Nares Strait is the northern most outflow gateway of the Arctic Ocean, with a direct connection to the remaining multi-year ice covered central Arctic Ocean. Nares Strait itself flows into the historically highly productive North Water Polynya (Pikialasorsuaq). Satellite data show that Nares Strait ice is retreating earlier in the season. The early season surface chlorophyll signal, which was a characteristic of the North Water, has also moved north into Nares Strait. However, given the vast differences in the hydrography and physical oceanographic structure of the North Water and Nares Strait there is no a priori reason to assume that the species assemblages and overall productivity of this region between Greenland and Canada will be maintained in the face of ongoing sea ice decline. The North Water’s high marine mammal and bird populations are dependent on seasonally persistent diatom dominated phytoplankton productivity, and although there have been several studies on North Water phytoplankton, virtually nothing is known about the communities in Nares Strait. Here we investigated the microbial eukaryotes, including phytoplankton in Nares Strait using high-throughput amplicon sequencing. Samples were collected from Kennedy Channel below the northern ice edge of Nares Strait through the Kane Basin and into the northern limit of the North Water. The physical oceanographic structure and initial community rapidly changed between the faster flowing Kennedy Channel and the comparatively wider shallower Kane Basin. The community changes were evident in both the upper euphotic zone and the deeper aphotic zone. Heterotrophic taxa were found in the deeper waters along with ice algae that would have originated further to the north following release from the ice. Although there was a high proportion of pan-Arctic species throughout, the Nares Strait system showed little in common with the Northern North Water station, suggesting a lack of connectivity. We surmise that a direct displacement of the rich North Water ecosystem is not likely to occur. Overall our study supported the notion that the microbial eukaryotic community, which supports ecosystem function and secondary productivity is shaped by a balance of historic and current processes, which differed by seascape.
States at the United Nations have begun negotiating a new treaty to strengthen the legal regime for marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Failure to ensure the full scope of fish biodiversity is covered could result in thousands of species continuing to slip through the cracks of a fragmented global ocean governance framework.
Over the past 70 years, commercial fisheries have expanded farther and deeper into the open ocean1,2,3,4, impacting many forms of marine biodiversity that exist in areas beyond national jurisdictions (ABNJ; generally, the area beyond 200 nautical miles from shore)5,6. The growth of other industries, such as shipping, has further expanded the presence of humans in the open ocean, while new activities, such as seabed mining, are on the horizon1. These impacts are compounded by the effects of a changing climate, deoxygenation and ocean acidification7,8,9.
In 2017, after more than a decade of informal discussions at the United Nations (UN) regarding gaps in the legal framework for the conservation and management of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (known as the BBNJ process), states agreed to convene an intergovernmental conference for the negotiation of an legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (an ‘implementing agreement’)10.
The agreement to launch the negotiations was partly achieved by the consensus that any new instrument “should not undermine existing legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies”10. This has generally been assumed to mean that the new instrument should complement and strengthen the existing framework and prevent the adoption of weaker or dissonant management measures. However, a small number of states wish to see commercial fisheries (including all forms of fish biodiversity, which they group as a commercial resource whether or not it is harvested) excluded from a new agreement and are concerned that any new provisions will inevitably undermine existing fisheries management bodies. However, there is a significant difference between the number of fish species subject to management and the number of fish species in ABNJ that may be impacted by commercial fishing activities. As fish are a major component of marine biodiversity in ABNJ and have a major role in marine ecosystem functioning, it is important to understand what regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) are in fact responsible for monitoring and managing. Here, we contrast fish biodiversity estimates in ABNJ with a comprehensive database of existing fish population assessments to help delineate the current competencies of RFMOs and identify areas of improvement that could be addressed both through the new agreement as well as by strengthening the mandates and actions taken by such bodies.
We first describe the overarching legal framework for high-seas fisheries, then enumerate how many fish species are either targeted, affected or simply unstudied and potentially at risk of slipping through the cracks of the current management arrangements. The final section analyses how these gaps are relevant to ongoing negotiations at the UN for a new treaty and concludes with specific recommendations.
Within the context of global climate change and overfishing of fish stocks, there is some evidence that cephalopod populations are benefiting from this changing setting. These invertebrates show enhanced phenotypic flexibility and are found from polar regions to the tropics. Yet, the global patterns of species richness in coastal cephalopods are not known. Here, among the 370 identified-species, 164 are octopuses, 96 are cuttlefishes, 54 are bobtails and bottletails, 48 are inshore squids and 8 are pygmy squids. The most diverse ocean is the Pacific (with 213 cephalopod species), followed by the Indian (146 species) and Atlantic (95 species). The least diverse are the Southern (15 species) and the Arctic (12 species) Oceans. Endemism is higher in the Southern Ocean (87%) and lower in the Arctic (25%), which reflects the younger age and the “Atlantification” of the latter. The former is associated with an old lineage of octopuses that diverged around 33 Mya. Within the 232 ecoregions considered, the highest values of octopus and cuttlefish richness are observed in the Central Kuroshio Current ecoregion (with a total of 64 species), followed by the East China Sea (59 species). This pattern suggests dispersal in the Central Indo-Pacific (CIP) associated with the highly productive Oyashio/Kuroshio current system. In contrast, inshore squid hotspots are found within the CIP, namely in the Sunda Shelf Province, which may be linked to the occurrence of an ancient intermittent biogeographic barrier: a land bridge formed during the Pleistocene which severely restricted water flow between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, thereby facilitating squid fauna differentiation. Another marked pattern is a longitudinal richness cline from the Central (CIP) toward the Eastern Indo-Pacific (EIP) realm, with central Pacific archipelagos as evolutionary dead ends. In the Atlantic Ocean, closure of the Atrato Seaway (at the Isthmus of Panama) and Straits of Gibraltar (Mediterranean Sea) are historical processes that may explain the contemporary Caribbean octopus richness and Mediterranean sepiolid endemism, respectively. Last, we discuss how the life cycles and strategies of cephalopods may allow them to adapt quickly to future climate change and extend the borealization of their distribution.
Marine biodiversity provides valuable benefits for human beings. Some of these benefits, such as the provision of food, are easily recognized, while some, such as climate regulation, are less well-known. People lack direct experience of the economic value of marine biodiversity, since no relevant market exists. This study reports the results of a contingent valuation study to estimate people’s willingness to pay (WTP) for biodiversity restoration and conservation scenarios in some unique coralligenous habitats in the North Adriatic Sea, Italy.
Coralligenous habitat constitutes one of the most important ‘hot spots’ of species diversity in the Mediterranean, notoriously affected by a loss of biodiversity as a consequence of human activities, such as over-fishing and pollution, sediment deposition, recreational fishing, trawling, and diving. A major threat is the increasing frequency of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear at sea.
A sample of 4000 Italian people was surveyed, and the results show that people’s WTP for interventions aimed at improving biodiversity through the removal and restoration operations in the area is distinctly higher than is the WTP for the preservation and prevention of further biodiversity loss. The findings suggest that respondents perceive prevention and control activities as being embedded in restoration, the benefits of which can be seen within a certain time frame. Positive and significant determinants of respondents’ WTP are family income, knowledge of biodiversity in coralligenous habitat, previous cognizance and awareness of marine biodiversity issues, environmental friendly behavior, and concern for environmental quality.
The diversity of life in the sea is critical to the health of ocean ecosystems that support living resources and therefore essential to the economic, nutritional, recreational, and health needs of billions of people. Yet there is evidence that the biodiversity of many marine habitats is being altered in response to a changing climate and human activity. Understanding this change, and forecasting where changes are likely to occur, requires monitoring of organism diversity, distribution, abundance, and health. It requires a minimum of measurements including productivity and ecosystem function, species composition, allelic diversity, and genetic expression. These observations need to be complemented with metrics of environmental change and socio-economic drivers. However, existing global ocean observing infrastructure and programs often do not explicitly consider observations of marine biodiversity and associated processes. Much effort has focused on physical, chemical and some biogeochemical measurements. Broad partnerships, shared approaches, and best practices are now being organized to implement an integrated observing system that serves information to resource managers and decision-makers, scientists and educators, from local to global scales. This integrated observing system of ocean life is now possible due to recent developments among satellite, airborne, and in situ sensors in conjunction with increases in information system capability and capacity, along with an improved understanding of marine processes represented in new physical, biogeochemical, and biological models.
In December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly decided to convene an intergovernmental conference to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This legally binding instrument would address four elements, namely marine protected areas, marine genetic resources, environmental impact assessments and capacity building and technology transfer. One of the indicators for the success of the legally binding instrument will be an institutional mechanism that is both effective and that can co-exist with existing mechanisms. There is already a proposal for an institutional mechanism under the implementing agreement. However, the proposed institutional mechanism was developed largely with marine protected areas in mind. The purpose of this article is to determine whether this proposed mechanism could work also for the marine genetic resources element of the proposed treaty. This is necessitated by the fact that the marine genetic resources element of the proposed treaty is far more complex and raises issues that are more intractable.
The Philippines is often highlighted as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, yet surveys of reef-associated fishes in this region rarely extend beyond shallow habitats. Here, we improve the understanding of fish species diversity and distribution patterns in the Philippines by analyzing data from mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs; 30–150 m depth) obtained via mixed-gas rebreather diving and baited remote underwater video surveys. A total of 277 fish species from 50 families was documented, which includes thirteen newly discovered and undescribed species. There were 27 new records for the Philippines and 110 depth range extensions, indicating that many reef fishes have a broader geographic distribution and greater depth limits than previously reported. High taxonomic beta-diversity, mainly associated with family and genus turnover with depth, and significant effects of traits such as species body size, mobility and geographic range with maximum recorded depth, were observed. These results suggest that MCEs are characterized by unique assemblages with distinct ecological and biogeographic traits. A high proportion (60.5%) of the fish species are targeted by fishing, suggesting that Philippine MCEs are as vulnerable to overfishing as shallow reefs. Our findings support calls to expand conservation efforts beyond shallow reefs and draw attention to the need to explicitly include deep reefs in marine protected areas to help preserve the unique biodiversity of MCEs in the Philippines.
Structurally complex habitat is declining across temperate marine environments. This trend has been attributed to changes in land use and increasing coastal development, which are activities likely to continue with governments supporting ongoing economic growth within the marine realm. This can compromise biodiversity, and biodiversity offsetting is increasingly being heralded as a means to reduce the conflict between development and conservation. Offset schemes are often evaluated against targets of ‘ecological equivalence’ or ‘like-for-like’ but these terms can be difficult to define and quantify. Although targets of equivalence have been generally shown to be feasible in terrestrial environments, the complex and dynamic nature of the marine and coastal realms present difficulties when aiming for strict equivalence targets as measures of success. Here, we investigated four intertidal biogenic reef habitats formed by the tube worm Sabellaria alveolata within, and in proximity to, Swansea Bay (Wales, UK). The aim was to identify measurable biodiversity components for S. alveolata reef habitat, and to investigate the natural spatio-temporal variation in these components, to determine whether a target of equivalence was feasible. We also looked to identify the most important drivers of species assemblages within the reefs. Results showed that biodiversity both S. alveolata formation and tube aperture condition showed a significant interaction between site and season, with community composition varying significantly by site only. Site was found to explain the highest variation in community composition, followed by substrate type, and geographical position. These results highlight how widely coastal habitats can vary, in both space and time, and therefore calls into question a strict target of ecological equivalence when planning biodiversity offsets in coastal environments.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) remain central to the conservation of marine biodiversity, but enhancing their resilience under climate change require that organizations managing them are able to adapt. Social factors like institutions can affect organizational capacities to adapt to climate change. Yet our knowledge about how different institutional designs for protected areas affect management adaptive capacity is limited. We address this gap by comparing how two models of MPA governance - centralized and collaborative (co-management) - influence the adaptive capacities of public organizations managing MPAs in East Africa. Social network analysis is used to examine external relations of MPA organizations which are interpreted through the lens of social capital theory to explain the acquisition of information and knowledge that support adaptive capacity. We find differences in the ways focal MPA organizations in the centralized and co-managed MPA systems are connected to their external partners. In the centralized system, the focal MPA organization operates in a less connected network rich in opportunities to bridge disconnected groups that can be a source of novel and diverse information. Conversely, the focal MPA organization in the co-managed system operates in a dense network of interconnected organizations that are likely to have similar information, therefore providing redundant information benefits. The composition of partners around focal MPA organizations which determines information quality is not affected by MPA governance context. We conclude that institutional context affects the relational dimensions of adaptive capacity, by giving greater or fewer opportunities for the development of either bridging or bonding social capital.