Fisheries and marine ecosystem-based management requires a holistic understanding of the dynamics of fish communities and their responses to changes in environmental conditions. Environmental conditions can simultaneously shape the spatial distribution and the temporal dynamics of a population, which together can trigger changes in the functional structure of communities. Here, we developed a comprehensive framework based on complementary multivariate statistical methodologies to simultaneously investigate the effects of environmental conditions on the spatial, temporal and functional dynamics of species assemblages. The framework is tested using survey data collected during more than 4000 fisheries hauls over the Baltic Sea between 2001 and 2016. The approach revealed the Baltic fish community to be structured into three sub-assemblages along a strong and temporally stable salinity gradient decreasing from West to the East. Additionally, we highlight a mismatch between species and functional richness associated with a lower functional redundancy in the Baltic Proper compared with other sub-areas, suggesting an ecosystem more susceptible to external pressures. Based on a large dataset of community data analysed in an innovative and comprehensive way, we could disentangle the effects of environmental changes on the structure of biotic communities—key information for the management and conservation of ecosystems.
Climate change is altering marine ecosystems worldwide and is most pronounced in the Arctic. Economic development is increasing leading to more disturbances and pressures on Arctic wildlife. Identifying areas that support higher levels of predator abundance and biodiversity is important for the implementation of targeted conservation measures across the Arctic.
Primarily Canadian Arctic marine waters but also parts of the United States, Greenland and Russia.
We compiled the largest data set of existing telemetry data for marine predators in the North American Arctic consisting of 1,283 individuals from 21 species. Data were arranged into four species groups: (a) cetaceans and pinnipeds, (b) polar bears Ursus maritimus (c) seabirds, and (d) fishes to address the following objectives: (a) to identify abundance hotspots for each species group in the summer–autumn and winter–spring; (b) to identify species diversity hotspots across all species groups and extent of overlap with exclusive economic zones; and (c) to perform a gap analysis that assesses amount of overlap between species diversity hotspots with existing protected areas.
Abundance and species diversity hotpots during summer–autumn and winter–spring were identified in Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Amundsen Gulf, and the Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering seas both within and across species groups. Abundance and species diversity hotpots occurred within the continental slope in summer–autumn and offshore in areas of moving pack ice in winter–spring. Gap analysis revealed that the current level of conservation protection that overlaps species diversity hotspots is low covering only 5% (77,498 km2) in summer–autumn and 7% (83,202 km2) in winter–spring.
We identified several areas of potential importance for Arctic marine predators that could provide policymakers with a starting point for conservation measures given the multitude of threats facing the Arctic. These results are relevant to multilevel and multinational governance to protect this vulnerable ecosystem in our rapidly changing world.
Analysis that link hydrological processes with oceanographic dispersion offer a promising approach for assessing impacts of land-based activities on marine ecosystems. However, such an analysis has not yet been customised to quantify specific pressures from mining activities on marine biodiversity including those from spillages resulting from tailing dam failure. Here, using a Brazilian catchment in which a tailing dam collapsed (Doce river) as a case study, we provide a modelling approach to assess the impacts on key ecosystems and marine protected areas subjected to two exposure regimes: (i) a pulse disturbance event for the period 2015–2016, following the immediate release of sediments after dam burst, which witnessed an average increase of 88% in sediment exports; and (ii) a press disturbance phase for the period 2017–2029, when impacts are sustained over time by sediments along the river's course. We integrated four components into impact assessments: hydrological modelling, coastal-circulation modelling, ecosystem mapping, and biological sensitivities. The results showed that pulse disturbance causes sharp increases in the amount of sediments entering the coastal area, exposing key sensitive ecosystems to pollution (e.g. rhodolith beds), highlighting an urgent need for developing restoration strategies for these areas. The intensity of impacts will diminish over time but the total area of sensitive ecosystems at risk are predicted to be enlarged. We determined monitoring and restoration priorities by evaluating and comparing the extent to which sensitive ecosystems within marine protected areas were exposed to disturbances. The information obtained in this study will allow the optimization of recovery efforts in the marine area affected, and valuation of ecosystem services lost.
