Artificial intelligence is an exciting technological frontier for the coral reef remote sensing community, especially the emergence of machine learning algorithms for mapping and detecting features from aerial images of coral reef environments. Machine learning algorithms are finding uses in environmental remote sensing applications that are principally founded on three technological advances.
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The resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities to poor environmental and health outcomes is threatened by cumulative anthropogenic pressures. In Kiribati, a developing Pacific Island country where human activities are closely connected with the ocean, both people and environment are particularly vulnerable to coastal pollution. We present a survey of environmental and human health water quality parameters around urban South Tarawa, and an overview of their impacts on the semi-enclosed atoll. Tarawa has significant water quality issues and decisions to guide improvements are hindered by a persistent lack of appropriate and sufficient observations. Our snapshot assessment identifies highest risk locations related to chronic focused and diffuse pollution inputs, and where mixing and dilution with ocean water is restricted. We demonstrate the importance of monitoring in the context of rapidly changing pressures. Our recommendations are relevant to other atoll ecosystems where land-based activities and ocean health are tightly interlinked.
Quantifying the number of recreational fishers is important for many aspects of managing coastal resources. Unfortunately, quantifying recreational boaters in offshore settings has proven difficult due to their distance from shore and a lack of cost-effective methods to monitor small boats (<10 m length). We investigated visitor-use at an offshore marine protected area (MPA) in the southeastern USA. We used multiple methods of counting boats (satellites, buoy camera, passive acoustics, and boat-based observations) and a generalized linear modeling approach to identify environmental and calendar-based predictor variables that influenced visitation. Based on the model, predicted visitor-encounter rates were estimated for various weather and calendar-based scenarios, and the probability of detecting a hypothetical change in visitation with each counting method was examined through a power analysis. The most important predictors were day of the week, special day (e.g., tournament), water temperature, and wave height. Boat counts were 2–5 times higher on weekend days than on weekdays. More boats were predicted on weekdays with good weather (defined as water temperature 24 °C, wave height 0.5 m), than weekends with decent weather (17 °C and 1 m). Considering weekends alone, those with good weather were predicted to have 5 times higher visitation than weekends with decent weather. Predicted visitation was highest on calm days, dropped by ∼75 % when wave height reached 1 m, and was essentially zero when wave height exceeded 1.5 m. Highest counts were predicted when water temperature was warmest and gradually declined as temperatures cooled. For the buoy camera and passive acoustic boat-count methods, power analysis suggested that 3–6 years of typical samples before and after a hypothetical 25 % increase in visitation would be needed to have an 80 % chance of detecting the change. Other techniques would take 14 or more years of typical samples. The process used here for investigating visitation can be adapted to other offshore or remote locations.
Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that bioaccumulate in the food web and adversely affect humans, animals, and entire marine ecosystems. Blooms of the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia can produce domoic acid (DA), a toxin that most commonly causes neurological disease in endothermic animals, with cardiovascular effects that were first recognized in southern sea otters. Over the last 20 years, DA toxicosis has caused significant morbidity and mortality in marine mammals and seabirds along the west coast of the USA. Identifying DA exposure has been limited to toxin detection in biological fluids using biochemical assays, yet measurement of systemic toxin levels is an unreliable indicator of exposure dose or timing. Furthermore, there is little information regarding repeated DA exposure in marine wildlife. Here, the association between long-term environmental DA exposure and fatal cardiac disease was investigated in a longitudinal study of 186 free-ranging sea otters in California from 2001 – 2017, highlighting the chronic health effects of a marine toxin. A novel Bayesian spatiotemporal approach was used to characterize environmental DA exposure by combining several DA surveillance datasets and integrating this with life history data from radio-tagged otters in a time-dependent survival model. In this study, a sea otter with high DA exposure had a 1.7-fold increased hazard of fatal cardiomyopathy compared to an otter with low exposure. Otters that consumed a high proportion of crab and clam had a 2.5- and 1.2-times greater hazard of death due to cardiomyopathy than otters that consumed low proportions. Increasing age is a well-established predictor of cardiac disease, but this study is the first to identify that DA exposure affects the risk of cardiomyopathy more substantially in prime-age adults than aged adults. A 4-year-old otter with high DA exposure had 2.3 times greater risk of fatal cardiomyopathy than an otter with low exposure, while a 10-year old otter with high DA exposure had just 1.2 times greater risk. High Toxoplasma gondii titers also increased the hazard of death due to heart disease 2.4-fold. Domoic acid exposure was most detrimental for prime-age adults, whose survival and reproduction are vital for population growth, suggesting that persistent DA exposure will likely impact long-term viability of this threatened species. These results offer insight into the pervasiveness of DA in the food web and raise awareness of under-recognized chronic health effects of DA for wildlife at a time when toxic blooms are on the rise.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the four main elements of the package being negotiated in the Intergovernmental Conference to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ agreement). “Internationalization” of EIA under the agreement, which partly relates to the international community's role in oversight and outcome of the process, remains a contentious issue that requires continued consideration. Less controversial aspects of internationalization in the EIA process are internationalization of consultation and dissemination of information. They are shown to be critical to achieving quality outcomes and encouraging transparency and accountability. This paper addresses a third dimension of internationalization, relating to review and decision-making, which is proving to be the most divisive in the negotiations to date. This aspect of internationalization is fundamental to allowing decisions taken on proposed activities to be seen as legitimate but concerns exist about the bureaucracy and costs that the process may entail, as well as potential interference with sovereign rights of States Parties under UNCLOS. This paper advances a proposal for internationalization of review and decision-making under the BBNJ agreement that attempts to bridge the divide evident going into the 4th session of the Inter-governmental Conference in 2021.
