A 2012 Expert Panel Report on marine biodiversity by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) concluded that Canada faced significant challenges in achieving sustainable fisheries, regulating aquaculture, and accounting for climate change. Relative to many countries, progress by Canada in fulfilling international obligations to sustain biodiversity was deemed poor. To track progress by Canada since 2012, the RSC struck a committee to track policy and statutory developments on matters pertaining to marine biodiversity and to identify policy challenges, and leading options for implementation that lie ahead. The report by the Policy Briefing Committee is presented here. It concluded that Canada has made moderate to good progress in some areas, such as prioritization of oceans stewardship and strengthening of the evidentiary use of science in decision-making. Key statutes were strengthened through amendments, including requirements to rebuild depleted fisheries (Fisheries Act) and new means of creating marine protected areas (Oceans Act) that allowed Canada to exceed its international obligation to protect 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Public release of mandate letters has strengthened ministerial accountability. However, little or no progress has been made in reducing regulatory conflict with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), decreasing ministerial discretion under the Fisheries Act, clarifying the role of science in sustainable fisheries policy, and accounting for climate change. Five future policy challenges are identified: (1) Ensure climate change impacts and projections are incorporated into ocean-related decision making and planning processes; (2) Resolve DFO’s regulatory conflict to conserve and exploit biodiversity; (3) Limit ministerial discretionary power in fisheries management decisions; (4) Clarify ambiguities in how the Precautionary Approach is applied in sustainable fisheries policy; and (5) Advance and implement marine spatial planning. Since 2012, there has been progress in recovering and sustaining the health of Canada’s oceans. Failure to further strengthen biodiversity conservation threatens the capacity of Canada’s oceans to provide ecosystem services that contribute to the resilience of marine life and the well-being of humankind. Unprecedented and enduring changes in the ocean caused by climate change have made the achievement of meaningful progress all the more urgent.
The great anthropogenic alterations occurring to carbon availability in the oceans necessitate an understanding of the energy requirements of species and how changes in energy availability may impact biodiversity. The deep-sea floor is characterized naturally by extremely low availability of chemical energy and is particularly vulnerable to changes in carbon flux from surface waters. Because the energetic requirements of organisms impact nearly every aspect of their ecology and evolution, we hypothesize that species are adapted to specific levels of carbon availability and occupy a particular metabolic niche. We test this hypothesis in deep-sea, benthic invertebrates specifically examining how energetic demand, axes of the metabolic niche, and geographic range size vary over gradients of chemical energy availability. We find that benthic invertebrates with higher energetic expenditures, and ecologies associated with high energy demand, are located in areas with higher chemical energy availability. In addition, we find that range size and location of deep-sea, benthic species is determined by geographic patterns in chemical energy availability. Our findings indicate that species may be adapted to specific energy regimes, and the metabolic niche can potentially link scales from individuals to ecosystems as well as adaptation to patterns in biogeography and biodiversity.
In this paper we outline the stakeholder-led approaches in the development of biological data products to support effective conservation, management and policy development. The requirements of a broad range of stakeholders and iterative, structured processes framed the development of tools, models and maps that support the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data principles. By structuring the resultant data products around the emerging biological Essential Ocean Variables, and through the engagement with a broad range of end-users, the EMODnet (European Marine Observation and Data Network) Biology project has delivered a suite of demonstration data products. These products are presented in the European Atlas of Marine Life, an online resource demonstrating the value of open marine biodiversity data and help to answer fundamental and policy-driven questions related to managing the natural and anthropogenic impacts in European waters.
Ocean health is critical for human well-being but is threatened by multiple stressors. Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to protect 10% of their waters by 2020. The scientific evidence supporting the use of marine protected areas (MPAs) to conserve biodiversity stems primarily from knowledge on fully protected areas, but most of what is being established is partially protected. Here, we assess the protection levels of the 1,062 Mediterranean MPAs. While 6.01% of the Mediterranean is covered by protection, 95% of this area shows no difference between the regulations imposed inside the MPAs compared with those outside. Full and high levels of protection, the most effective for biodiversity conservation, represent only 0.23% of the basin and are unevenly distributed across political boundaries and eco-regions. Our current efforts are insufficient at managing human uses of nature at sea, and protection levels should be increased to deliver tangible benefits for biodiversity conservation.
Marine protected areas can serve to regulate harvesting and conserve biodiversity. Within large multi‐use MPAs, it is often unclear to what degree critical sites of biodiversity are afforded protection against commercial activities. Addressing this issue is a prerequisite if we are to appropriately assess sites against conservation targets. We evaluated whether the management regime of a large MPA conserved sites (Key Biodiversity Areas, KBAs) supporting the global persistence of top marine predators.
Southwest Atlantic Ocean.
We collated population and tracking data (1,418 tracks) from 14 marine predator species (Procellariiformes, Sphenisciformes, Pinnipedia) that breed at South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and identified hotspots for their conservation under the recently developed KBA framework. We then evaluated the spatiotemporal overlap of these sites and the different management regimes of krill, demersal longline and pelagic trawl fisheries operating within a large MPA, which was created with the intention to protect marine predator species.
We identified 12 new global marine KBAs that are important for this community of top predators, both within and beyond the focal MPA. Only three species consistently used marine areas at a time when a potentially higher‐risk fishery was allowed to operate in that area, while other interactions between fisheries and our target species were mostly precluded by MPA management plans.
We show that current fishery management measures within the MPA contribute to protecting top predators considered in this study and that resource harvesting within the MPA does not pose a major threat—under current climate conditions. Unregulated fisheries beyond the MPA, however, pose a likely threat to identified KBAs. Our approach demonstrates the utility of the KBA guidelines and multispecies tracking data to assess the contributing role of well‐designed MPAs in achieving local and internationally agreed conservation targets.
Marine megafauna, the largest animals in the oceans, serve key roles in ecosystem functioning. Yet, one-third of these animals are at risk of extinction. To better understand the potential consequences of megafaunal loss, here we quantify their current functional diversity, predict future changes under different extinction scenarios, and introduce a new metric [functionally unique, specialized and endangered (FUSE)] that identifies threatened species of particular importance for functional diversity. Simulated extinction scenarios forecast marked declines in functional richness if current trajectories are maintained during the next century (11% globally; up to 24% regionally), with more marked reductions (48% globally; up to 70% at the poles) beyond random expectations if all threatened species eventually go extinct. Among the megafaunal groups, sharks will incur a disproportionate loss of functional richness. We identify top FUSE species and suggest a renewed focus on these species to preserve the ecosystem functions provided by marine megafauna.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding is an increasingly popular method for rapid biodiversity assessment. As with any ecological survey, false negatives can arise during sampling and, if unaccounted for, lead to biased results and potentially misdiagnosed environmental assessments. We developed a multi-scale, multi-species occupancy model for the analysis of community biodiversity data resulting from eDNA metabarcoding; this model accounts for imperfect detection and additional sources of environmental and experimental variation. We present methods for model assessment and model comparison and demonstrate how these tools improve the inferential power of eDNA metabarcoding data using a case study in a coastal, marine environment. Using occupancy models to account for factors often overlooked in the analysis of eDNA metabarcoding data will dramatically improve ecological inference, sampling design, and methodologies, empowering practitioners with an approach to wield the high-resolution biodiversity data of next-generation sequencing platforms.
Areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) constitute 61% of the world's oceans and are collectively managed by countries under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Growing concern regarding the deteriorating state of the oceans and ineffective management of ABNJ has resulted in negotiations to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction under UNCLOS. To inform these negotiations, we identified existing and emerging human activities and influences that affect ABNJ and evaluated management options available to mitigate the most pervasive, with highest potential for impact and probability of emergence. The highest-ranking activities and influences that affect ABNJ were fishing/hunting, maritime shipping, climate change and its associated effects, land-based pollution and mineral exploitation. Management options are diverse and available through a variety of actors, although their actions are not always effective. Area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs), were the only consistently effective option to mitigate impacts across high-ranked activities and influences. However, addressing land-based pollution will require national action to prevent this at its source, and MPAs offer only a partial solution for climate change. A new ABNJ ILBI could help unify management options and actors to conserve marine biodiversity and ensure sustainable use. Incorporating a mechanism to establish effective ABMTs into the ILBI will help deliver multiple objectives based on the ecosystem approach.
Sandstone reefs may be considered a unique geomorphologic feature within the subtropical Southwestern Atlantic Ocean region; however, biodiversity on these reefs has received little to no attention. Herein, we recorded the fish assemblage and benthic cover of sandstone reefs between 23 and 29 m depth in Southern Brazil and evidenced potential threats to habitat health. Video analysis and underwater censuses recorded 30 fish species. The unexpected high biomass of Epinephelus marginatus indicated that sandstone reefs may contain suitable habitats for the recovery of this endangered species. A rich benthic coverage including bryozoans, algae, hydrozoans, sponges, and octocorals increased local habitat structural complexity. However, a wide diversity of tangled fishing gear and broken sandstone slabs suggested that a valuable feature from Southern Brazil seascape is being lost by cumulative fishing impacts. An extensive mapping of sandstone reefs is urgently needed for better delineation of marine protected areas network in Southeast and Southern Brazil.
Mangrove degradation threatens the capacity of these important ecosystems to provide goods and services that contribute to human wellbeing. This study uses a deliberative choice experiment to value non-market mangrove ecosystem services (ES) at Mida Creek, Kenya. The attributes assessed include “shoreline erosion protection”, “biodiversity richness and abundance”, “nursery and breeding ground for fish”, and “education and research”. Unpaid labour (volunteer time) for mangroves conservation was used as the payment mechanism to estimate willingness to pay (WTP). Results suggest that respondents were willing to volunteer: 5.82 h/month for preserving the mangrove nursery and breeding ground functions to gain an additional metric ton of fish; 21.16 h/month for increasing biodiversity richness and abundance; 10.81 h/month for reducing shoreline erosion by 1 m over 25 years; and 0.14 h/month for gaining 100 student/researcher visits/month. The estimation of WTP for mangrove ES provides valuable insights into the awareness of local communities about the contribution of mangrove forests to ES delivery. This knowledge could assist decision-making for the management and conservation of mangroves in Mida Creek and its environs.