The global oil and gas industry holds a vast archive of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) inspection footage potentially containing useful long-term data on marine biological communities. With the upcoming era of decommissioning of oil and gas structures, it is timely to assess the usefulness of this footage for researching these communities. We used ROV inspection footage to characterize the sessile invertebrates and fishes associated with the Goodwyn Alpha Production Platform (GWA) on the North West Shelf of Australia between depths of 10 and 125 m during 2006 and 2008. Depth was a major driver of invertebrate assemblages, most likely due to specific requirements such as light, and differences between years were most likely from the physical detachment of species by cyclones and internal waves. Phototrophic species were mostly limited to the upper 50 m of the platform, including the hard coral Pocillopora sp. and the soft corals Nephthea sp. and Scleronephthya sp. In contrast, heterotrophic species including sponges, anemones, bryozoans, hydroids, bivalves such as Lopha folium and the hard coral Tubastrea spp., were distributed across all depths. We observed 1791 fish from at least 10 families and 19 species, including commercial species such as crimson seaperch (Lutjanus erythropterus), red emperor (L. sebae), saddle-tailed seaperch (L. malabaricus), mangrove jack (L. argentimaculatus) and trevally (Caranx spp.). Fish density increased significantly with depth during 2008, from a mean of 23 fish/50 m2 between 10 and 25 m to 3373 fish/50 m2 at 125 m, where small unidentified baitfish were abundant. The highest densities of commercial species occurred between 25 and 75 m depth, suggesting that mid-depth platform sections had high habitat value, a consideration when selecting decommissioning options. The greatest difficulties using the video were the poor lighting and resolution that inhibited our ability to identify sessile species with high taxonomic precision. However, the footage was useful for evaluating high-level biodiversity of the platform, understanding how fish and invertebrate communities changed with depth and comprehending the dynamic nature of the invertebrate community over time. Understanding the habitat value of structures will be necessary for making environmentally sound decommissioning decisions in the future.
Global initiatives have been increasingly focusing on mainstreaming the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making at all levels. Due to the accelerated rate at which biodiversity is declining and its consequences for the functioning of ecosystems and subsequently, the services they provide, there is need to develop comprehensive assessments of the services and the benefits nature delivers to society. Based on expert evaluation, we identified relevant flow linkages in the supply-side of the socio-ecological system, i.e. from biodiversity to ecosystem services supply for eight case studies across European aquatic ecosystems covering freshwater, transitional, coastal and marine waters realms. Biological mediated services were considered, as well as those reliant on purely physical aspects of the ecosystem, i.e. abiotic outputs, since both have implications for spatial planning, management and decision-making. Due to the multidimensional nature of ecosystems and their biodiversity, our approach used ecosystem components such as habitats and biota as proxies for biodiversity and as the focal point for linkage identification. Statistical analysis revealed the importance of considering mobile biota in the spatial assessment of habitats. Contrary to literature evidences so far, our results showed significantly different and complementary ecosystem services supply patterns across the continuum of aquatic realms. The implemented score of ecosystem services supply has a high potential for integrated aquatic ecosystem service supply assessments in the context of ecosystem-based management.
Aquatic ecosystems are indispensable for life on earth and yet despite their essential function and services roles, marine and freshwater biomes are facing unprecedented threats from both traditional and emerging anthropogenic stressors. The resultant species and ecosystem-level threat severity requires an urgent response from the conservation community. With their care facilities, veterinary and conservation breeding expertise, reintroduction and restoration and public communication reach, stand-alone aquariums and zoos holding aquatic taxa have great collective potential to help address the current biodiversity crisis, which is now greatest in freshwater than land habitats. However, uncertainty regarding the number of species kept in such facilities hinders assessment of their conservation value. Here we analyzed standardized and shared data of zoological institution members of Species360, for fish and Anthozoa species (i.e. Actinopterygii, Elasmobranchii, Holocephali, Myxini, Sarcopterygii and Anthozoa). To assess the conservation potential of populations held in these institutions, we cross-referenced the Species360 records with the following conservation schemes: the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the IUCN Red List, Climate Change Vulnerability, Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) and The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE). We found that aquariums hold four of the six fish species listed by the IUCN Red List as ‘Extinct in the Wild’, 31% of Anthozoa species listed by Foden et al. (2013) as Vulnerable to Climate Change, 19 out of the 111 Anthozoa EDGE species, and none of the species prioritized by the AZE. However, it’s very likely that significant additional species of high conservation value are held in aquariums that do not manage their records in standardized, sharable platforms such as Species360. Our study highlights both the great value of aquarium and zoo collections for addressing the aquatic biodiversity crisis, as well as the importance that they maintain comprehensive, standardised, globally-shared taxonomic data.
Seagrasses, flowering marine plants that form underwater meadows, play a significant global role in supporting food security, mitigating climate change and supporting biodiversity. Although progress is being made to conserve seagrass meadows in select areas, most meadows remain under significant pressure resulting in a decline in meadow condition and loss of function. Effective management strategies need to be implemented to reverse seagrass loss and enhance their fundamental role in coastal ocean habitats. Here we propose that seagrass meadows globally face a series of significant common challenges that must be addressed from a multifaceted and interdisciplinary perspective in order to achieve global conservation of seagrass meadows. The six main global challenges to seagrass conservation are (1) a lack of awareness of what seagrasses are and a limited societal recognition of the importance of seagrasses in coastal systems; (2) the status of many seagrass meadows are unknown, and up-to-date information on status and condition is essential; (3) understanding threatening activities at local scales is required to target management actions accordingly; (4) expanding our understanding of interactions between the socio-economic and ecological elements of seagrass systems is essential to balance the needs of people and the planet; (5) seagrass research should be expanded to generate scientific inquiries that support conservation actions; (6) increased understanding of the linkages between seagrass and climate change is required to adapt conservation accordingly. We also explicitly outline a series of proposed policy actions that will enable the scientific and conservation community to rise to these challenges. We urge the seagrass conservation community to engage stakeholders from local resource users to international policy-makers to address the challenges outlined here, in order to secure the future of the world’s seagrass ecosystems and maintain the vital services which they supply.
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a World-known, iconic environmental asset whose complex functioning is largely ascribed to its outstanding biodiversity, ranging from genes to plants, animals and entire ecosystems. Biodiversity has been key to its resilience over the past millennia. However, the combined effects of climate change, water quality degradation and coastal development are threatening the GBR’s resilience. There is a crucial need to better understand the value of biodiversity in that region to encourage sustainable policy-making.
Different approaches have been suggested in the literature to value biodiversity. First, we review the use of a Total Economic Value framework to look into all dimensions of biodiversity values. Second, we describe an approach relying on ecosystem services. The suitability of these two approaches to value biodiversity in the GBR is assessed. Next, we review 23 finance mechanisms and discuss the possibility to use them to alleviate pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity in the GBR. We conclude by stressing the importance of biodiversity valuation in the GBR, highlight some of the remaining challenges and provide recommendations for future research avenues.
Despite the attention given to genetic biodiversity in international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan and the Aichi Targets, previous research points at a “conservation genetics gap,” indicating that scientific insights into genetic biodiversity are poorly integrated into practical management. Both researchers and managers call for platforms for knowledge exchange between science and practice. However, few scientific studies on the potential effects of such knowledge transfer have been conducted. The present study is a follow-up to Lundmark et al. (2017), which identified significant effects of two forms of knowledge communication on conservation managers’ concerns and beliefs in regard to Baltic Sea genetic biodiversity. This study departs from Lundmark et al. (2017) and explores (a) whether the identified alterations in knowledge and beliefs persist over time, and (b) whether potential stability differs between different types of policy beliefs as well as between two types of knowledge communication (lecture and group deliberation). The results of this follow-up study show that the positive impacts on managers’ self-assessed knowledge remained, while the effects on policy beliefs largely had vanished a few months after the knowledge communication. Thus, changes in beliefs seem perishable, suggesting that continuity is more important than the form of educational efforts.
In 2010 Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss within a decade by achieving 20 objectives that are commonly known as the Aichi Targets. This article explores aspects of Canada's work on one of the few quantified targets (Target 11), which is intended to improve the status of biodiversity through protected areas (PAs) and a new type of designation, “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs). In a faltering attempt to reach its Aichi Target 11 commitments by 2020, some Canadian jurisdictions have elected to focus more on coverage (quantity) and less on ecological integrity (quality), which has significant ramifications for long-term success of biodiversity conservation. For example, a jurisdiction responsible for marine conservation has re-designated regulated fishery closures as ‘marine refuges’ under the auspices of an OECM designation, which brings into question the real intent of Canada's commitment to the CBD and its own Biodiversity Strategy. Ambiguous language used to define and prescribe application of OECMs is being used as the basis for a revisionist paradigm that promises to undermine national and international conservation standards, fracture partnerships, and jeopardize the integrity of Canada's PA network. Canada must reject half measures that will result in ineffective or unintended perverse conservation outcomes, and focus on a post-2020 agenda that prioritizes conservation outcomes, management effectiveness, and the implementation of accountability measures within and between jurisdictions and by the Secretariat of the CBD.