The global COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of our health, social, and economic systems. While responding to the health crisis, governments are scrambling to understand and address the knock-on economic effects from market disruptions, and respond to other major disturbances (e.g. natural disasters). We conducted 61 key informant interviews with Indo-Fijian small-scale fisheries (SSF) actors (i.e. fishers, boat owners (that may or may not fish), crew members, and traders) in May 2020, two months after Fiji got its first case of COVID-19 and a month after Cyclone Harold hit the country. We examined how these SSF groups whose access to resources depends on their ability to navigate existing social relations of power, have lived through, experienced, and responded to the two stresses. We found the main impact of COVID-19 on SSF actors was the reduction in sales of fish (73.8 % of respondents) likely a result of reduction in local consumption and/or the loss of tourism markets. Loss of purchasing power meant almost a fifth of Indo-Fijian SSF actors interviewed (comprising 44.4 % of crew members, 16.4 % fishers, 11.5 % boat owners, 8.3 % traders) were unable to obtain sufficient food to meet their families’ daily needs. Many of these SSF actors do not have access to social security or similar safety nets leaving them vulnerable to the current crisis as well as to other shocks and changes. Furthermore, social inequities and power relations surrounding access to fisheries resources and government aid contributed to their vulnerability to economic stresses from COVID-19 and a severe cyclone. An understanding of early impacts of COVID-19 on SSF through an intersectional lens can assist decision-makers to quickly mobilise assistance to help people who are most vulnerable, and avoid widening inequities among social groups.
Genetic individual assignment of river stock of origin of mixed stock catch fish offers a tool to analyze size differences among river stocks. Data on the genetically identified river stock of origin of individual fish from commercial mixed stock catches were used to compare the catch size-at-age of mature Atlantic salmon catch fish (Salmo salar) from different rivers in the Baltic Sea. In this application of genetic mixed stock modeling, individual assignments of the river stock of origin were analyzed together with length- and weight-at-age data for individual catch fish. The use of four genetic stock identification based methods was compared for defining the length distributions of caught mature salmon in different river stocks. The catch data included information on maturing salmon in the northern Baltic Sea over the years 2000–2013. DNA microsatellite data on 17 loci and information on the smoltification age were used to assign spawners to their stock of origin. All of the compared methods for using probabilistic stock of origin data in our case yielded very similar estimates of the final mean length distributions of the stocks. The Bayesian mixture model yielded slightly more conservative estimates than the direct probability method, threshold method, or the modified probability method. The catch size between spawners of a same sex and age from river stocks differed significantly and the differences were large. The mean catch weight of 1-sea-winter old mature males in different rivers varied from 1.9 kg to 2.9 kg, from 5.1 kg to 7.5 kg for 2-sea-winter old males, from 5.0 kg to 7.2 kg for 2-sea-winter old females, and from 8.2 kg to 10.8 kg for 3-sea-winter-old females. The mean size of caught wild salmon spawners in each year-class was on average smaller than that of the hatchery-reared and sea ranched stocks.
Spinner dolphins on Hawai‘i Island’s west coast (Stenella longirostris longirostris) rest by day in protected bays that are increasingly popular for recreation. Because more frequent interactions of people with these dolphins is likely to reduce rest for dolphins and to explain recent decline in dolphin abundance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed stricter rules regarding interactions with spinner dolphins near the main Hawaiian Islands and plans to increase enforcement. Simultaneous investment in public education about both interaction rules and their biological rationale has been and is likely to be relatively low. To test the hypothesis that more educational signage will reduce human-generated disturbance of dolphins, a paper questionnaire was distributed to 351 land-based, mostly unguided visitors at three dolphin resting bays on Hawai‘i Island’s west coast. Responses indicated that visitors wanted to see dolphins, were ignorant of interaction rules, were likely to read signs explaining rules and their biological rationales, and were likely to follow known rules. Therefore, investment in effective educational signage at dolphin resting bays is recommended as one way to support conservation of spinner dolphins on Hawai‘i Island’s west coast and similar sites in the Hawaiian archipelago.
We examined spatial patterns in diet, trophic niche width and niche overlap for chum, pink and sockeye salmon across the North Pacific during 1959–1969. This is a baseline period before major hatchery enhancement occurred coinciding with a negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Large-scale (between regions) and fine-scale (within regions) spatial and interspecies differences were apparent. In the Western Subarctic, all species tended to consume zooplankton. In the Bering Sea, chum consumed zooplankton, while sockeye and pink alternated between zooplankton and micronekton. In the Gulf of Alaska/Eastern Subarctic, chum and sockeye specialized on gelatinous zooplankton and cephalopod prey, respectively, while pink consumed a mixture of zooplankton and micronekton. The highest diet overlap across the North Pacific was between pink and sockeye (46.6%), followed by chum and pink (31.8%), and chum and sockeye (30.9%). Greater diet specialization was evident in the Gulf of Alaska/Eastern Subarctic compared to the Western Pacific. Generally, species had higher niche width and overlap in areas of high prey availability, and this was particularly evident for chum salmon. In addition to the large-scale trophic patterns, our data revealed novel fine-scale spatial patterns, including latitudinal, onshore-offshore, and cross-gyre gradients. Our results showed that pink tended to be more generalist consumers, and their diets may be a better reflection of overall prey presence and abundance in the environment. Conversely, chum and sockeye tended to be more specialist consumers, and their diets may provide a better reflection of interspecies dynamics or prey availability. This study provides a baseline for comparison with current and future changes in salmon marine ecology and North Pacific ecosystems. Finally, we identify two important data gaps that need addressing, that of improved taxonomic resolution diet data for Pacific salmon and focused research on sub-mesoscale oceanographic features that may play an important role in salmon health and productivity.
Portunid crabs contribute to significant commercial and recreational fisheries globally and are commonly fished in estuaries and/or marine embayments, which are amongst the most degraded of all aquatic ecosystems. Portunus armatus were collected seasonally between April and February from five locations across three systems in temperate south-western Australia. The dietary composition of crabs was quantified and compared between two estuaries (Peel-Harvey and Swan-Canning) and a sheltered marine embayment (Cockburn Sound) containing three distinct habitats: shallow seagrass, shallow sand and deep sand. Overall, crabs ingested large volumes of bivalves (both live organisms and dead shell), polychaetes, crustaceans (e.g., amphipods, small decapods), and smaller volumes of teleosts, echinoderms and plant material (seagrass, algae). Analysis of Similarities showed that dietary composition varied significantly among the five locations (two estuaries and three habitats within Cockburn Sound) and seasons, with greater location than seasonal differences in the two estuaries. Diets were most distinct in the Cockburn Sound seagrass due to greater volumes of decapods and teleosts and smaller volumes of bivalve shell consumed in this habitat. Crabs from both estuaries consumed greater quantities of bivalves than those from Cockburn Sound. Seasonal differences in both estuaries were greatest between summer and winter, with a more diverse range of prey and large quantities of bivalves ingested in summer, whereas small bivalves and bivalve shell in the Peel-Harvey and polychaetes and other crustaceans in the Swan-Canning, were consumed in greater quantities in winter. The summer diet in the Peel-Harvey Estuary in the current study was compared to that 20 years previous and with documented change in the benthic macroinvertebrate fauna. Currently, crabs consume smaller volumes of high-calorie prey, i.e., polychaetes, small bivalves and teleosts, and instead ingest greater proportions of calcareous material than previously. This marked shift in dietary composition parallels changes in benthic macroinvertebrates in the Peel-Harvey Estuary. Overall, prey availability appears to be the major factor influencing the spatial and temporal differences in P. armatus diets in these three coastal systems.
Climate change, fisheries and invasive species represent three pervasive threats to seabirds, globally. Understanding the relative influence and compounding nature of marine and terrestrial threats on the demography of seabird communities is vital for evidence-based conservation. Using 20 years of capture-mark-recapture data from four sympatric species of albatross (black-browed Thalassarche melanophris, gray-headed T. chrysostoma, light-mantled Phoebetria palpebrata and wandering Diomedea exulans) at subantarctic Macquarie Island, we quantified the temporal variability in survival, breeding probability and success. In three species (excluding the wandering albatross because of their small population), we also assessed the influence of fisheries, oceanographic and terrestrial change on these rates. The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) explained 20.87–29.38% of the temporal variability in survival in all three species and 22.72–28.60% in breeding success for black-browed and gray-headed albatross, with positive SAM events related to higher success. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Index explained 21.14–44.04% of the variability in survival, with higher survival rates following La Niña events. For black-browed albatrosses, effort in south-west Atlantic longline fisheries had a negative relationship with survival and explained 22.75–32.21% of the variability. Whereas increased effort in New Zealand trawl fisheries were related to increases in survival, explaining 21.26–28.29 % of variability. The inclusion of terrestrial covariates, reflecting extreme rainfall events and rabbit-driven habitat degradation, explained greater variability in trends breeding probability than oceanographic or fisheries covariates for all three species. These results indicate managing drivers of demographic trends that are most easily controlled, such as fisheries and habitat degradation, will be a viable option for some species (e.g., black-browed albatross) but less effective for others (e.g., light-mantled albatross). Our results illustrate the need to integrate fisheries, oceanographic and terrestrial processes when assessing demographic variability and formulating the appropriate management response.
Time-area closures are a valuable tool for mitigating fisheries bycatch. There is increasing recognition that dynamic closures, which have boundaries that vary across space and time, can be more effective than static closures at protecting mobile species in dynamic environments. We created a management strategy evaluation to compare static and dynamic closures in a simulated fishery based on the California drift gillnet swordfish fishery, with closures aimed at reducing bycatch of leatherback turtles. We tested eight operating models that varied swordfish and leatherback distributions, and within each evaluated the performance of three static and five dynamic closure strategies. We repeated this under 20 and 50% simulated observer coverage to alter the data available for closure creation. We found that static closures can be effective for reducing bycatch of species with more geographically associated distributions, but to avoid redistributing bycatch the static areas closed should be based on potential (not just observed) bycatch. Only dynamic closures were effective at reducing bycatch for more dynamic leatherback distributions, and they generally reduced bycatch risk more than they reduced target catch. Dynamic closures were less likely to redistribute fishing into rarely fished areas, by leaving open pockets of lower risk habitat, but these closures were often fragmented which would create practical challenges for fishers and managers and require a mobile fleet. Given our simulation’s catch rates, 20% observer coverage was sufficient to create useful closures and increasing coverage to 50% added only minor improvement in closure performance. Even strict static or dynamic closures reduced leatherback bycatch by only 30–50% per season, because the simulated leatherback distributions were broad and open areas contained considerable bycatch risk. Perfect knowledge of the leatherback distribution provided an additional 5–15% bycatch reduction over a dynamic closure with realistic predictive accuracy. This moderate level of bycatch reduction highlights the limitations of redistributing fishing effort to reduce bycatch of broadly distributed and rarely encountered species, and indicates that, for these species, spatial management may work best when used with other bycatch mitigation approaches. We recommend future research explores methods for considering model uncertainty in the spatial and temporal resolution of dynamic closures.
In the Mediterranean Sea unique environmental characteristics and sensitive assets coexist with intense maritime traffic that is represented by frequent daily passages of vessels along the main waterways. In order to assess the risk of oil stranding in case of at-sea emergencies and provide key products for environmental agencies or policymakers preparedness, a geographically relocatable, operational numerical system is implemented and tested. The system relies on the application of oceanographic and particle tracking models and is able to provide, on a high-resolution and unstructured computational grid, a 3-days forecast of those variables known as the main drivers of oil slicks at sea. The risk of potential oil stranding is computed through a combination of anthropogenic hazard and shoreline vulnerability. The sources of hazard vary on time and space in relation to local maritime vessel traffic. The shoreline vulnerability is based on the current knowledge of slope, main grain size, geology of rocks, and occurrence of manmade structures at coast. The operational system is enriched by a web graphical user interface and includes automatic and on-demand working modes. Its functionality is demonstrated in the Strait of Bonifacio (western Mediterranean Sea), area with a high potential risk of oil stranding due to an intense maritime traffic. Risk assessment is hence computed for a test year, the 2018. Critical values of risk are found in correspondence of long stretches of littoral while many of them are currently characterized by a low anthropogenic pressure. The results emphasize the geomorphological features of the shorelines as reducing or amplifying factors to any potential impact of oil stranding at coast.
Tourism is one of the largest economic sectors in the world. It has a positive effect on the economy of many countries, but it can also lead to negative impacts on local ecosystems. Informal environmental education through Citizen Science (CS) projects can be effective in increasing citizen environmental knowledge and awareness in the short-term. A change of awareness could bring to a behavioral change in the long-term, making tourism more sustainable. However, the long-term effects of participating in CS projects are still unknown. This is the first follow-up study concerning the effects of participating in a CS project on cognitive and psychological aspects at the basis of pro-environmental behavior. An environmental education program was developed, between 2012 and 2013, in a resort in Marsa Alam, Egypt. The study directly evaluated, through paper questionnaires, the short-term (after 1 week or 10 days) retention of knowledge and awareness of volunteers that had participated in the activities proposed by the program. After three years, participants were re-contacted via email to fill in the same questionnaire as in the short-term study, plus a new section with psychological variables. 40.5% of the re-contacted participants completed the follow-up questionnaires with a final sample size of fifty-five people for this study. Notwithstanding the limited sample size, positive trends in volunteer awareness, personal satisfaction regarding the CS project, and motivation to engage in pro-environmental behavior in the long-term were observed.
Overfishing is notorious for triggering population collapses and disrupting marine biological functioning worldwide. To counter such a threat, policy-makers have created and implemented multiple management strategies, but most were incapable to prevent the decline of several key species. Here, we discuss a new management strategy in force since June 2019 in Brazil that aims to deter the overfishing of parrotfish species of the genera Scarus and Sparisoma. This innovative strategy, here referred to as inverted management, allows the capture of endangered parrotfish species inside management areas, such as partially protected marine areas—MPAs, but bans it elsewhere. This initiative is supposed to be built in a partnership among the government, scientists, managers, and fishers. If implemented correctly, endangered species would recover in the much larger area outside MPAs, and fishers would benefit from the conservation-value of the scarce and valued product. However, to succeed, the strategy depends on the adoption of a series of challenging management rules that are not currently being enforced along an extensive coastline. So far, few MPAs have incorporated rules for endangered species in their management plan, and those that have done so have no plans or the means to enforce them. Therefore, fishing of endangered species is currently ongoing without any management or monitoring in the entire Brazilian coast. Concerned with the challenges to develop plans to recover populations of endangered species faced by Brazilian managers, we suggest wide communication and a ban on the fisheries until management plans are implemented. Additionally, we suggest that the effectiveness of the inverted management strategy for parrotfishes should be assessed before it’s applied to other endangered species.
Windrow is a long-established term for the aggregations of seafoam, seaweeds, plankton and natural debris that appear on the ocean surface. Here, we define a “litter windrow” as any aggregation of floating litter at the submesoscale domain (<10 km horizontally), regardless of the force inducing the surface convergence, be it wind or other forces such as tides or density-driven currents. The marine litter windrows observed to date usually form stripes from tens up to thousands of meters long, with litter densities often exceeding 10 small items (<2 cm) per m2 or 1 large item (>2 cm) per 10 m2. Litter windrows are generally overlooked in research due to their dispersion, small size and ephemeral nature. However, applied research on windrows offers unique possibilities to advance on the knowledge and management of marine litter pollution. Litter windrows are hot spots of interaction with marine life. In addition, since the formation of dense litter windrows requires especially high loads of floating litter in the environment, their detection from space-borne sensors, aerial surveys or other platforms might be used to flag areas and periods of severe pollution. Monitoring and assessing of management plans, identification of pollution sources, or impact prevention are identified as some of the most promising fields of application for the marine litter windrows. In the present Perspective, we develop a conceptual framework and point out the main obstacles, opportunities and methodological approaches to address the study of litter windrows.
