The ocean provides ecosystem services (ES) that support humanity. Traditional single-issue management largely failed to protect the full suite of ES. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) promotes resilient social-ecological systems that provide ES. To implement EBM, an ES approach is useful: (1) characterize major ES provided (magnitude, geographic extent, monetary value, trends, and stakeholders), (2) identify trade-offs, (3) determine desired outcomes, and (4) manage anthropogenic activities accordingly. Here we apply the ES approach (steps 1–2) to an open ocean ecosystem, the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP), an area of 21 million km2 that includes waters of 12 nations and the oceanic commons, using 35 years (1975–2010) of fisheries and economic data, and 20 years (1986–2006) of ship-based survey data. We examined commercial fisheries, carbon storage, recreational fishing, and biodiversity as the major provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting ES, respectively. Average catch value (using U.S. import prices for fish) for the 10 most commercially fished species was $2.7 billion yr−1. The value of carbon export to the deep ocean was $12.9 billion yr−1 (using average European carbon market prices). For two fisheries-depleted dolphin populations, the potential value of rebuilding carbon stores was $1.6 million (cumulative); for exploited fish stocks it was also $1.6 million (an estimated reduction of 544,000 mt). Sport fishing expenditures totaled $1.2 billion yr−1, from studies of three popular destinations. These initial, conservative estimates do not represent a complete summary of ETP ES values. We produced species richness maps for cetaceans, seabirds, and ichthyoplankton, and a sightings density map for marine turtles. Over 1/3 of cetacean, seabird, and marine turtle species occur in the ETP, and diversity (or density) hotspots are widespread. This study fills several gaps in the assessment of marine and coastal ES by focusing on an oceanic habitat, utilizing long-term datasets, mapping the spatial distribution of ecological components, and concentrating on an area beyond Europe and the USA. Our results improve our understanding of ETP ES, highlight their variety, and offer a new perspective for a fisheries-dominated system. This study sets the stage for further analyses of trade-offs, which can inform decisions about resource management and biodiversity conservation.
Blue Carbon & Sequestration
Coastal “blue carbon,” (carbon sequestered in salt marsh, mangroves, and seagrasses) is a newly recognized benefit. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with partners, has been exploring and developing new policy opportunities for coastal conservation using the climate benefits of these ecosystems. We detail NOAA's efforts (federal and international, market and non-market) to leverage blue carbon for coastal conservation including: (1) how blue carbon is or could be incorporated into U.S. federal policies (both existing and new policy activities); (2) market-based policy solutions including the development of a Verified Carbon Standard methodology for carbon credits for wetland restoration and two landscape assessments of the climate mitigation benefits of watershed-scale restoration; and (3) international efforts to build a North American community of practice for blue carbon science and policy with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Canada, and Mexico, and an assessment of where blue carbon can be incorporated into international policy frameworks (including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Wetlands Supplement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)). Protecting coastal carbon leads to co-benefits including resilience to storms and erosion, and fishery benefits, thus blue carbon is a “triple win” for climate mitigation, adaptation, and conservation.
This study analyzed the past and future climate mitigation benefits of habitat restoration in Tampa Bay, and identified opportunities for enhanced ecosystem management that can provide agencies and community members in the region with information to support coastal management planning and prioritize restoration and climate adaptation planning.
As initiatives are taken in Sweden to evaluate the geological potential for carbon dioxide storage in the adjacent Baltic Sea, experiences from elsewhere may provide lessons about perceptions of and potential opposition toward carbon capture and storage (CCS). A comprehensive analysis of storage feasibility needs to include the issue of social acceptance. The knowledge of CCS is low in Sweden however and there are no Swedish CCS projects to learn from. This paper therefore draws on lessons from other large-scale energy projects that are embedded in similar Baltic Sea contexts to complement lessons on CCS acceptance provided in the literature. The aim of this study is to facilitate an understanding of acceptance of potential future CO2 storage initiatives in the Swedish Baltic Sea region and to analyze what contextual factors are likely to be determinative of the outcome of these and similar projects. The study identifies climate change as one such key contextual factor, which can often be used both to support and oppose a large-scale energy project. Furthermore, the study finds that there are perceptions of uncertainties regarding the regulatory framework that need to be adressed in order to facilitate the planning of CCS projects in the region.
The Southern Ocean archipelago, the South Orkney Islands (SOI), became the world's first entirely high seas marine protected area (MPA) in 2010. The SOI continental shelf (~44 000 km2), was less than half covered by grounded ice sheet during glaciations, is biologically rich and a key area of both sea surface warming and sea-ice losses. Little was known of the carbon cycle there, but recent work showed it was a very important site of carbon immobilization (net annual carbon accumulation) by benthos, one of the few demonstrable negative feedbacks to climate change. Carbon immobilization by SOI bryozoans was higher, per species, unit area and ice-free day, than anywhere-else polar. Here, we investigate why carbon immobilization has been so high at SOI, and whether this is due to high density, longevity or high annual production in six study species of bryozoans (benthic suspension feeders). We compared benthic carbon immobilization across major regions around West Antarctica with sea-ice and primary production, from remotely sensed and directly sampled sources. Lowest carbon immobilization was at the northernmost study regions (South Georgia) and southernmost Amundsen Sea. However, data standardized for age and density showed that only SOI was anomalous (high). High immobilization at SOI was due to very high annual production of bryozoans (rather than high densities or longevity), which were 2x, 3x and 5x higher than on the Bellingshausen, South Georgia and Amundsen shelves, respectively. We found that carbon immobilization correlated to the duration (but not peak or integrated biomass) of phytoplankton blooms, both in directly sampled, local scale data and across regions using remote-sensed data. The long bloom at SOI seems to drive considerable carbon immobilization, but sea-ice losses across West Antarctica mean that significant carbon sinks and negative feedbacks to climate change could also develop in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas.