Sea level rise (SLR) is projected to have severe consequences for people and assets in European coastal areas. Planning for SLR is a critical step to ensure timely and adequate responses. Despite our rapidly increasing understanding of SLR impacts and the need to adapt, few studies have looked at how countries are planning for SLR. We surveyed experts from the 32 European countries with a coastline about how their country is planning for SLR. Our online survey focused on four areas: (1) whether SLR planning exists and at what level of government; (2) which climate information and scenarios are used in planning; (3) what planning horizons and corresponding levels of SLR are used; and (4) how uncertainty in handled and whether high-end sea level rise is being considered in planning. Additionally, we asked experts to assess the status of sea level rise planning in their country. Our results indicate that most coastal countries in Europe are planning for SLR, but 25% still do not. We find that the planning horizon 2100 is most common and many countries are considering around 1m (adjusted for local conditions) of SLR at that point in time. However, there are significant differences between countries, which may lead to unequal impacts, over time. We also find that RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 are the most widely used climate change scenarios, suggesting that countries are considering high-end climate change in planning, although this does not mean they consider high amounts of SLR. Important questions remain about how planning is realized into levels of protection or preparedness and whether the amounts of SLR and planning horizons currently in use will lead countries to act in time.
Coral bleaching, cyclones, outbreaks of crown-of-thorns seastar, and reduced water quality (WQ) threaten the health and resilience of coral reefs. The cumulative impacts from multiple acute and chronic stressors on “reef State” (i.e., total coral cover) and “reef Performance” (i.e., the deviation from expected rate of total coral cover increase) have rarely been assessed simultaneously, despite their management relevance. We evaluated the dynamics of coral cover (total and per morphological groups) in the Central and Southern Great Barrier Reef over 25 years, and identified and compared the main environmental drivers of State and Performance at the reef level (i.e. based on total coral cover) and per coral group. Using a combination of 25 environmental metrics that consider both the frequency and magnitude of impacts and their lagged effects, we find that the stressors that correlate with State differed from those correlating with Performance. Importantly, we demonstrate that WQ metrics better predict Performance than State. Further, inter-annual dynamics in WQ (here available for a subset of the data) improved the explanatory power of WQ metrics on Performance over long-term WQ averages. The lagged effects of cumulative acute stressors, and to a lesser extent poor water quality, correlated negatively with the Performance of some but not all coral groups. Tabular Acropora and branching non-Acropora were the most affected by water quality demonstrating that group-specific approaches aid in the interpretation of monitoring data and can be crucial for the detection of the impact of chronic pressures. We highlight the complexity of coral reef dynamics and the need of evaluating Performance metrics in order to prioritise local management interventions.
