Conservation actions most often occur in peopled seascapes and landscapes. As a result, conservation decisions cannot rely solely on evidence from the natural sciences, but must also be guided by the social sciences, the arts and the humanities. However, we are concerned that too much of the current attention is on research that serves an instrumental purpose, by which we mean that the social sciences are used to justify and promote status quo conservation practices. The reasons for engaging the social sciences, as well as the arts and the humanities, go well beyond making conservation more effective. In this editorial, we briefly reflect on how expanding the types of social science research and the contributions of the arts and the humanities can help to achieve the transformative potential of conservation.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
An integrated understanding of both social and ecological aspects of environmental issues is essential to address pressing sustainability challenges. An integrated social-ecological systems perspective is purported to provide a better understanding of the complex relationships between humans and nature. Despite a threefold increase in the amount of social-ecological research published between 2010 and 2015, it is unclear whether these approaches have been truly integrative. We conducted a systematic literature review to investigate the conceptual, methodological, disciplinary, and functional aspects of social-ecological integration. In general, we found that overall integration is still lacking in social-ecological research. Some social variables deemed important for addressing sustainability challenges are underrepresented in social-ecological studies, e.g., culture, politics, and power. Disciplines such as ecology, urban studies, and geography are better integrated than others, e.g., sociology, biology, and public administration. In addition to ecology and urban studies, biodiversity conservation plays a key brokerage role in integrating other disciplines into social-ecological research. Studies founded on systems theory have the highest rates of integration. Highly integrative studies combine different types of tools, involve stakeholders at appropriate stages, and tend to deliver practical recommendations. Better social-ecological integration must underpin sustainability science. To achieve this potential, future social-ecological research will require greater attention to the following: the interdisciplinary composition of project teams, strategic stakeholder involvement, application of multiple tools, incorporation of both social and ecological variables, consideration of bidirectional relationships between variables, and identification of implications and articulation of clear policy recommendations.
In the field of ocean observing, the term of “observatory” is often used without a unique meaning. A clear and unified definition of observatory is needed in order to facilitate the communication in a multidisciplinary community, to capitalize on future technological innovations and to support the observatory design based on societal needs. In this paper, we present a general framework to define the next generation Marine OBservatory (MOB), its capabilities and functionalities in an operational context. The MOB consists of four interconnected components or “gears” (observation infrastructure, cyberinfrastructure, support capacity, and knowledge generation engine) that are constantly and adaptively interacting with each other. Therefore, a MOB is a complex infrastructure focused on a specific geographic area with the primary scope to generate knowledge via data synthesis and thereby addressing scientific, societal, or economic challenges. Long-term sustainability is a key MOB feature that should be guaranteed through an appropriate governance. MOBs should be open to innovations and good practices to reduce operational costs and to allow their development in quality and quantity. A deeper biological understanding of the marine ecosystem should be reached with the proliferation of MOBs, thus contributing to effective conservation of ecosystems and management of human activities in the oceans. We provide an actionable model for the upgrade and development of sustained marine observatories producing knowledge to support science-based economic and societal decisions.
This paper highlights how multi-scalar interstitial policy failings of the EU fisheries policy can directly trigger policy gaps in fisheries management at the expense of artisanal communities, leading to further expansion opportunities for industrial fishing and triggering instability and marginalization of traditional fishing communities. In order to contextualize and demonstrate this complexity, we explore a detailed scenario of the Maltese waters to show how the development of a national policy portfolio post-EU accession has destabilized long-existing functional fishing governance mechanisms and now pose a direct challenge to the sustainable management of the marine socio-ecological system. Using a mixed-method approach to investigate the partially obscured social, economic and political dynamics which drive marine policy, we demonstrate how the coastal fisheries have become subject to multiple-use competition arising primarily from a burgeoning recreational fishing sector tha t has benefited from “access-enabling policies,” and is, to a great extent uninhibited by fish conservation regulations. Our findings demonstrate how a deeper understanding of the socio-political ramifications of policy processes is necessary to improve the governance and management of contested and congested open-access fisheries.
Effective implementation of management interventions is often limited by uncertainty, particularly in small-scale and developing-world fisheries. An effective intervention must have a measurable benefit, and evaluation of this benefit requires an understanding of the historical and socio-ecological context in which the intervention takes place. This context or ‘frame of reference’ should include the baseline status of the species of interest, as well as the most likely counterfactual (a projected scenario indicating what would have occurred in the absence of the intervention), given recent trends. Although counterfactuals are difficult to estimate and so are not widely specified in practice, an informative frame of reference can be developed even in data-poor circumstances. We demonstrate this using a case study of the Bangladesh hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) fishery. We combine qualitative and some quantitative analyses of secondary datasets to explore ecological trends in the hilsa fishery, as well as patterns of social, economic, institutional, and physical change relevant to its management over the last ∼50 years. We compile all available information on the key parameters that determine hilsa abundance and distribution (movement, reproduction, growth, and mortality), as well as all available information on stock status. This information is used to produce a baseline and qualitative counterfactual which can be used to guide decision-making in this complex, data-poor fishery. A frame of reference provides a systematic way to break down potential drivers of change in a fishery, including their interactions, reducing the potential for unexpected management outcomes. Critical evaluation of contradictions and commonalities between a set of potential counterfactuals, as well as the reliability of sources, allows the identification of key areas of uncertainty and information needs. These can then be incorporated into fisheries management planning.
Across the Pacific Islands, declining natural resources have contributed to a cultural renaissance of customary ridge-to-reef management approaches. These indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCA) are initiated by local communities to protect natural resources through customary laws. To support these efforts, managers require scientific tools that track land-sea linkages and evaluate how local management scenarios affect coral reefs. We established an interdisciplinary process and modeling framework to inform ridge-to-reef management in Hawai‘i, given increasing coastal development, fishing and climate change related impacts. We applied our framework at opposite ends of the Hawaiian Archipelago, in Hā‘ena and Ka‘ūpūlehu, where local communities have implemented customary resource management approaches through government-recognized processes to perpetuate traditional food systems and cultural practices. We identified coral reefs vulnerable to groundwater-based nutrients and linked them to areas on land, where appropriate management of human-derived nutrients could prevent increases in benthic algae and promote coral recovery from bleaching. Our results demonstrate the value of interdisciplinary collaborations among researchers, managers and community members. We discuss the lessons learned from our culturally-grounded, inclusive research process and highlight critical aspects of collaboration necessary to develop tools that can inform placed-based solutions to local environmental threats and foster coral reef resilience.
Mineral extraction from the seabed has experienced a recent surge of interest from both the mining industry and marine scientists. While improved methods of geological investigation have enabled the mapping of new seafloor mineral reserves, the ecological impacts of mining in both the deep sea and the shallow seabed are poorly known. This paper presents a synthesis of the empirical evidence from experimental seabed mining and parallel industries to infer the effects of seabed mineral extraction on marine ecosystems, focusing on polymetallic nodules and ferromanganese concretions. We use a problem-structuring framework to evaluate causal relationships between pressures caused by nodule extraction and the associated changes in marine ecosystems. To ensure that the rationale behind impact assessments is clear, we propose that future impact assessments use pressure-specific expert elicitation. We further discuss integrating ecosystem services in the impact assessments and the implications of current methods for environmental risk assessments.
Links between corruption and illegal practices within fisheries are recognised in existing literature but little reference has been made to how these interconnected practices affect the performance and legitimacy of fisheries comanagement. Research in the three countries bordering Lake Victoria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, found that corruption is systemic and that members of all stakeholder groups – fishers, fisheries officers, police and the judiciary – are implicated. It was confirmed that corruption is strongly linked to illegalities and that corruption in this context should be viewed as a collective action problem, with fishers reluctant to invest in legal gears and methods when they perceive illegalities and corruption to be prevalent. It was also found that corrupt practices linked to illegalities discourages local level fisheries management structures – the Beach Management Units – from enforcing regulations and contributes to a lack of trust between fishers and government. Linked corruption and illegal fisheries practices were therefore found to be undermining the performance and legitimacy of co-management. This article concludes that whilst co-management offers opportunities for collusive corruption through collaborative arrangements, any management system will be susceptible to the harmful effects of corruption where it is systemic and is not formally recognised or appropriately addressed. Greater official recognition of the links between corruption and illegalities, and a range of appropriate actions taken to this collective action problem, is essential if co-management is to have a chance of success.
Area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs) are widely recognized as a key mechanism for conserving and restoring biodiversity. The developing international legally-binding instrument (ILBI) on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is considering a range of approaches to ABMTs. While the process is still in early stages, this paper looks ahead to anticipate implementation challenges for ABMTs, given previous experiences with regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and high seas MPAs. Drawing on the implementation of MPAs under the OSPAR Convention and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR), key suggestions revolve around: (1) improving the evidence basis for protecting BBNJ, (2) designing effective compliance and enforcement mechanisms, and (3) engaging adequately with relevant stakeholders. In addition to the case studies, which are primarily marine pollution and fishing-oriented, considerations related to mitigating the effects of deep sea mining and the harvesting of marine genetic resources are also touched upon.
There are many marine protected areas (MPAs) containing coral reef aggregations in the eastern Pacific region. However, the connectivity of corals between MPAs is still poorly known, especially in the Marine Conservation Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (MCCETP). Here, we assess the potential connectivity of corals across equatorial eastern Pacific MPAs through a Lagrangian particle-tracking algorithm coupled offline with an ocean-circulation numerical model. Connectivity metrics and graph theory were used to analyze the networks and highlight those MPAs that are critical for maintaining the connectivity of corals across the region. Our results show that the equatorial eastern Pacific MPAs form a relatively well-connected network, at least 40% of coral larvae released per year end up within the boundaries of an MPA. MPAs like Malpelo and Gorgona islands included in the MCCETP were found to be critical for connectivity of corals because of their high betweenness centrality and potential role as stepping-stones between coastal MPAs and offshore MPAs such as the Galapagos Islands. Two pelagic larval duration (PLD) scenarios (40 and 130 days) indicate a quasi-unidirectional larval flow from coastal MPAs toward oceanic MPAs, where the only resilient MPAs (Coiba and Malpelo islands) depend mostly on subsidiary recruitment from MPAs located along the coast of Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. In the two PLD scenarios, Cocos Island maintains a very low resilience potential. Our results indicate the imperative need to include coastal MPAs in the MCCETP network initiative, since connectivity and resilience of coral reefs in the equatorial eastern Pacific region rely heavily on coastal MPAs.
Most large-scale conservation policies are anticipated or announced in advance. This risks the possibility of preemptive resource extraction before the conservation intervention goes into force. We use a high-resolution dataset of satellite-based fishing activity to show that anticipation of an impending no-take marine reserve undermines the policy by triggering an unintended race-to-fish. We study one of the world’s largest marine reserves, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), and find that fishers more than doubled their fishing effort once this area was earmarked for eventual protected status. The additional fishing effort resulted in an impoverished starting point for PIPA equivalent to 1.5 y of banned fishing. Extrapolating this behavior globally, we estimate that if other marine reserve announcements were to trigger similar preemptive fishing, this could temporarily increase the share of overextracted fisheries from 65% to 72%. Our findings have implications for general conservation efforts as well as the methods that scientists use to monitor and evaluate policy efficacy.
Oceanographers have an increasing responsibility to ensure that the outcomes of scientific research are conveyed to the policy-making sphere to achieve conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity. Zooplankton monitoring projects have helped to increase our understanding of the processes by which marine ecosystems respond to climate change and other environmental variations, ranging from regional to global scales, and its scientific value is recognized in the contexts of fisheries, biodiversity and global change studies. Nevertheless, zooplankton data have rarely been used at policy level for conservation and management of marine ecosystems services. One way that this can be pragmatically and effectively achieved is via the development of zooplankton indicators, which could for instance contribute to filling in gaps in the suite of global indicators to track progress against the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2010–2020. This article begins by highlighting how under-represented the marine realm is within the current suite of global Aichi Target indicators. We then examine the potential to develop global indicators for relevant Aichi Targets, using existing zooplankton monitoring data, to address global biodiversity conservation challenges.
Recreational boating increases globally and associated moorings are often placed in vegetated habitats important for fish recruitment. Meanwhile, assessments of the effects of boating on vegetation, and potential effects on associated fish assemblages are rare. Here, we analysed (i) the effect of small-boat marinas on vegetation structure, and (ii) juvenile fish abundance in relation to vegetation cover in shallow wave-sheltered coastal inlets. We found marinas to have lower vegetation cover and height, and a different species composition, compared to control inlets. This effect became stronger with increasing berth density. Moreover, there was a clear positive relationship between vegetation cover and fish abundance. We conclude that recreational boating and related moorings are associated with reduced cover of aquatic vegetation constituting important habitats for juvenile fish. We therefore recommend that coastal constructions and associated boating should be allocated to more disturbance tolerant environments (e.g. naturally wave-exposed shores), thereby minimizing negative environmental impacts.
We developed a linked land-sea modeling framework based on remote sensing and empirical data, which couples sediment export and coral reef models at fine spatial resolution. This spatially-explicit (60 × 60 m) framework simultaneously tracks changes in multiple benthic and fish indicators as a function of land-use and climate change scenarios. We applied this framework in Kubulau District, Fiji, to investigate the effects of logging, agriculture expansion, and restoration on coral reef resilience. Under the deforestation scenario, models projected a 4.5-fold sediment increase (>7,000 t. yr−1) coupled with a significant decrease in benthic habitat quality across 1,940 ha and a reef fish biomass loss of 60.6 t. Under the restoration scenario, models projected a small (<30 t. yr−1) decrease in exported sediments, resulting in a significant increase in benthic habitat quality across 577 ha and a fish biomass gain of 5.7 t. The decrease in benthic habitat quality and loss of fish biomass were greater when combining climate change and deforestation scenarios. We evaluated where land-use change and bleaching scenarios would impact sediment runoff and downstream coral reefs to identify priority areas on land, where conservation or restoration could promote coral reef resilience in the face of climate change.
Mass media is a useful way to inform the public about marine conservation, however studies about its effectiveness are lacking. This research explores the role of mass media in the diffusion of marine conservation information. Coverage of marine environmental issues in the mass media are assessed for Chile using a diversity of sources, namely, newspaper and broadcast television. In addition, public interest about conservation topics was assessed using Google Trends for Chile. Results show that there is a relatively low coverage of marine news in broadcast television and in newspapers. During the last decade, internet searches show the interest in marine conservation issues decreased and the only conservation related term, whose search increased over time, is sustainability. There is a tendency towards an increase in the number of newspaper publications related to economic and business issues. There seems to be no strategy from the environmental ministry or research institutions focused on developing a storyline related to marine conservation news in the mass media. Results stress the need to develop a long-term communications plan in order to strengthen diffusion of marine environmental impacts and conservation issues through mass media
Phytoplankton are an extremely important component of the functioning of ecosystems and climate regulation. Because concentrations of phytoplankton are highly patchy in both space and time, it is proposed that more consideration concerning the potential impact from human developments and activities on the service provision afforded by phytoplankton should be accounted for in marine management processes. The multiple species of primary producers provide important provisioning and regulating ecosystem services (ES) and form the basis of marine food-webs, supporting production of higher trophic levels (a provisioning ES), and act as a sink of CO2 (a climate regulation ES). Spatial and temporal patchiness in the production of phytoplankton can be related to patchiness in the provision of these ES. Patches of naturally high phytoplankton productivity should be afforded consideration within processes to assess environmental status, within marine spatial planning (including marine protected areas) and within sectoral licensing, with marine planning and licensing acting at scales most in harmony with scales of phytoplankton heterogeneity (meters to tens of kilometres). In this study, consideration of phytoplankton in marine management decision making has been reviewed. This paper suggests that potential impacts of maritime developments and activities on the natural patchiness of phytoplankton communities be included in management deliberations, and mitigation be considered. This affords opportunities for researchers to engage with management authorities to support ecosystems-based management. Doing so will assist in maintaining or achieving good environmental status and support further, reliant, ES.