Given their relatively small area, mangroves and their organic sediments are of disproportionate importance to global carbon sequestration and carbon storage. Peat deposition and preservation allows some mangroves to accrete vertically and keep pace with sea-level rise by growing on their own root remains. In this study we show that mangroves in desert inlets in the coasts of the Baja California have been accumulating root peat for nearly 2,000 y and harbor a belowground carbon content of 900–34,00 Mg C/ha, with an average value of 1,130 (± 128) Mg C/ha, and a belowground carbon accumulation similar to that found under some of the tallest tropical mangroves in the Mexican Pacific coast. The depth–age curve for the mangrove sediments of Baja California indicates that sea level in the peninsula has been rising at a mean rate of 0.70 mm/y (± 0.07) during the last 17 centuries, a value similar to the rates of sea-level rise estimated for the Caribbean during a comparable period. By accreting on their own accumulated peat, these desert mangroves store large amounts of carbon in their sediments. We estimate that mangroves and halophyte scrubs in Mexico’s arid northwest, with less than 1% of the terrestrial area, store in their belowground sediments around 28% of the total belowground carbon pool of the whole region.
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the oceans is one of the largest pools of reduced carbon on Earth, comparable in size to the atmospheric CO2 reservoir. A vast number of compounds are present in DOM, and they play important roles in all major element cycles, contribute to the storage of atmospheric CO2 in the ocean, support marine ecosystems, and facilitate interactions between organisms. At the heart of the DOM cycle lie molecular-level relationships between the individual compounds in DOM and the members of the ocean microbiome that produce and consume them. In the past, these connections have eluded clear definition because of the sheer numerical complexity of both DOM molecules and microorganisms. Emerging tools in analytical chemistry, microbiology, and informatics are breaking down the barriers to a fuller appreciation of these connections. Here we highlight questions being addressed using recent methodological and technological developments in those fields and consider how these advances are transforming our understanding of some of the most important reactions of the marine carbon cycle.
Offshore geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO2), known as offshore carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), has been under active investigation as a safe, effective mitigation option for reducing CO2 levels from anthropogenic fossil fuel burning and climate change. Along with increasing trends in implementation plans and related logistics on offshore CCS, thorough risk assessment (i.e. environmental impact monitoring) needs to be conducted to evaluate potential risks, such as CO2 gas leakage at injection sites. Gas leaks from offshore CCS may affect the physiology of marine organisms and disrupt certain ecosystem functions, thereby posing an environmental risk. Here, we synthesize current knowledge on environmental impact monitoring of offshore CCS with an emphasis on biological aspects and provide suggestions for better practice. Based on our critical review of preexisting literatures, this paper: 1) discusses key variables sensitive to or indicative of gas leakage by summarizing physico-chemical and ecological variables measured from previous monitoring cruises on offshore CCS; 2) lists ecosystem and organism responses to a similar environmental condition to CO2leakage and associated impacts, such as ocean acidification and hypercapnia, to predict how they serve as responsive indicators of short- and long-term gas exposure, and 3) discusses the designs of the artificial gas release experiments in fields and the best model simulation to produce realistic leakage scenarios in marine ecosystems. Based on our analysis, we suggest that proper incorporation of biological aspects will provide successful and robust long-term monitoring strategies with earlier detection of gas leakage, thus reducing the risks associated with offshore CCS.
Living shorelines are a type of estuarine shoreline erosion control that incorporates native vegetation and preserves native habitats. Because they provide the ecosystem services associated with natural coastal wetlands while also increasing shoreline resilience, living shorelines are part of the natural and hybrid infrastructure approach to coastal resiliency. Marshes created as living shorelines are typically narrow (< 30 m) fringing marshes with sandy substrates that are well flushed by tides. These characteristics distinguish living shorelines from the larger meadow marshes in which most of the current knowledge about created marshes was developed. The value of living shorelines for providing both erosion control and habitat for estuarine organisms has been documented but their capacity for carbon sequestration has not. We measured carbon sequestration rates in living shorelines and sandy transplanted Spartina alterniflora marshes in the Newport River Estuary, North Carolina. The marshes sampled here range in age from 12 to 38 years and represent a continuum of soil development. Carbon sequestration rates ranged from 58 to 283 g C m-2 yr-1 and decreased with marsh age. The pattern of lower sequestration rates in older marshes is hypothesized to be the result of a relative enrichment of labile organic matter in younger sites and illustrates the importance of choosing mature marshes for determination of long-term carbon sequestration potential. The data presented here are within the range of published carbon sequestration rates for S. alterniflora marshes and suggest that wide-scale use of the living shoreline approach to shoreline management may come with a substantial carbon benefit.
Mangroves provide multiple ecosystem services such as blue carbon sequestration, storm protection, and unique habitat for species. Despite these services, mangroves are being lost at rapid rates around the world. Using the best available biophysical and socio-economic data, we present the first rigorous large-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of protected areas (PAs) at conserving mangroves and reducing blue carbon emissions. We focus on Indonesia as it has the largest absolute area of mangroves (about 22.6% of the world's mangroves), is one of the most diverse in terms of mangrove species and has been losing its mangroves at a very fast rate. Specifically, we apply quasi-experimental techniques (combining propensity score and covariate matching, differences-in-differences, and post-matching bias adjustments) to assess whether PAs prevented mangrove loss between 2000 and 2010. Our results show that marine protected areas reduced mangrove loss by about 14,000 ha and avoided blue carbon emissions of approximately 13 million metric tons (CO2 equivalent). However, we find no evidence that species management PAs stalled the loss of mangroves. We conclude by providing illustrative estimates of the blue carbon benefits of establishing PAs, which can be cost-effective policies for mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss.