spatially variable patterns of change in marine productivity across the event and a lack of extinction at the deep sea floor. In sum, we provide insights into the drivers of the last mass extinction, the recovery of marine carbon cycling in a postextinction world, and the way in which marine life imprints its isotopic signal onto the geological record.
Separating microplastics from marine and freshwater sediments is challenging, but necessary to determine their distribution, mass, and ecological impacts in benthic environments. Density separation is commonly used to extract microplastics from sediments by using heavy salt solutions, such as zinc chloride and sodium iodide. However, current devices/apparatus used for density separation, including glass beakers, funnels, upside-down funnel-shaped separators with a shut-off valve, etc., possess various shortcomings in terms of recovery rate, time consumption, and/or usability. In evaluating existing microplastic extraction methods using density separation, we identified the need for a device that allows rapid, simple, and efficient extraction of microplastics from a range of sediment types. We have developed a small glass separator, without a valve, taking a hint from an Utermöhl chamber. This new device is easy to clean and portable, yet enables rapid separation of microplastics from sediments. With this simple device, we recovered 94–98% of <1,000 µm microplastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, and polystyrene). Overall, the device is efficient for various sizes, polymer types, and sediment types. Also, microplastics collected with this glass-made device remain chemically uncontaminated, and can, therefore, be used for further analysis of adsorbing contaminants and additives on/to microplastics.
The loss of biodiversity, including the collapse of fish stocks, affects the vulnerability of social-ecological systems (SESs) and threatens local livelihoods. Incorporating community-centered indicators and SES drivers and exposures of change into coastal management can help anticipate and mitigate human and/or coastal vulnerability. We have proposed a new index to measure the social-ecological vulnerability of coastal fishing communities (Index of Coastal Vulnerability [ICV]) based on species, ecosystem, and social indicators. The ICV varies from 0 (no vulnerability) to 1 (very high vulnerability) and is composed of 3 components: species vulnerability, i.e., fish biological traits; ecosystem vulnerability, i.e., environmental indicators of ecosystem health; and adaptive capacity, i.e., human ability to cope with changes. We tested the ICV of Brazil’s 17 coastal states. The average ICV for the Brazilian coast was 0.77, and variation was low among states. More than half of the coastal states revealed very high vulnerability (> 0.8). The ecosystem vulnerability values were worse than the adaptive capacity and species vulnerability values, and the North and Northeast regions were revealed to be vulnerable hot spots. Additionally, we investigated how the ICV related to specific anthropogenic risks, i.e., fish landing richness, fishery instability, market, coastal extension, and coastal population, and found that states with fewer species landings and higher coastal populations presented higher ICVs. At a time when human impacts are overtaking natural processes, understanding how these impacts lead to coastal vulnerability can help improve conservation policies. For this case study, we suggest both fisheries management measures and restoration of sensitive habitats to protect species and decrease vulnerability. The integrated evaluation developed here could be used as a baseline for coastal monitoring and conservation planning and be applied to coastal regions in which governments evaluate both social and biological aspects.
To safeguard biodiversity effectively, marine protected areas (MPAs) should be sited using the best available science. There are numerous ongoing United Nations and non-governmental initiatives to map globally important marine areas. The criteria used by these initiatives vary, resulting in contradictions in the areas identified as important. Our analysis is the first to overlay these initiatives, quantify consensus, and conduct gap analyses at the global scale. We found that 55% of the ocean has been identified as important by one or more initiatives, and that individual areas have been identified by as many as seven overlapping initiatives. Using our overlay map and data on current MPA coverage, we highlight gaps in protection of important areas of the ocean. We considered any area identified by two to four initiatives to be of moderate consensus. Over 14% of the ocean fell under this category and most of this area (88%) is not yet protected. The largest concentrations of medium-consensus areas without protection were found in the Caribbean Sea, Madagascar and the southern tip of Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Coral Triangle. Areas of high consensus (identified by five to seven initiatives) were almost always within MPAs, but their no-take status was often unreported. We found that nearly every marine province and nearly every exclusive economic zone contained area that has been identified as important but is not yet protected. Much of the identified area lies within contiguous stretches of >100,000 km2; it is unrealistic to expect that all this area be protected. Nonetheless, our results on areas of consensus provide initial insight into opportunities for further ocean protection.
Bleaching and disease are decimating coral reefs especially when warming promotes bleaching pathogens, such as Vibrio coralliilyticus. We demonstrate that sterilized washes from three common corals suppress V. coralliilyticus but that this defense is compromised when assays are run at higher temperatures. For a coral within the ecologically critical genus Acropora, inhibition was 75 to 154% greater among colonies from coral-dominated marine protected areas versus adjacent fished areas that were macroalgae-dominated. Acropora microbiomes were more variable within fished areas, suggesting that reef degradation may also perturb coral microbial communities. Defenses of a robust poritid coral and a weedy pocilloporid coral were not affected by reef degradation, and microbiomes were unaltered for these species. For some ecologically critical, but bleaching-susceptible, corals such as Acropora, local management to improve reef state may bolster coral resistance to global change, such as bacteria-induced coral bleaching during warming events.
Climate change is driving the tropicalization of temperate ecosystems by shifting the range edges of numerous species poleward. Over the past few decades, mangroves have rapidly displaced salt marshes near multiple poleward mangrove range limits, including in northeast Florida. It is uncertain whether such mangrove expansions are due to anthropogenic climate change or natural climate variability. We combined historical accounts from books, personal journals, scientific articles, logbooks, photographs, and maps with climate data to show that the current ecotone between mangroves and salt marshes in northeast Florida has shifted between mangrove and salt marsh dominance at least 6 times between the late 1700s and 2017 due to decadal-scale fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of extreme cold events. Model projections of daily minimum temperature from 2000 through 2100 indicate an increase in annual minimum temperature by 0.5 °C/decade. Thus, although recent mangrove range expansion should indeed be placed into a broader historical context of an oscillating system, climate projections suggest that the recent trend may represent a more permanent regime shift due to the effects of climate change.