There is a growing recognition that conservation strategies should be designed accounting for cross-realm connections, such as freshwater connections to land and sea, to ensure effectiveness of marine spatial protection and minimize perverse outcomes of changing land-use. Yet, examples of integration across realms are relatively scarce, with most targeting priorities in a single realm, such as marine or freshwater, while minimizing threats originating in terrestrial ecosystems. To date, no study has optimized priorities across multiple realms to produce a spatially explicit integrated conservation plan that simultaneously accounts for multiple human activities at a national scale. This represents a major gap in the application of existing cross-realm planning theory. We present a national scale conservation framework for selecting protected areas using a case study of Papua New Guinea (PNG) that integrates multiple systems and ecological connectivity to account for cross-realm benefits and minimize threats of land-use and climate change. The relative importance of both the forests and inshore reef environments to PNG subsistence and commercial livelihoods emphasizes the importance of considering the connections between the land and sea. The plan was commissioned by the PNG Conservation and Environment Protection Authority and identifies a comprehensive set of priorities that meet conservation targets in both the land and sea. Our national-scale prioritization framework is useful for agencies and managers looking to implement actions given multiple objectives, including watershed management and biodiversity protection, and ensures actions are efficient and effective across the land and sea.
Quantitative measurement of the heterogeneity in the intensity of human interference is key to accurately assessing the impact of human activity. The same human activities in different landscape configurations should have different impacts. This study constructed a weighted analysis to describe and measure heterogeneity under the Hemeroby index model framework, based on gradient structures analysis of coastal landscape patterns and dynamic changes in landscape patterns. Shenzhen’s coastal landscape in 2015 was selected as a case study for this method. The results showed heterogeneity in the intensity of human interference that meaning more information with clearer details. The intensity of human interference was generally stronger in the west than in the east. High-intensity human (0.95) were continuously distributed in the west, while in the east these were scattered in towns, ports, coastal beach resorts, etc. The highest intensity human activities were clustered in the 6 km band, and from here these decreased inland but increased to the coastline. The lowest intensity human activities were clustered in the east of the 2 km band.
Deep-sea regions provide vast ecosystem services such as biological habitat and nutrient cycling. Even though being threatened by climate change and facing possible biodiversity loss, these deep-sea ecosystems are poorly understood. So are macrobenthic communities and their functions within these ecosystems. Biodiversity and ecosystem function relationships as well as their link to environmental drivers can be assessed with the biological trait analysis. We used this approach for the first time for macrofauna assemblages across the deep Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard (1000–5500 m water depth) to evaluate their community-specific function from the upper continental slope down to the deepest known Arctic depression, the Molloy Deep. We aimed to investigate whether there are changes in benthic functioning along the bathymetric gradient and if so, which environmental stressors may drive these changes.
In total, 16 stations were sampled with a giant box corer (0.25 m2) in 2016 and 2018. Sediments were sieved through a 0.5 mm mesh size sieve and fauna was identified to lowest possible taxonomic entity. Functions of species were characterized by using six traits split in 24 modalities gathered in a fuzzy coded species × traits array. Environmental parameters shaping the benthic habitat and reflecting food availability were gathered from remote sensing, mooring deployments, and sediment sampling.
A distance-based redundancy analysis indicated near-bottom water temperature, seabed inclination, water depth as well as phytodetritial matter at the sea surface and seafloor (indicating food availability) to be the best variables explaining the trait and station distribution. Stations clustered into three groups based on their trait composition. Shallower stations characterized by high chlorophyll a concentration with large organisms, living within the sediment as well as predating specimens clustered in one group. A second group was characterized by stations with low chlorophyll a concentration and medium-sized, suspension feeding, epifaunal living macrofauna. A third group comprised stations with water depths ≥ 3000 m and was dominated by medium sized, surface deposit feeding and infaunal living specimens.
Overall, the functional structure of macrofauna communities in the Fram Strait followed a food availability-driven gradient. Based on the relationship between sea ice, surface water primary production and food availability at the seafloor, these results point to macrobenthos being sensible to predicted anthropogenically generated environmental variations in polar regions. Alterations in benthic ecosystem functions might be expected when environmental conditions change.
Coral reefs are deteriorating worldwide prompting reef managers and stakeholders to increasingly explore new management tools. Following back-to-back bleaching in 2016/2017, multi-taxa coral nurseries were established in 2018 for the first time on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) to aid reef maintenance and restoration at a “high-value” location–Opal Reef–frequented by the tourism industry. Various coral species (n = 11) were propagated within shallow water (ca. 4-7m) platforms installed across two sites characterised by differing environmental exposure–one adjacent to a deep-water channel (Blue Lagoon) and one that was relatively sheltered (RayBan). Growth rates of coral fragments placed onto nurseries were highly variable across taxa but generally higher at Blue Lagoon (2.1–10.8 cm2 month-1 over 12 months) compared to RayBan (0.6–6.6 cm2 month-1 over 9 months). Growth at Blue Lagoon was largely independent of season, except for Acropora tenuis and Acropora hyacinthus, where growth rates were 15–20% higher for December 2018-July 2019 (“warm season”) compared to August-December 2018 (“cool season”). Survivorship across all 2,536 nursery fragments was ca. 80–100%, with some species exhibiting higher survivorship at Blue Lagoon (Acropora loripes, Porites cylindrica) and others at RayBan (A. hyacinthus, Montipora hispida). Parallel measurements of growth and survivorship were used to determine relative return-on-effort (RRE) scores as an integrated metric of “success” accounting for life history trade-offs, complementing the mutually exclusive assessment of growth or survivorship. RRE scores within sites (across species) were largely driven by growth, whereas RRE scores between sites were largely driven by survivorship. The initial nursery phase of coral propagation therefore appears useful to supplement coral material naturally available for stewardship of frequently visited Great Barrier Reef tourism (high-value) sites, but further assessment is needed to evaluate how well the growth rates and survival for nursery grown corals translate once material is outplanted.
Despite a long-documented history of severe harmful algal blooms (HABs) in New England coastal waters, corresponding HAB-associated marine mammal mortality events in this region are far less frequent or severe relative to other regions where HABs are common. This long-term survey of the HAB toxins saxitoxin (STX) and domoic acid (DA) demonstrates significant and widespread exposure of these toxins in New England marine mammals, across multiple geographic, temporal and taxonomic groups. Overall, 19% of the 458 animals tested positive for one or more toxins, with 15% and 7% testing positive for STX and DA, respectively. 74% of the 23 different species analyzed demonstrated evidence of toxin exposure. STX was most prevalent in Maine coastal waters, most frequently detected in common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and most often detected during July and October. DA was most prevalent in animals sampled in offshore locations and in bycaught animals, and most frequently detected in mysticetes, with humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) testing positive at the highest rates. Feces and urine appeared to be the sample matrices most useful for determining the presence of toxins in an exposed animal, with feces samples having the highest concentrations of STX or DA. No relationship was found between the bloom season of toxin-producing phytoplankton and toxin detection rates, however STX was more likely to be present in July and October. No relationship between marine mammal dietary preference and frequency of toxin detection was observed. These findings are an important part of a framework for assessing future marine mammal morbidity and mortality events, as well as monitoring ecosystem health using marine mammals as sentinel organisms for predicting coastal ocean changes.
Species distribution monitoring and biomass assessment are crucial for fishery management and resource conservation. However, traditional methods such as motor trawling are costly and less effective than the novel environmental DNA (eDNA) approach. This study employs eDNA approach to investigate horizontal and vertical distributions of small yellow croaker (Larimichthys polyactis), an economically important species, in the East China Sea. The analysis of 171 eDNA samples collected from 44 stations using the species-specific primers and Taqman probe suggests a presence of small yellow croaker at 28 sampling layers in 44 stations. Significant differences in croaker eDNA concentrations were revealed among sampling stations and layers, consistent with previous findings through motor-trawl capture offshore and nearshore ichthyoplakton surveys, indicating small yellow croaker exhibits strong regional distribution and layer preference. In addition, we found a high eDNA concentration of small yellow croaker in the surface waters beyond the motor-trawl prohibition line, which confirms spawning grounds have been expanded from nearshore to offshore areas. Such expansion of spawning grounds could be a response by small yellow croaker to stressors such as overfishing, climate change, and nearshore environment contamination. To identify environmental variables potentially associated with small yellow croaker presence and absence, we conducted a correlation analysis between eDNA concentration and environmental variables, and the results provide a guideline for further investigation of fishery resources in the future. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the power of the eDNA approach in monitoring small yellow croaker at extensive geographic scales. The developed protocols and the findings are expected to assist in long-term monitoring and protection programs and benefit sustainable fishery in small yellow croaker.