This paper builds upon Friedman et al. (2020) and other reviews and statements but provides an explicit focus on research needed to improve the resilience and survivability of coastal communities as they face existential threats from climate change. It does not attempt a prescriptive analysis of potential research emphases, but instead recommends some key research areas that we believe will help provide a solid foundation for community adaptation. Our perspective is based on our experiences over a combined nearly 95 years of work in research, management, and policy, much of it related to coastal environments and their communities, rather than expert deliberation within a large group or a systematic review. We present a list of 25 research priorities binned into 12 categories and targeted to leaders of coastal communities, interested researchers, funders, students, and the public. These priorities are intended to help start more discussion of research needs with and within communities, and help focus attention of researchers on actions that have potential to identify critical decision points and make positive differences for communities. We conclude that priority research should be undertaken with urgency and a much greater level of trans- and interdisciplinarity and community-participatory approaches than yet seen.
Arctic sea ice is shifting from a year-round to a seasonal sea ice cover. This substantial transformation, via a reduction in Arctic sea ice extent and a thinning of its thickness, influences the amount of light entering the upper ocean. This in turn impacts under-ice algal growth and associated ecosystem dynamics. Field campaigns have provided valuable insights as to how snow and ice properties impact light penetration at fixed locations in the Arctic, but to understand the spatial variability in the under-ice light field there is a need to scale up to the pan-Arctic level. Combining information from satellites with state-of-the-art parameterizations is one means to achieve this. This study combines satellite and modeled data products to map under-ice light on a monthly time-scale from 2011 through 2018. Key limitations pertain to the availability of satellite-derived sea ice thickness, which for radar altimetry, is only available during the sea ice growth season. We clearly show that year-to-year variability in snow depth, along with the fraction of thin ice, plays a key role in how much light enters the Arctic Ocean. This is particularly significant in April, which in some regions, coincides with the beginning of the under-ice algal bloom, whereas we find that ice thickness is the main driver of under-ice light availability at the end of the melt season in October. The extension to the melt season due to a warmer Arctic means that snow accumulation has reduced, which is leading to positive trends in light transmission through snow. This, combined with a thinner ice cover, should lead to increased under-ice PAR also in the summer months.
More so than wealthier, less nature-dependent social groups, the poor in tropical coastal regions suffer from adverse environmental change and need new income options. With high levels of saltwater intrusion into coastal lands, innovative brackish water aquaculture (BWA) including integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) are crucial adaptation options to the expanding marine waters. This article examines how poor Bangladeshi coastal residents view BWA, and what is needed to make BWA a viable and sustainable livelihood for the coastal poor. In sites that are affected by major salinity intrusion, we used a semi-structured questionnaire to interview 120 households. We examine three questions: (1) What kind of aquaculture is currently being undertaken in brackish/saline/coastal waters? (2) Do poor coastal residents see BWA (and, by implication the hitherto fairly unknown IMTA) as a viable and sustainable livelihood? (3) What is needed to make BWA a feasible and promising livelihood in Bangladesh? Our results show both information and perception biases obstruct in particular coastal poor women and men from engaging with innovative BWA. Their knowledge on ecosystem-based aquaculture was scarce and their views of aquaculture were related mainly to previous experiences with shrimp monoculture and its polarizing socio-economic effects. We propose some strategic fields of action to develop innovative BWA that also benefits coastal Bangladesh’s poorest people.
Ecological profiling of non-native species is essential to predict their dispersal and invasiveness potential across different areas of the world. Cassiopea is a monophyletic taxonomic group of scyphozoan mixotrophic jellyfish including C. andromeda, a recent colonizer of sheltered, shallow-water habitats of the Mediterranean Sea, such as harbors and other light-limited, eutrophic coastal habitats. To assess the ecophysiological plasticity of Cassiopea jellyfish and their potential to spread across the Mare Nostrum by secondary introductions, we investigated rapid photosynthetic responses of jellyfish to irradiance transitions—from reduced to increased irradiance conditions (as paradigm of transition from harbors to coastal, meso/oligotrophic habitats). Laboratory incubation experiments were carried out to compare oxygen fluxes and photobiological variables in Cassiopea sp. immature specimens pre-acclimated to low irradiance (PAR = 200 μmol photons m−2 s−1) and specimens rapidly exposed to higher irradiance levels (PAR = 500 μmol photons m−2 s−1). Comparable photosynthetic potential and high photosynthetic rates were measured at both irradiance values, as also shown by the rapid light curves. No significant differences were observed in terms of symbiont abundance between control and treated specimens. However, jellyfish kept at the low irradiance showed a higher content in chlorophyll a and c (0.76±0.51SD vs 0.46±0.13SD mg g-1 AFDW) and a higher Ci (amount of chlorophyll per cell) compared to jellyfish exposed to higher irradiance levels. The ratio between gross photosynthesis and respiration (P:R) was >1, indicating a significant input from the autotrophic metabolism. Cassiopea sp. specimens showed high photosynthetic performances, at both low and high irradiance, demonstrating high potential to adapt to sudden changes in light exposure. Such photosynthetic plasticity, combined with Cassiopea eurythermal tolerance and mixotrophic behavior, jointly suggest the upside-down jellyfish as a potentially successful invader in the scenario of a warming Mediterranean Sea.
Oceans are complex systems and problems preventing a sustainable future require complex solutions. This can be achieved through innovative blends of natural and social sciences, with input from stakeholders. There is growing expectation that early career researchers (ECR), especially conservationists, should be more than natural scientists. ECR are expected to have skills in several domains, not all important to the quality of their work. Scientific skills range from knowledge of complex statistics to programming, and experience in different scientific fields. It is not only impossible to master all such tasks in a lifetime, much less as an ECR, but most importantly, attempting to do so means an ECR cannot master any single skill. This is especially true for minorities, non-native English speakers, and those who must juggle doing science with little or no funding, while having other jobs and family commitments. ECR are also expected to participate in activities that, while important for conservation, do not necessarily improve their scientific skills. These are social skills and range from policy engagement to science communication. This can contribute to developing mental health issues as it hinders having a healthy work-life balance. This expectation of engaging in extracurricular activities can overwhelm people with social anxiety and other difficulties with social interactions (e.g., people in the autism spectrum). Through collaborations, we can effectively draw on the more specialized skills of various people. Building an inclusive scientific community for ECR, therefore, calls for seeing diversity of skills, thoughts, and personality traits as its strength.
In the face of increasing anthropogenic threats, coastal nations need to reach common ground for effective marine conservation. Understanding species' connectivity can reveal how nations share resources, demonstrating the need for cooperative protection efforts. Unfortunately, connectivity information is rarely integrated into the design of marine protected areas (MPAs). This is exemplified in the Red Sea where biodiversity is only nominally protected by a non-cohesive network of small-sized MPAs, most of which are barely implemented. Here, we showcase the potential of using connectivity patterns of flagship species to consolidate conservation efforts in the Red Sea. We argue that a large-scale MPA (LSMPA) would more effectively preserve Red Sea species' multinational migration routes. A connectivity-informed LSMPA approach provides thus one avenue to unite coastal nations toward acting for the common good of conservation and reverse the global decline in marine biodiversity.
Given the considerable range of applications within the European Union Copernicus system, sustained satellite altimetry missions are required to address operational, science and societal needs. This article describes the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission that is designed to provide precision sea level, sea surface height, significant wave height, inland water heights and other products tailored to operational services in the ocean, climate, atmospheric and land Copernicus Services. Sentinel-6 provides enhanced continuity to the very stable time series of mean sea level measurements and ocean sea state started in 1992 by the TOPEX/Poseidon mission and follow-on Jason-1, Jason-2 and Jason-3 satellite missions. The mission is implemented through a unique international partnership with contributions from NASA, NOAA, ESA, EUMETSAT, and the European Union (EU). It includes two satellites that will fly sequentially (separated in time by 5 years). The first satellite, named Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base, USA on 21st November 2020. The satellite and payload elements are explained including required performance and their operation. The main payload is the Poseidon-4 dual frequency (C/Ku-band) nadir-pointing radar altimeter that uses an innovative interleaved mode. This enables radar data processing on two parallel chains the first provides synthetic aperture radar (SAR) processing in Ku-band to improve the received altimeter echoes through better along-track sampling and reduced measurement noise; the second provides a Low Resolution Mode that is fully backward-compatible with the historical reference altimetry measurements, allowing a complete inter-calibration between the state-of-the-art data and the historical record. A three-channel Advanced Microwave Radiometer for Climate (AMRC) provides measurements of atmospheric water vapour to mitigate degradation of the radar altimeter measurements. The main data products are explained and preliminary in-orbit Poseidon-4 altimeter data performance data are presented that demonstrate the altimeter to be performing within expectations.
