Nearshore ecosystems are increasingly recognized as critical habitats for fish of cultural, ecological and economic significance. These ecosystems are often densely inhabited by juvenile fish, highly productive and refuges from predation, leading ecologists to characterize them as nurseries. However, nearshore ecosystems are being transformed globally to support demands of growing coastal populations. Many shorelines are modified by armouring (e.g. seawalls, riprap) that minimizes erosion, and overwater structures (e.g. piers, docks) that facilitate waterfront use. These modifications affect the ecology of nearshore systems by restructuring, eliminating and shading shallow waters.
Here, we review literature examining effects of armouring and overwater structures on coastal and estuarine fishes, and discuss how research and management can coordinate to minimize negative effects.
Along armoured shorelines, fish assemblages differed from unarmoured sites, fish consumed less epibenthic and terrestrial prey, beach spawning was less successful and fish were larger. Under large overwater structures, visually oriented fish were less abundant and they fed less. Shade from overwater structures also interrupted localized movements of migratory fish. Thus, shoreline modifications impaired habitats by limiting feeding, reproduction, ontogenetic habitat shifts from shallow to deeper waters and connectivity.
Research suggests that restoring shallow waters and substrate complexity, and minimizing shading underneath overwater structures, can rehabilitate habitats compromised by shoreline modifications.
Synthesis and applications. Shoreline armouring and overwater structures often compromise fish habitats. These threats to nearshore fish habitats will become more severe as growing coastal populations and rising sea levels increase demands for shoreline infrastructure. Our ability to assess and rehabilitate nearshore fish habitats along modified shorelines will be enhanced by: focusing research attention on metrics that directly indicate fish habitat quality; implementing and evaluating shoreline features that repair compromised habitat functions within human-use constraints; collating natural history knowledge of nearshore ecosystems; and embracing the socio-ecological nature of habitat improvements by educating the public about conservation efforts and fostering appreciation of local nearshore ecosystems. Actions to reduce impacts of shoreline modifications on fish are particularly feasible when they align with societal goals, such as improving flood protection and providing spaces that facilitate recreation, education, and connections between people and nature.
Artificial reefs now form part of an integrated approach to enhance fisheries around the world. A responsible approach to artificial reef deployment calls for clear, well defined goals prior to any reef being placed in the field, followed by subsequent monitoring to assess whether these goals are being achieved. In this study, to evaluate if an artificial reef off Sydney was meeting its goal of providing quality fishing opportunities through the establishment of a complex fish assemblage, a 4-year monitoring program was designed. This program examined the response of reef-associated and pelagic fishes to the deployment of a purpose built offshore reef, relative to control reefs. Fish were observed immediately following deployment, but the artificial reef fish assemblage remained distinct from the three natural control reefs throughout the monitoring period. Also, the artificial reef displayed inter-annual variability associated with successional processes, which was not evident on the natural reefs. Fish length data indicated that the artificial reef was providing resources for both juvenile and adults of a number of species. This study demonstrates artificial reefs can provide habitats for a diverse group of fish, but the assemblages are unlikely to mimic those on natural reefs. We have also shown that longer term monitoring periods, covering multiple years are required to gain a robust understanding of the response of fish to reef deployment. This information can be used to understand the benefits and limitations of future artificial reef deployments.
Urbanisation in terrestrial systems has driven architects, planners, ecologists and engineers to collaborate on the design and creation of more sustainable structures. Examples include the development of ‘green infrastructure’ and the introduction of wildlife corridors that mitigate urban stressors and provide positive ecological outcomes. In contrast, efforts to minimise the impacts of urban developments in marine environments have been far more restricted in their extent and scope, and have often overlooked the ecological role of the built environment as potential habitat. Urban foreshore developments, i.e. those built on the interface of intertidal and/or subtidal zones, have the potential to incorporate clear multi-functional outcomes, by supporting novel ecosystems. We present a step-by-step eco-engineering framework for ‘building blue’ that will allow coastal managers to facilitate planning and construction of sustainable foreshore developments. Adopting such an approach will incorporate ecological principles, thereby mitigating some of the environmental impacts, creating more resilient urban infrastructure and environments, and maximising benefits to the multiple stakeholders and users of marine urban waterfronts.
Shoreline armoring can impact a variety of ecosystem functions, goods and services provided by beaches. Shoreline managers struggle to balance genuine need for armoring to protect infrastructure versus unacceptable losses of ecosystem functions––whether these be in beaches, sand dunes, or marshes. We use our recent research effort in the Salish Sea, Washington, as a case study to illustrate how highlighting the negative consequences of shoreline armoring to publicly important ecosystem functions may help to strengthen implementation of policy and prioritize restoration actions. We focus on two distinct mechanisms of armoring impact that link strongly to key beach functions, and recommend: (1) where armoring is clearly necessary, place or move it as high on the beach as possible. Armoring emplaced relatively low on the shore is more likely to affect a variety of ecosystem functions from forage fish spawning to beach recreation; (2) prioritize protection or restoration (armor removal) of feeder bluffs that are critical for sediment supply to the beach; this sediment is essential to the maintenance of beach functions. In addition, we recommend that nature-based alternatives to armoring be given preferential regulatory consideration and that outreach efforts clarify the advantages of these engineering methods.
Land-Ocean-Human (L-O-H) interactions in intensively developing coastal zones are demonstrated using four case studies in the western Bohai Sea, China. Three aspects of L-O-H interactions are discussed: 1. Coastlines are the result of Land-Ocean (L-O) interactions, but human activities have changed many coastlines from natural to artificial. In recent years, sea reclamation projects have moved the land and its coastline towards the sea, leading to hydrodynamic changes and affecting both the topography and sediment-erosion dynamics in western Bohai Bay (case study 1). 2. Estuaries are key areas for L-O interactions; river sediments, together with ocean power, shape the topography of the estuarine delta, while river nutrients impact offshore biological productivity. However, due to irrigation and reservoir construction up-stream, runoff and sediments have decreased resulting in increased coastal erosion in the Yellow River Delta (case study 2). Rivers carry industrial and agricultural point and non-point source pollution into the sea, causing marine pollution in Jinzhou Bay (case study 3). 4. Sea-level rise caused by global climate change enhances the role of the ocean. At a local scale, in Binhai New Area, sea-level change is also influenced by vertical land movement along with some land subsidence caused by over-exploitation of groundwater. