The Tropical Atlantic Ocean has recently been the source of enormous amounts of floating Sargassum macroalgae that have started to inundate shorelines in the Caribbean, the western coast of Africa and northern Brazil. It is still unclear, however, how the surface currents carry the Sargassum, largely restricted to the upper meter of the ocean, and whether observed surface drifter trajectories and hydrodynamical ocean models can be used to simulate its pathways. Here, we analyze a dataset of two types of surface drifters (38 in total), purposely deployed in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean in July, 2019. Twenty of the surface drifters were undrogued and reached only ∼8 cm into the water, while the other 18 were standard Surface Velocity Program (SVP) drifters that all had a drogue centered around 15 m depth. We show that the undrogued drifters separate more slowly than the drogued SVP drifters, likely because of the suppressed turbulence due to convergence in wind rows, which was stronger right at the surface than at 15 m depth. Undrogued drifters were also more likely to enter the Caribbean Sea. We also show that the novel Surface and Merged Ocean Currents (SMOC) product from the Copernicus Marine Environmental Service (CMEMS) does not clearly simulate one type of drifter better than the other, highlighting the need for further improvements in assimilated hydrodynamic models in the region, for a better understanding and forecasting of Sargassum drift in the Tropical Atlantic.
Marine ecosystems contain over 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and many of these organisms have evolved unique adaptations enabling survival in diverse and challenging environments. The biodiversity within the world’s oceans is a virtually untapped resource for the isolation and development of novel compounds, treatments, and solutions to combat human disease. In particular, while over half of our anti-cancer drugs are derived from natural sources, almost all of these are from terrestrial ecosystems. Yet, even from the limited analyses to date, a number of marine-derived anti-cancer compounds have been approved for clinical use, and several others are currently in clinical trials. Here, we review the current suite of marine-derived anti-cancer drugs, with a focus on how these compounds act upon the hallmarks of cancer. We highlight potential marine environments and species that could yield compounds with unique mechanisms. Continued exploration of marine environments, along with the characterization and screening of their inhabitants for unique bioactive chemicals, could prove fruitful in the hunt for novel anti-cancer therapies.
The oceans’ uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) decreases seawater pH and alters the inorganic carbon speciation – summarized in the term ocean acidification (OA). Already today, coastal regions experience episodic pH events during which surface layer pH drops below values projected for the surface ocean at the end of the century. Future OA is expected to further enhance the intensity of these coastal extreme pH events. To evaluate the influence of such episodic OA events in coastal regions, we deployed eight pelagic mesocosms for 53 days in Raunefjord, Norway, and enclosed 56–61 m3 of local seawater containing a natural plankton community under nutrient limited post-bloom conditions. Four mesocosms were enriched with CO2 to simulate extreme pCO2 levels of 1978 – 2069 μatm while the other four served as untreated controls. Here, we present results from multivariate analyses on OA-induced changes in the phyto-, micro-, and mesozooplankton community structure. Pronounced differences in the plankton community emerged early in the experiment, and were amplified by enhanced top-down control throughout the study period. The plankton groups responding most profoundly to high CO2 conditions were cyanobacteria (negative), chlorophyceae (negative), auto- and heterotrophic microzooplankton (negative), and a variety of mesozooplanktonic taxa, including copepoda (mixed), appendicularia (positive), hydrozoa (positive), fish larvae (positive), and gastropoda (negative). The restructuring of the community coincided with significant changes in the concentration and elemental stoichiometry of particulate organic matter. Results imply that extreme CO2 events can lead to a substantial reorganization of the planktonic food web, affecting multiple trophic levels from phytoplankton to primary and secondary consumers.
Worldwide, seagrass meadows accumulate significant stocks of organic carbon (C), known as “blue” carbon, which can remain buried for decades to centuries. However, when seagrass meadows are disturbed, these C stocks may be remineralized, leading to significant CO2 emissions. Increasing ocean temperatures, and increasing frequency and severity of heat waves, threaten seagrass meadows and their sediment blue C. To date, no study has directly measured the impact of seagrass declines from high temperatures on sediment C stocks. Here, we use a long-term record of sediment C stocks from a 7-km2, restored eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadow to show that seagrass dieback following a single marine heat wave (MHW) led to significant losses of sediment C. Patterns of sediment C loss and re-accumulation lagged patterns of seagrass recovery. Sediment C losses were concentrated within the central area of the meadow, where sites experienced extreme shoot density declines of 90% during the MHW and net losses of 20% of sediment C over the following 3 years. However, this effect was not uniform; outer meadow sites showed little evidence of shoot declines during the MHW and had net increases of 60% of sediment C over the following 3 years. Overall, sites with higher seagrass recovery maintained 1.7x as much C compared to sites with lower recovery. Our study demonstrates that while seagrass blue C is vulnerable to MHWs, localization of seagrass loss can prevent meadow-wide C losses. Long-term (decadal and beyond) stability of seagrass blue C depends on seagrass resilience to short-term disturbance events.
The present article reports the densities of planktonic sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus elongatus) in three Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) localities, and the relationship between the abundance of adult sea lice on the salmon and the densities of planktonic sea lice stages, during a complete production cycle followed by a fallowing period. Samples were taken downstream inside and immediately outside of cages, at one locality with lice skirts and two localities without lice skirts. There were no differences in densities of planktonic sea lice in samples taken from the inside or the outside of cages for any of the localities. However, the proportion-non-zero of planktonic sea lice samples taken from inside the cage was higher during months with a temperature above 9°C (mean abundance: 0.40–2.5 individuals m–3) than months with temperature below 9°C (mean abundance: 0.02–0.21 individuals m–3, odds ratio of the proportion-non-zero: p < 0.01). Densities of planktonic sea lice correlated most strongly with temperature in the first year (τ = 0.44–0.57, p < 0.05). A significant correlation between the number of adult female lice on salmon and average density of plankton sea lice was found in the locality with lice skirts during the second year (τ = 0.43 inside cages, τ = 0.58 outside cages, both p values < 0.05). Background levels of planktonic sea lice in the succeeding fallowing period showed neither L. salmonis nor C. elongatus planktonic sea lice, suggesting that there was successful reduction of the densities of planktonic sea lice for this area during the fallowing period.
The conservation of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) appears to be failing in Europe. There are particular concerns about this species in the Baltic Proper, Black, and Mediterranean Seas, as well as in the Northeast Atlantic, including the Iberian population, off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. The Baltic Proper porpoise is “critically endangered,” with a population only in the low hundreds, and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission has repeatedly called for action to ensure its survival. In 2020, the Committee issued a series of recommendations relating to it and the Iberian population. Similarly, the Black Sea harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena ssp. relicta, is classified by the IUCN as endangered. Another population which may be genetically distinct is the West Greenland harbor porpoise, which is hunted without quotas or close seasons. European cetaceans and their habitats are covered by a number of international and regional conventions and agreements and, under European Union law, are “highly protected.” In practice, however, these legal protections have failed to generate effective conservation. For example, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are required for them and, although sites have been designated in some marine areas/countries, in the absence of appropriate management plans, SACs cannot be expected to help improve the harbor porpoise's conservation status. Compared to many other species, porpoises are relatively long-lived with low reproductive capacity and only poor public recognition. Conservation and management efforts are caught up in a complicated nexus of interactions involving a web of commitments under international conventions and agreements, European environmental laws, and European fisheries policy. However, public disinterest, lack of political will to implement conservation measures, and complicated fishing-related issues hinder any real progress. More positively, recent advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) provides a new scientific foundation for conservation action to address fisheries bycatch in the Baltic Proper harbor porpoise population. Populations of other porpoise species (family Phocoenidae) are also threatened, most notably the global population of the critically endangered vaquita, or Gulf of California porpoise (Phocoena sinus). The common threats and factors affecting porpoise populations are discussed and recommendations offered.