Despite the recognized important ecological role that cetaceans play in the marine environment, their protection is still scarcely enforced in the Mediterranean Sea even though this area is strongly threatened by local human pressures and climate change. The piecemeal of knowledge related to cetaceans' ecology and distribution in the basin undermines the capacity of addressing cetaceans' protection and identifying effective conservation strategies. In this study, an Ecosystem-Based Marine Spatial Planning (EB-MSP) approach is applied to assess human pressures on cetaceans and guide the designation of a conservation area in the Gulf of Taranto, Northern Ionian Sea (Central-eastern Mediterranean Sea). The Gulf of Taranto hosts different cetacean species that accomplish important phases of their life in the area. Despite this fact, the gulf does not fall within any area-based management tools (ABMTs) for cetacean conservation. We pin down the Gulf of Taranto being eligible for the designation of diverse ABMTs for conservation, both legally and non-legally binding. Through a risk-based approach, this study explores the cause-effect relationships that link any human activities and pressures exerted in the study area to potential effects on cetaceans, by identifying major drivers of potential impacts. These were found to be underwater noise, marine litter, ship collision, and competition and disturbance on preys. We draw some recommendations based on different sources of available knowledge produced so far in the area (i.e., empirical evidence, scientific and grey literature, and expert judgement) to boost cetaceans’ conservation. Finally, we stress the need of sectoral coordination for the management of human activities by applying an EB-MSP approach and valuing the establishment of an ABMT in the Gulf of Taranto.
Time series indicators are widely used in ecosystem-based management. A suite of indicators is typically calculated for a static region or multiple subregions and presented in an ecosystem assessment (EA). These are used to guide management decisions or determine environmental status. Yet, few studies have examined how the spatial scale of an EA influences indicator behavior. We explore this question using the Northwest Atlantic continental shelf ecosystem (USA). We systematically divided the ecosystem at six spatial scales (31 unique units), covering spatial extents from 250,000 km2 to 20,000 km2. The same 22 indicators were calculated for each unit, assessed for trends, and evaluated as 31 independent EAs. We found that the detected signals of indicator trends depended on the spatial scale at which the ecosystem was defined. A single EA for the whole region differed by 23% (in terms of the 22 indicator trend tests) relative to ones for spatially nested 120,000 km2 subunits, and by up to 36% for EAs at smaller scales. Indicator trend disagreement occurred because (most common) a localized trend was perceived as widespread, (common) a local trend was obscured by aggregating data over a large region, or (least common) a local trend switched direction when examined at a broader scale. Yet, there was variation among indicators in their scale sensitivity related to trophic level. Indicators of temperature, chlorophyll-a, and zooplankton were spatially coherent: trends portrayed were similar regardless of scale. Mid-trophic level indicators (fish and invertebrates) showed more spatial variation in trends. We also compared trend magnitude and indicator values to spatial extent and found relationships consistent with scaling theory. Indicators at broad scales produced subdued trends and values relative to indicators developed at smaller spatial scales, which often portrayed ‘hotspots’ of local abundance or strong trend. Our results imply that subsequent uses of indicators (e.g., determining environmental status, risk assessments, management decisions) are also sensitive to ecosystem delineation and scale. We suggest that indicators and EAs should be done at multiple spatial scales and complimented with spatially explicit analysis to reflect the hierarchical structure of ecosystems. One scale is not best, but rather we gain a new level of understanding at each scale examined that can contribute to management decisions in a multiscale governance framework characterized by goals and objectives with relevance at different scales.