Numerous assessments have quantified, mapped, and valued the services provided by ecosystems that are important for human wellbeing. However, much of the literature does not clarify how the information gathered in such assessments could be used to inform decisions that will impact ecosystem services. We propose that the process of making management decisions for ecosystem services comprises five core steps: identification of the problem and its social–ecological context; specification of objectives and associated performance measures; defining alternative management actions and evaluating the consequences of these actions; assessment of trade-offs and prioritization of alternative management actions; and making management decisions. We synthesize the degree to which the peer-reviewed ecosystem services literature has captured these steps. For the ecosystem service paradigm to gain traction in science and policy arenas, future ecosystem service assessments should have clearly articulated objectives, seek to evaluate the consequences of alternative management actions, and facilitate closer engagement between scientists and stakeholders.
Currently, risk assessments related to rising sea levels and the adoption of defensive or adaptive measures to counter these sea level increases are underway for densely populated deltas where economic losses might be important, especially in the developed world. However, many underpopulated deltas harbouring high biological and cultural diversity are also at risk but will most likely continue to be ignored as conservation targets. In this study, we explore the potential effects of erosion, inundation and salinisation on one of the world's comparatively underpopulated megadeltas, the Orinoco Delta. With a 1 m sea level rise expected to occur by 2100, several models predict a moderate erosion of the delta's shorelines, migration or loss of mangroves, general inundation of the delta with an accompanying submersion of wetlands, and an increase in the distance to which sea water intrudes into streams, resulting in harm to the freshwater biota and resources. The Warao people are the indigenous inhabitants of the Orinoco Delta and currently are subject to various socioeconomic stressors. Changes due to sea level rise will occur extremely rapidly and cause abrupt shifts in the Warao's traditional environments and resources, resulting in migrations and abandonment of their ancestral territories. However, evidence indicates that deltaic aggradation/accretion processes at the Orinoco delta due to allochthonous sediment input and vegetation growth could be elevating the surface of the land, keeping pace with the local sea level rise. Other underpopulated and large deltas of the world also may risk immeasurable biodiversity and cultural losses and should not be forgotten as important conservation targets.
Previous research indicated that high predictive performance in species distribution modelling can be obtained by combining both biotic and abiotic habitat variables. However, models developed for fish often only address physical habitat characteristics, thus omitting potentially important biotic factors. Therefore, we assessed the impact of biotic variables on fish habitat preferences in four selected stretches of the upper Cabriel River (E Spain). The occurrence of Squalius pyrenaicus and Luciobarbus guiraonis was related to environmental variables describing biotic interactions (inferred by relationships among fish abundances) and channel hydro-morphological characteristics. Random Forests (RF) models were trained and then validated using independent datasets. To build RF models, the conditional variable importance was used together with the model improvement ratio technique. The procedure showed effectiveness in identifying a parsimonious set of not correlated variables, which minimize noise and improve model performance in both training and validation phases. Water depth, channel width, fine substrate and water-surface gradient were selected as most important habitat variables for both fish. Results showed clear habitat overlapping between fish species and suggest that competition is not a strong factor in the study area.
Cultural ecosystem services (CES) are an important benefit that habitats provide, particularly in the fragments of natural ecosystems that remain in urban areas. To manage CES we need to understand what people use habitats for, and where different activities take place. It is challenging to assess CES provision, as surveys and interviews are time consuming and can be expensive. Social media data, particularly geo-tagged photographs, are spatially explicit and contain visual information that can be used to infer cultural use. Indicators of CES derived from social media make use of existing data so may contribute useful information for rapid, cost-effective assessments of CES. In this study we develop an indicator of CES usage that is derived from photographs from an image-sharing website, at two different scales. First, we compare four small (<150 ha) urban mangrove sites in Singapore, using photograph content to classify sites according to predominant cultural use. Second, the spatial distribution of different CES was modelled within one site using MaxEnt. A resampling simulation was conducted to identify the sensitivity of the photograph classification to the number of photographs classified. Photographs of social recreation, organisms and landscapes occurred most commonly. The proportional occurrence of photograph types differed between sites depending on their characteristics. Within one site, the probability of occurrence of social recreation photographs was highest around built focal points, while photographs of organisms were more likely in the mangrove and terrestrial habitats. Classifying more than 50–70 photographs (which would take approximately 30 minutes) gave only small increases in categorisation accuracy. This tool for CES assessment rapidly provided information that would be useful for managing Singapore's mangroves. The approach could be widely applied to assess CES provision across a range of habitats and settings, helping CES to become more commonly considered in ecosystem service evaluations.
Numerous coastal and estuarine management programs around the world are developing strategies for climate change and priorities for climate change adaptation. A multi-state work group collaborated with scientists, researchers, resource managers and non-governmental organizations to develop a monitoring program that would provide warning of climate change impacts to the Long Island Sound estuarine and coastal ecosystems. The goal of this program was to facilitate timely management decisions and adaptation responses to climate change impacts. A novel approach is described for strategic planning that combines available regional-scale predictions and climate drivers (top down) with local monitoring information (bottom up) to identify candidate sentinels of climate change. Using this approach, 37 candidate sentinels of climate change were identified as well as a suite of core abiotic parameters that are drivers of environmental change. A process for prioritizing sentinels was developed and identified six of high priority for inclusion in pilot-scale monitoring programs. A monitoring strategy and an online sentinel data clearinghouse were developed. The work and processes presented here are meant to serve as a guide to other coastal and estuarine management programs seeking to establish a targeted monitoring program for climate change and to provide a set of “lessons learned.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat. As part of this charge, NMFS conducts stock assessments of the abundance and composition of fish stocks in several bodies of water. At present, stock assessments rely heavily on human data-gathering and analysis. Automatic means of fish stock assessments are appealing because they offer the potential to improve efficiency and reduce human workload and perhaps develop higher-fidelity measurements. The use of images and video, when accompanies by appropriate statistical analyses of the inferred data, is of increasing importance for estimating the abundance of species and their age distributions.
Robust Methods for the Analysis of Images and Videos for Fisheries Stock Assessment is the summary of a workshop convened by the National Research Council Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics to discuss analysis techniques for images and videos for fisheries stock assessment. Experts from diverse communities shared perspective about the most efficient path toward improved automation of visual information and discussed both near-term and long-term goals that can be achieved through research and development efforts. This report is a record of the presentations and discussions of this event.
Fishery management is increasingly moving toward management that accounts for environmental and social dimensions. Such an approach requires the integration of natural and social science information into planning and decision-making processes. The actual integration of social science information, however, remains limited in many policy and decision-making processes within fisheries. Our study provides insights into factors that influence the intention to use social science information among fishery managers and the actual integration of such information into fishery management. Based on interviews with fishery managers in the Great Lakes, we find that the lack of social science expertise in fishery management agencies leads to multiple negative beliefs and attitudes, and subsequently a low intention to use social science information in decision-making processes. At the same time, the paper finds that more expertise in decision-making tools and basing social science on equal footing with natural sciences within fishery management institutions appears critical to advance the actual integration of social science information in fishery management.
This paper argues for a broad evolutionary political economy understanding of local and regional path creation. We adopt a multi-actor and multi-scalar perspective, focusing on the roles of the state and regional policy interventions in mediating the creation of growth paths. The framework interprets attempts in North East England and Scotland to support path creation in the offshore wind sector through evolutionary inspired contextual policies. We demonstrate that the realisation of the these policies remains crucially conditioned by the dynamic and complex interplay between the national political economy of energy market regulation, industrial policy and inter-regional asymmetries in the governance of economic development.
Among the various shark species that are captured as bycatch in commercial fishing operations, the group of pelagic sharks is still one of the least studied and known. Within those, the crocodile shark, Pseudocarcharias kamoharai, a small-sized lamnid shark, is occasionally caught by longline vessels in certain regions of the tropical oceans worldwide. However, the population dynamics of this species, as well as the impact of fishing mortality on its stocks, are still unknown, with the crocodile shark currently one of the least studied of all pelagic sharks. Given this, the present study aimed to assess the population structure of P. kamoharai in several regions of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans using genetic molecular markers. The nucleotide composition of the mitochondrial DNA control region of 255 individuals was analyzed, and 31 haplotypes were found, with an estimated diversity Hd = 0.627, and a nucleotide diversity π = 0.00167. An analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed a fixation index ΦST = -0.01118, representing an absence of population structure among the sampled regions of the Atlantic Ocean, and between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. These results show a high degree of gene flow between the studied areas, with a single genetic stock and reduced population variability. In panmictic populations, conservation efforts can be concentrated in more restricted areas, being these representative of the total biodiversity of the species. When necessary, this strategy could be applied to the genetic maintenance of P. kamoharai.
Despite the significance of marine habitat-forming organisms, little is known about their large-scale distribution and abundance in deeper waters, where they are difficult to access. Such information is necessary to develop sound conservation and management strategies. Kelps are main habitat-formers in temperate reefs worldwide; however, these habitats are highly sensitive to environmental change. The kelp Ecklonia radiate is the major habitat-forming organism on subtidal reefs in temperate Australia. Here, we provide large-scale ecological data encompassing the latitudinal distribution along the continent of these kelp forests, which is a necessary first step towards quantitative inferences about the effects of climatic change and other stressors on these valuable habitats. We used the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) facility of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) to survey 157,000 m2 of seabed, of which ca 13,000 m2 were used to quantify kelp covers at multiple spatial scales (10–100 m to 100–1,000 km) and depths (15–60 m) across several regions ca 2–6° latitude apart along the East and West coast of Australia. We investigated the large-scale geographic variation in distribution and abundance of deep-water kelp (>15 m depth) and their relationships with physical variables. Kelp cover generally increased with latitude despite great variability at smaller spatial scales. Maximum depth of kelp occurrence was 40–50 m. Kelp latitudinal distribution along the continent was most strongly related to water temperature and substratum availability. This extensive survey data, coupled with ongoing AUV missions, will allow for the detection of long-term shifts in the distribution and abundance of habitat-forming kelp and the organisms they support on a continental scale, and provide information necessary for successful implementation and management of conservation reserves.
Complex networks are everywhere, such as the power grid network, the airline network, the protein-protein interaction network, and the road network. The networks are ‘robust yet fragile’, which means that the networks are robust against random failures but fragile under malicious attacks. The cascading failures, system-wide disasters and intentional attacks on these networks are deserving of in-depth study. Researchers have proposed many solutions to improve the robustness of these networks. However whilst many solutions preserve the degree distribution of the networks, little attention is paid to the community structure of these networks. We argue that the community structure of a network is a defining characteristic of a network which identifies its functionality and thus should be preserved. In this paper, we discuss the relationship between robustness and the community structure. Then we propose a 3-step strategy to improve the robustness of a network, while retaining its community structure, and also its degree distribution. With extensive experimentation on representative real-world networks, we demonstrate that our method is effective and can greatly improve the robustness of networks, while preserving community structure and degree distribution. Finally, we give a description of a robust network, which is useful not only for improving robustness, but also for designing robust networks and integrating networks.
Knowledge of the spatial distribution and habitat associations of species in relation to the environment is essential for their management and conservation. Habitat suitability models are useful in quantifying species-environment relationships and predicting species distribution patterns. Little is known, however, about the stability and performance of habitat suitability models when projected into new areas (spatial transferability) and how this can inform resource management. The aims of this study were to model habitat suitability of Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in five fished areas of the Northeast Atlantic (Aran ground, Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Scotland Inshore and Fladen ground), and to test for spatial transferability of habitat models among multiple regions. Nephrops burrow density was modelled using generalised additive models (GAMs) with predictors selected from four environmental variables (depth, slope, sediment and rugosity). Models were evaluated and tested for spatial transferability among areas. The optimum models (lowest AICc) for different areas always included depth and sediment as predictors. Burrow densities were generally greater at depth and in finer sediments, but relationships for individual areas were sometimes more complex. Aside from an inclusion of depth and sediment, the optimum models differed between fished areas. When it came to tests of spatial transferability, however, most of the models were able to predict Nephrops density in other areas. Furthermore, transferability was not dependent on use of the optimum models since competing models were also able to achieve a similar level of transferability to new areas. A degree of decoupling between model ‘fitting’ performance and spatial transferability supports the use of simpler models when extrapolating habitat suitability maps to different areas. Differences in the form and performance of models from different areas may supply further information on the processes shaping species’ distributions. Spatial transferability of habitat models can be used to support fishery management when the information is scarce but caution needs to be applied when making inference and a multi-area transferability analysis is preferable to bilateral comparisons between areas.
The degree to which selectivity in fisheries is malleable to changes in incentive structures is critical for policy design. We examine data for a multispecies trawl fishery before and after a transition from management under common-pool quotas to a fishery cooperative and note a substantial shift in postcooperative catch from bycatch and toward valuable target species. We examine the margins used to affect catch composition, finding that large- and fine-scale spatial decision making and avoidance of night-fishing were critical. We argue that the poor incentives for selectivity in many systems may obscure significant flexibility in multispecies production technologies.
This study investigated the effects of a newly established, fully protected marine reserve on benthic habitats and two commercially valuable species of scallop in Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran, United Kingdom. Annual dive surveys from 2010 to 2013 showed the abundance of juvenile scallops to be significantly greater within the marine reserve than outside. Generalised linear models revealed this trend to be significantly related to the greater presence of macroalgae and hydroids growing within the boundaries of the reserve. These results suggest that structurally complex habitats growing within the reserve have substantially increased spat settlement and/or survival. The density of adult king scallops declined threefold with increasing distance from the boundaries of the reserve, indicating possible evidence of spillover or reduced fishing effort directly outside and around the marine reserve. However, there was no difference in the mean density of adult scallops between the reserve and outside. Finally, the mean age, size, and reproductive and exploitable biomass of king scallops were all significantly greater within the reserve. In contrast to king scallops, the population dynamics of queen scallops (Aequipecten opercularis) fluctuated randomly over the survey period and showed little difference between the reserve and outside. Overall, this study is consistent with the hypothesis that marine reserves can encourage the recovery of seafloor habitats, which, in turn, can benefit populations of commercially exploited species, emphasising the importance of marine reserves in the ecosystem-based management of fisheries.
- After almost 10 years of discussions, States finally agreed to launch negotiations for the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ.
- The process will take a two-step approach: (1) a Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) will make recommendations to the UNGA on the elements of a draft text by the end of 2017; (2) the UNGA will then decide on the convening and date of an intergovernmental conference by the end of its 72nd session (i.e. September 2018).
- The historic nature of the decision taken by the States, and the enthusiasm demonstrated by many delegations and observers, does not mean the forthcoming negotiation process will be easy. The road ahead is paved with difficult choices and complex challenges.
To study the combined effects of climate change on connectivity between marine protected areas (MPAs) and larval supply to the continental shelf.
The Mediterranean Sea, where sea surface temperatures are expected to strongly increase by the end of the 21st century, represents an archetypal situation with a dense MPA network but resource overexploitation outside.
Using an individual-based mechanistic model of larval transport, forced with an emission-driven regional climate change scenario for the Mediterranean Sea, we explored the combined effects of changes in hydrodynamics, adult reproductive timing and larval dispersal on the connectivity among MPAs and their ability to seed fished areas with larvae.
We show that, over the period 1970–2099, larval dispersal distances would decrease by 10%, the continental shelf area seeded with larvae would decrease by 3% and the larval retention fraction would increase by 5%, resulting in higher concentration of larvae in smaller areas of the continental shelf. However, connectance within the MPA network would increase by 5% as more northern MPAs would become suitable for reproduction with increasing temperatures. We also show that the effects of changes in adult reproductive timing and larval dispersal on connectivity patterns are additive.
Climate change will influence connectivity and the effectiveness of MPA networks, and should receive more attention in future conservation planning and large-scale population dynamics.
[Editor's note: Read a free summary of this research from Conservation Corridor here.]
Marine ecosystems can experience regime shifts, in which they shift from being organized around one set of mutually reinforcing structures and processes to another. Anthropogenic global change has broadly increased a wide variety of processes that can drive regime shifts. To assess the vulnerability of marine ecosystems to such shifts and their potential consequences, we reviewed the scientific literature for 13 types of marine regime shifts and used networks to conduct an analysis of co-occurrence of drivers and ecosystem service impacts. We found that regime shifts are caused by multiple drivers and have multiple consequences that co-occur in a non-random pattern. Drivers related to food production, climate change and coastal development are the most common co-occurring causes of regime shifts, while cultural services, biodiversity and primary production are the most common cluster of ecosystem services affected. These clusters prioritize sets of drivers for management and highlight the need for coordinated actions across multiple drivers and scales to reduce the risk of marine regime shifts. Managerial strategies are likely to fail if they only address well-understood or data-rich variables, and international cooperation and polycentric institutions will be critical to implement and coordinate action across the scales at which different drivers operate. By better understanding these underlying patterns, we hope to inform the development of managerial strategies to reduce the risk of high-impact marine regime shifts, especially for areas of the world where data are not available or monitoring programmes are not in place.
Overfishing of large predatory fish populations has resulted in lasting restructurings of entire marine food webs worldwide, with serious socio-economic consequences. Fortunately, some degraded ecosystems show signs of recovery. A key challenge for ecosystem management is to anticipate the degree to which recovery is possible. By applying a statistical food-web model, using the Baltic Sea as a case study, we show that under current temperature and salinity conditions, complete recovery of this heavily altered ecosystem will be impossible. Instead, the ecosystem regenerates towards a new ecological baseline. This new baseline is characterized by lower and more variable biomass of cod, the commercially most important fish stock in the Baltic Sea, even under very low exploitation pressure. Furthermore, a socio-economic assessment shows that this signal is amplified at the level of societal costs, owing to increased uncertainty in biomass and reduced consumer surplus. Specifically, the combined economic losses amount to approximately 120 million € per year, which equals half of today's maximum economic yield for the Baltic cod fishery. Our analyses suggest that shifts in ecological and economic baselines can lead to higher economic uncertainty and costs for exploited ecosystems, in particular, under climate change.
Concerns are growing at multiple levels of government about the effects of ocean acidification and increasing hypoxia events on ecosystems along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Thoughtful and strategic research and monitoring will be essential to improve understanding of these impacts and to develop effective management and mitigation options.
This report seeks to assist decision-makers across the public sector in supporting science to address ocean acidification and hypoxia. Working with the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel and other thought leaders, the California Ocean Science Trust has developed this vision for the future state of knowledge and role of science in improving our ability to understand and manage these threats on the West Coast.
In 2012, with support from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) organized the first regional peer-to-peer workshop on ‘Building Compliance and Enhancing Enforcement for Marine Protected Areas in the Caribbean’, hosted by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and facilitated by MPA Enforcement International. Twenty-two MPA managers from fourteen countries and territories attended. In the course of the workshop, the participating MPA managers identified a common need to better understand best practices in MPA legislation. They expressed an interest in comparing MPA legislation across the Caribbean and in promoting the adoption of successful legislative techniques in their home countries so as to help achieve a more uniform approach to MPA enforcement throughout the region. This report seeks to address this need and to inform future efforts by Caribbean MPA managers and policy-makers to strengthen MPA enforcement.