Advective flows of seawater and fresh groundwater through coastal aquifers form a unique ecohydrological interface, the subterranean estuary (STE). Here, freshly produced marine organic matter and oxygen mix with groundwater, which is low in oxygen and contains aged organic carbon (OC) from terrestrial sources. Along the groundwater flow paths, dissolved organic matter (DOM) is degraded and inorganic electron acceptors are successively used up. Because of the different DOM sources and ages, exact degradation pathways are often difficult to disentangle, especially in high-energy environments with dynamic changes in beach morphology, source composition, and hydraulic gradients. From a case study site on a barrier island in the German North Sea, we present detailed biogeochemical data from freshwater lens groundwater, seawater, and beach porewater samples collected over different seasons. The samples were analyzed for physico-chemistry (e.g., salinity, temperature, dissolved silicate), (reduced) electron acceptors (e.g., oxygen, nitrate, and iron), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). DOM was isolated and molecularly characterized via soft-ionization ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry, and molecular formulae were identified in each sample. We found that the islands’ freshwater lens harbors a surprisingly high DOM molecular diversity and heterogeneity, possibly due to patchy distributions of buried peat lenses. Furthermore, a comparison of DOM composition of the endmembers indicated that the Spiekeroog high-energy beach STE conveys chemically modified, terrestrial DOM from the inland freshwater lens to the coastal ocean. In the beach intertidal zone, porewater DOC concentrations, lability of DOM and oxygen concentrations, decreased while dissolved (reduced) iron and dissolved silicate concentrations increased. This observation is consistent with the assumption of a continuous degradation of labile DOM along a cross-shore gradient, even in this dynamic environment. Accordingly, molecular properties of DOM indicated enhanced degradation, and “humic-like” fluorescent DOM fraction increased along the flow paths, likely through accumulation of compounds less susceptible to microbial consumption. Our data indicate that the high-energy beach STE is likely a net sink of OC from the terrestrial and marine realm, and that barrier islands such as Spiekeroog may act as efficient “digestors” of organic matter.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) help replenish fish assemblages, though different trophic levels may show diverse recovery patterns. Long-term protection is required to achieve total recovery but poaching events may prevent the achievement of full carrying capacity. Here, we have analysed the effect of long-term protection on the entire reef fish community and the different trophic levels in the Cabo de Palos-Islas Hormigas MPA (SE Spain; SW Mediterranean Sea) in order to assess their recovery patterns after 23 years of protection. We compared the values for carrying capacity obtained with the maximum values achieved at regional scale, and we assessed the effect of a reduction in the surveillance over a few years, during which poaching events increased, on the recovery patterns. We found that, overall, biomass of fishes increased with time while density diminished. In particular, piscivorous and macro-invertivore fish increased while the other trophic groups remained constant or declined, suggesting top-down processes. For the entire study period, those trophic groups were approaching carrying capacity; however, when accounting only for the period in which enforcement was high and constant, they grew exponentially, indicating that full carrying capacity may have not been achieved yet. When compared to other Mediterranean MPAs, the Cabo de Palos-Islas Hormigas MPA showed values for biomass that were disproportionately higher, suggesting that local factors, such as habitat structure and associated oceanographic processes, may be responsible for the dynamics found. Our results help to understand the potential trajectories of fish assemblages over a consolidated MPA and highlight empirically how the reduction of surveillance in a period may change the recovery patterns.
Large-scale atmospheric conditions in the Northeast Pacific Ocean affect both the freshwater environment in the Columbia River Basin and marine conditions along the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, resulting in correlated conditions in the two environments. For migrating species, such as salmonids that move through multiple habitats, these correlations can amplify the impact of good or poor physical conditions on growth and survival, as movements among habitats may not alleviate effects of anomalous conditions. Unfortunately, identifying the mechanistic drivers of salmon survival in space and time is hindered by these cross-habitat correlations. To address this issue, we modeled the marine survival of Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon with multiple indices of the marine environment and an explicit treatment of the effect of arrival timing from freshwater to the ocean, and found that both habitats contribute to marine survival rates. We show how this particular carryover effect of freshwater conditions on marine survival varies by year and rearing type (hatchery or wild), with a larger effect for wild fish. As environmental conditions change, incorporating effects from both freshwater and marine habitats into salmon survival models will become more important, and has the additional benefit of highlighting how management actions that affect arrival timing may improve marine survival.
Small-scale fisheries are hard to assess because of the limited availability of data. Therefore, a method requiring easy-to-obtain catch-data is important for the assessment and management of small-scale fisheries. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of fishing gear selectivity on a length-based metric method proposed by Froese by estimating three indicators using catch-data from Lane Snapper (Lutjanus synagris) collected in Honduras. These indicators are (1) the percentage of mature individuals in the catch, (2) the percentage of fish within the range of estimated optimal lengths to be captured, and (3) the percentage of fish larger than the optimal length. These indicators determine the level of overfishing. The indicators were estimated separately for catch-data corresponding to gill nets, and each indicator was estimated with and without selectivity correction. Selectivity and mesh sizes of the fishing gear had a major impact on the estimation of indicators 1 and 2. As for indicator 3, it consistently showed a high level of exploitation. The three estimated indicators suggested that the Lane Snapper fishery in Honduras is experiencing overfishing. Overall, the method appears to be promising for the assessment of small-scale fisheries, but it should be used cautiously.
Ocean acidification driven by anthropogenic climate change is causing a global decrease in pH, which is projected to be 0.4 units lower in coastal shallow waters by the year 2100. Previous studies have shown that seaweeds grown under such conditions may alter their growth and photosynthetic capacity. It is not clear how such alterations might impact interactions between seaweed and herbivores, e.g. through changes in feeding rates, nutritional value, or defense levels. Changes in seaweeds are particularly important for coastal food webs, as they are key primary producers and often habitat-forming species. We cultured the habitat-forming brown seaweed Fucus vesiculosus for 30 days in projected future pCO2 (1100 μatm) with genetically identical controls in ambient pCO2 (400 μatm). Thereafter the macroalgae were exposed to grazing by Littorina littorea, acclimated to the relevant pCO2-treatment. We found increased growth (measured as surface area increase), decreased tissue strength in a tensile strength test, and decreased chemical defense (phlorotannins) levels in seaweeds exposed to high pCO2-levels. The herbivores exposed to elevated pCO2-levels showed improved condition index, decreased consumption, but no significant change in feeding preference. Fucoid seaweeds such as F. vesiculosus play important ecological roles in coastal habitats and are often foundation species, with a key role for ecosystem structure and function. The change in surface area and associated decrease in breaking force, as demonstrated by our results, indicate that F. vesiculosus grown under elevated levels of pCO2 may acquire an altered morphology and reduced tissue strength. This, together with increased wave energy in coastal ecosystems due to climate change, could have detrimental effects by reducing both habitat and food availability for herbivores.
Trace elements (TEs) frequently contaminate coastal marine sediments with many included in priority chemical lists or control legislation. These, improved waste treatment and increased recycling have fostered the belief that TE pollution is declining. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of long-term robust datasets to support this confidence. By mining UK datasets (100s of sites, 31 years), we assess sediment concentrations of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) and use indices (PI [Pollution], TEPI [Trace Element Pollution] and Igeo [Geoaccumulation]) to assess TE pollution evolution. PI and TEPI show reductions of overall TE pollution in the 1980s then incremental improvements followed by a distinct increase (2010–13). Zn, As and Pb Igeo scores show low pollution, whilst Cd and Hg are moderate, but with all remaining temporally stable. Igeo scores are low for Ni, Fe and Cr, but increasing for Ni and Fe. A moderate pollution Igeo score for Cu has also steadily increased since the mid-1990s. Increasing site trends are not universal and, conversely, minimal temporal change masks some site-specific increases and decreases. To capture this variability we strongly advocate embedding sufficient sentinel sites within observation networks. Decreasing sediment pollution levels (e.g. Pb and Hg) have been achieved, but stabilizing Igeo and recently increasing TEPI and PI scores require continued global vigilance. Increasing Ni and Fe Igeo scores necessitate source identification, but this is a priority for Cu. Local, regional and world analyses indicate substantial ‘hidden’ inputs from anti-fouling paints (Cu, Zn), ship scrubbers (Cu, Zn, Ni) and sacrificial anodes (Zn) that are also predicted to increase markedly. Accurate TE input assessments and targeted legislation are, therefore, urgently required, especially in the context of rapid blue economic growth (e.g. shipping).
Marine snow formation and vertical transport are naturally occurring processes that carry organic matter from the surface to deeper waters, providing food and sequestering carbon. During the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, oil was incorporated with marine snow aggregates, triggering a Marine Oil Snow (MOS) Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) event, that transferred a significant percentage of the total released oil to the seafloor. An improved understanding of processes controlling MOS formation and MOSSFA events is necessary for evaluating their impacts on the fate of spilled oil. Numerical models and predictive tools capable of providing scientific support for oil spill planning, response, and Natural Resource Damage Assessment are being developed to provide information for weighing the ecological trade-offs of response options. Here we offer considerations for oil spill response and recovery when assessing the potential for a MOSSFA event and provide tools to enhance decision-making.
Large-scale development of offshore wind farms implies an increase in marine resource use conflicts. Managing potential impacts on marine ecosystems and on resource access for traditional and prospective users is key. Multi-use scenarios are a solution but are often approached as a 'design question' that can be settled through Marine Spatial Planning. In practice, regulatory, technical and socio-economic factors often hinder multi-use. Overcoming such barriers requires active collaboration between all stakeholders, yet meaningful participation in MSP processes often is a challenge. This paper explores the role of Communities of Practice as a participatory tool for developing multi-use. The Netherlands set up a ‘Community of Practice North Sea’ to stimulate the development of multi-use pilots by bringing interested parties together, sharing experiences and learning from each other in a context of existing and developing spatial and social claims. This development is part of the government's strategy aimed at finding a balance between offshore wind energy development, nature conservation and seafood production. The paper shows that by (partly) decoupling policy from practice and creating a positive learning environment, Communities of Practice have potential as a participatory tool for encouraging cooperation between stakeholders in an informal setting and facilitating a transition towards multi-use of marine resources. The paper proposes ten guidelines for using Communities of Practices as an action-oriented tool for salient multi-use practices.
Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is increasingly recognized as the future of fisheries conservation and stewardship, appearing prominently in policy documents internationally. Although considerable progress has been made to translate EBFM from theory to practice, limited attention has been given to assessing the theoretical and practical linkages between EBFM and fisheries co-management. While EBFM and fisheries co-management are not new ideas, growing interest in both compels reflection on the interplay of these concepts, even though they have traditionally been viewed as disparate approaches. We report on the results of a literature review that explored the extent to which EBFM and fisheries co-management are linked. We describe the fundamental drivers, attributes, and desired outcomes commonly used to characterize these management concepts and quantify the degree of overlap in the literature. To illustrate how EBFM and co-management are integrated in practice, we present three examples. These examples highlight that these concepts exist on a continuum, with elements of co-management regularly appearing in conventional management regimes and elements of EBFM appearing in fisheries co-management initiatives.
Environmental risk assessments are necessary to understand the risk associated with enhanced oil recovery (EOR) solutions and to provide decision support for choosing the best technology and implementing risk-reducing measures. This study presents a review of potentially relevant environmental/ecological risk assessment (ERA) guidelines and, based on this review, proposes an initial suggestion of an ERA framework for understanding the environmental impacts from EOR solutions. We first shortlist the important elements necessary for conducting an ERA of EOR solutions from the selected guidelines. These elements are then used to build the suggested ERA framework for produced water discharges, drilling discharges and emissions to air from EOR solutions, which is the primary objective of the present study. Furthermore, the emphasis is placed on identifying the knowledge gaps that exist for conducting ERA of EOR processes. In order to link the framework with the current best environmental practices, a review of environmental policies applicable to the marine environment around the European Union (EU) was conducted. Finally, some major challenges in the application of ERA methods for novel EOR technologies, i.e. uncertainties in the ERA due to lack of data and aggregation of risk from different environmental impacts, are discussed in detail. The frameworks suggested in this study should be possible to use by relevant stakeholders to assess environmental risk from enhanced oil recovery solutions.
Habitat heterogeneity and species diversity are often linked. On the deep seafloor, sediment variability and hard-substrate availability influence geographic patterns of species richness and turnover. The assumption of a generally homogeneous, sedimented abyssal seafloor is at odds with the fact that the faunal diversity in some abyssal regions exceeds that of shallow-water environments. Here we show, using a ground-truthed analysis of multibeam sonar data, that the deep seafloor may be much rockier than previously assumed. A combination of bathymetry data, ruggedness, and backscatter from a trans-Atlantic corridor along the Vema Fracture Zone, covering crustal ages from 0 to 100 Ma, show rock exposures occurring at all crustal ages. Extrapolating to the whole Atlantic, over 260,000 km2 of rock habitats potentially occur along Atlantic fracture zones alone, significantly increasing our knowledge about abyssal habitat heterogeneity. This implies that sampling campaigns need to be considerably more sophisticated than at present to capture the full deep-sea habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity.
Measuring local levels of marine pollution by microplastics (MP) and identifying potential sources in coastal areas is essential to evaluate the associated impacts to environment and biota. The accumulation of floating MP at the sea surface is of great concern as the neustonic habitat consists of a feeding ground for primary consumers (including filter-feeders) and active predators, which makes these organisms a relevant via of MP input into the marine trophic chain. Here, a baseline evaluation of MP accumulation at the sea surface was conducted with a neuston net (335 μm mesh) at the Arrábida coastal area, in Portugal. The study site encompasses a marine protected area and an estuary, both under strong anthropogenic pressures due to multiple activities taking place. A short-term investigation on local spatiotemporal distribution, concentration and composition of MP was performed for the first time, through the monthly collection (summer 2018 to winter 2019) of samples at 6 stations. All the neuston samples contained MP and their mean concentration was 0.45 ± 0.52 items m−3 (mean ± SD). Both the averaged MP:neuston and MP:ichthyoplankton ratios were higher in December, when concentrations of organisms decreased. Temporal distribution patterns followed expected trends, as MP concentration was clearly higher in winter months due to precipitation and runoff. Although mean MP concentrations did not vary significantly between sampling stations, there was a spatial distribution of MP in relation to particle shape and size. Fragments were the most abundant shape and MP belonging to 1–2 mm size class were dominant. Amongst a diversity of 10 polymers identified by FTIR analysis, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and copolymer PP/PE were the most abundant. Potential links between local sources/activities and the different polymers were suggested. Altogether, the information provided in this study aims to raise awareness among the identified sectors and consequently to act toward the prevention of MP inputs in the region.