The Southeast Pacific comprises two Large Marine Ecosystems, the Pacific Central-American Coastal and the Humboldt Current System; and is one of the less well known in the tropical subregions in terms of biodiversity. To address this, we compared DNA barcoding repositories with the marine biodiversity species for the Southeast Pacific. We obtained a checklist of marine species in the Southeast Pacific (i.e. Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Peru) from the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) database and compared it with species available at the Barcoding of Life Data System (BOLD) repository. Of the 5504 species records retrieved from OBIS, 42% of them had at least one registered specimen in BOLD (including specimens around the world); however, only 4.5% of records corresponded to publicly available DNA barcodes including specimens collected from a Southeast Pacific country. The low representation of barcoded species does not vary much across the different taxonomic groups or within countries, but we observed an asymmetric distribution of DNA barcoding records for taxonomic groups along the coast, being more abundant for the Humboldt Current System than the Pacific Central-American Coastal. We observed high-level of barcode records with Barcode Index Number (BIN) incongruences, particularly for fishes (Actinopterygii = 30.27% and Elasmobranchii = 24.71%), reflecting taxonomic uncertainties for fishes, whereas for Invertebrates and Mammalia more than 85% of records were classified as data deficient or inadequate procedure for DNA barcoding. DNA barcoding is a powerful tool to study biodiversity, with a great potential to increase the knowledge of the Southeast Pacific marine biodiversity. Our results highlight the critical need for increasing taxonomic sampling effort, the number of trained taxonomic specialists, laboratory facilities, scientific collections, and genetic reference libraries.
This paper reports the catch-per-unit effort (CPUE) of the finfish and crustacean fishery in Ilog River Estuary in Negros Occidental. We monitored catch data of fishing gears, mainly trawl (small type), beach seine and mud crab pot from April, May, September, October, December 2013 and January 2014.We estimated at least 37.82 metric tonnes of annual fishery yield (fishes and crustaceans combined) for the entire Malabong estuarine area. Two gears (liftnet and fish corrals) were used by the local fishers since the 1980s. Based on the baseline annual yield of 21 tonnes, the annual yield for these gears (at present ~7.5 tonnes) combined has declined by 13.5 tonnes (~65%) since the early 1980s (~30 years). This decline might be due to habitat degradation (including conversion of original mangrove forests into fish ponds and nipa plantations), over-exploitation, and organic pollution (resulting to recurring fish kill events) in the area.
There are currently recognized 107 species of Philippine amphibians. In addition, several possible new species await formal taxonomic description. Most of them occupy microhabitats in moist or wet tropical rainforests. Based primarily on their known reproductive modes and microhabitats (including altitudinal distributions), the vulnerability of each amphibian species was assessed. The results of our assessment indicate that 26 species (24.30%) are Highly Vulnerable, 48 species (44.86%) are Moderately Vulnerable, 27 species (25.23%) are Vulnerable, and 6 species (5.61%) are Least Vulnerable to climate change. However, this preliminary assessment is tentative and requires verification through field studies using other sets of indicators. Additionally, virtually all new species currently awaiting description are known from forested mountain habitats. These species are deemed disproportionately susceptible to climate change. Thus, the percentages of vulnerable taxa are expected to climb sharply with ongoing taxonomic and ecological studies.
Global climate change is expected to impact ocean ecosystems through increases in temperature, decreases in pH and oxygen, increased stratification, with subsequent declines in primary productivity. These impacts propagate through the food chain leading to amplified effects on secondary producers and higher trophic levels. Similarly, climate change may disproportionately affect different species, with impacts depending on their ecological niche. To investigate how global environmental change will alter fish assemblages and productivity, we used a spatially explicit mechanistic model of the three main fish functional types reflected in fisheries catches (FEISTY) coupled to an Earth system model (GFDL-ESM2M) to make projections out to 2100. We additionally explored the sensitivity of projections to uncertainties in widely used metabolic allometries and their temperature dependence. When integrated globally, the biomass and production of all types of fish decreased under a high emissions scenario (RCP 8.5) compared to mean contemporary conditions. Projections also revealed strong increases in the ratio of pelagic zooplankton production to benthic production, a dominant driver of the abundance of large pelagic fish vs. demersal fish under historical conditions. Increases in this ratio led to a “pelagification” of ecosystems exemplified by shifts from benthic-based food webs toward pelagic-based ones. The resulting pelagic systems, however, were dominated by forage fish, as large pelagic fish suffered from increasing metabolic demands in a warming ocean and from declines in zooplankton productivity that were amplified at higher trophic levels. Patterns of relative change between functional types were robust to uncertainty in metabolic allometries and temperature dependence, though projections of the large pelagic fish had the greatest uncertainty. The same accumulation of trophic impacts that underlies the amplification of productivity trends at higher trophic levels propagates to the projection spread, creating an acutely uncertain future for the ocean’s largest predatory fish.