Fisheries can have significant impacts on the structure and function of marine ecosystems, including impacts on habitats and non-target species. As a result, management agencies face growing calls to account for the ecosystem impacts of fishing, while navigating the political and economic interests of diverse stakeholders. This paper assesses the impacts of two specific factors on the attitudes and well-being of shrimp fishers in the context of a selective fisheries closure designed to protect crabs in the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: (1) the species portfolios of fishers; and (2) democratic rulemaking. The results of this analysis suggest that shrimp fishers were more likely to support selective closures for the shrimp fishery if they also fished for crab, and felt they had an influence on the management of the fishery. The results further indicate that species portfolio diversification had a positive and statistically significant impact on the subjective economic well-being of fishers. This study contributes to an emerging literature on the human dimensions of ecosystem-based fisheries management, highlighting opportunities to address trade-offs in fisheries through species diversification and by enhancing the role and influence of fishers in management processes.
The world’s oceans supply food and livelihood to billions of people, yet species’ shifting geographic ranges and changes in productivity arising from climate change are expected to profoundly affect these benefits. We ask how improvements in fishery management can offset the negative consequences of climate change; we find that the answer hinges on the current status of stocks. The poor current status of many stocks combined with potentially maladaptive responses to range shifts could reduce future global fisheries yields and profits even more severely than previous estimates have suggested. However, reforming fisheries in ways that jointly fix current inefficiencies, adapt to fisheries productivity changes, and proactively create effective transboundary institutions could lead to a future with higher profits and yields compared to what is produced today.
Everyone shares the human condition, but we play it out in different ways. As scientists, we play a role when we work, speak and write as scientists. A recently completed EU-funded multi-disciplinary project on integrating science and policy in the context of coastal management (SPICOSA) illustrates how divorcing this role of scientist from the underlying context of a human being with values and opinions gives rise to the illusion that science can remain detached from the human messiness of the social–environmental policy context. An ongoing social–environmental conflict in Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland illustrates different perspectives on marine conservation held by different roles (policy makers and local community). Our roles position us on the social grid and allow us to function in society. We speculate that working and communicating with an awareness of a shared human condition, and an acceptance of the messiness of the social–environmental policy context, enables us to consciously choose our roles as a means of facilitating effective communication and providing policy-relevant science.
Marine litter has been a serious and growing problem for some decades now. Yet, there is still much speculation among researchers, policy makers and planners about how to tackle marine litter from land-based sources. This paper provides insights into approaches for managing marine litter by reporting and analyzing survey results of litter dispersal and makeup from three areas along an Arab-Israeli coastal town in view of other recent studies conducted around the Mediterranean Sea. Based on our results and analysis, we posit that bathing beach activities should be a high priority for waste managers as a point of intervention and beach-goers must be encouraged to take a more active role in keeping beaches clean. Further, plastic fragments on the beach should be targeted as a first priority for prevention (and cleanup) of marine litter with plastic bottle caps being a high priority to be targeted among plastics. More survey research is needed on non-plastic litter composition for which amounts and geographic dispersal in the region vary greatly from place to place along Mediterranean shores. In general, findings of this study lead us to recommend exploring persuasive beach trash can design coupled with greater enforcement for short term waste management intervention while considering the local socio-economic and institutional context further for long-term efforts.