Managing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is about managing human behaviours, but decision-making processes have traditionally focussed on ecological aspects, treating social aspects as secondary. It is now becoming more evident that an equal focus on the ecological and social aspects is required. Without the collection of information about social aspect such as impacts and sharing this as well as ecological information with communities, MPAs are at higher risk of opposition and social acceptability problems. This paper explores the development of a wellbeing framework to understand the social aspects, including the impacts of MPAs on the wellbeing of local communities. This research investigates two case study MPAs: Cape Byron and Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Parks in New South Wales, Australia. The MPAs are multiple-use and were implemented in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The research began with a review of the literature, followed by fieldwork, including semi-structured qualitative interviews with community members. Through thematic coding of the interview transcripts in light of the literature on assessing the social impacts of MPAs, a community wellbeing framework of domains and associated attributes was developed to investigate social impacts. Our analysis shows; first, local perspectives are crucial to understanding social impacts. Second, understanding social impacts gives insight into the nature of trade-offs that occur in decision-making regarding MPAs. Third, the intangible social impacts experienced by local communities are just as significant as the tangible ones for understanding how MPAs operate. Fourth, governance impacts have been the most influential factor affecting the social acceptability of the case study parks. We argue that failure to address negative social impacts can undermine the legitimacy of MPAs. We propose that the framework will support policymakers to work towards more effective, equitable and socially sustainable MPAs by employing much-needed monitoring of human dimensions of conservation interventions at the community level to shape adaptive management.
Citizen science (CS) projects may provide community-based ecosystem monitoring, expanding our ability to collect data across space and time. However, the data from CS are often not effectively integrated into institutional monitoring programs and decision-making processes, especially in marine conservation. This limitation is partially due to difficulties in accessing the data and the lack of tools and indices for proper management at intended spatial and temporal scales. MedSens is a biotic index specifically developed to provide information on the environmental status of subtidal rocky coastal habitats, filling a gap between marine CS and coastal management in the Mediterranean Sea. The MedSens index is based on 25 selected species, incorporating their sensitivities to the pressures indicated by the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and open data on their distributions and abundances, collected by trained volunteers (scuba divers, free divers and snorkelers) using the Reef Check Mediterranean Underwater Coastal Environment Monitoring (RCMed U-CEM) protocol. The species sensitivities were assessed relative to their resistance and resilience against physical, chemical, and biological pressures, according to benchmark levels and a literature review. The MedSens index was calibrated on a dataset of 33,021 observations from 569 volunteers (2001–2019), along six countries’ coasts. A free and user-friendly QGIS plugin allows easy index calculation for areas and time frames of interest. The MedSens index was applied to Mediterranean marine protected areas (MPAs) and the management and monitoring zones within Italian MPAs. In the studied cases, the MedSens index responds well to the local pressures documented by previous investigations.
MedSens converts the data collected by trained volunteers into an effective monitoring tool for the Mediterranean subtidal rocky coastal habitats. MedSens can help conservationists and decision-makers identify the main pressures acting in these habitats, as required by the MSFD, supporting them in the implementation of appropriate marine biodiversity conservation measures and better communicate the results of their actions. By directly involving stakeholders, this approach increases public awareness and the acceptability of management decisions, enabling more participatory conservation tactics.
Chemical pollution impinges on the quality of water systems and the ecosystem services (ESs) they provide. Expression of ESs in monetary units has become an essential tool for sustainable ecosystem management. However, the impact of chemical pollution on ESs is rarely quantified, and ES valuation often focuses on individual services without considering the total services provided by the ecosystem. The purpose of the study was to develop a stepwise approach to quantify the impact of sediment pollution on the total ES value provided by water systems. Thereby, we calculated the total ES value loss as a function of the multi-substance potentially affected fraction of species at the HC50 level (msPAF(HC50)). The function is a combination of relationships between, subsequently: the msPAF(HC50), diversity, productivity and total ES value. Regardless of the inherent differences between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, an increase of diversity generally corresponded to an increase in productivity with curvilinear or linear effects. A positive correlation between productivity and total values of ESs of biomes was observed. The combined relationships showed that 1% msPAF(HC50) corresponded to on average 0.5% (0.05–1.40%) of total ES value loss. The ES loss due to polluted sediments in the Waal-Meuse river estuary (the Netherlands) and Flemish waterways (Belgium) was estimated to be 0.3–5 and 0.6–10 thousand 2007$/ha/yr, respectively. Our study presents a novel methodology to assess the impact of chemical exposure on diversity, productivity, and total value that ecosystems provide. With sufficient monitoring data, our generic methodology can be applied for any chemical and region of interest and help water managers make informed decisions on cost-effective measures to remedy pollution. Acknowledging that the ES loss estimates as a function of PAF(HC50) are crude, we explicitly discuss the uncertainties in each step for further development and application of the methodology.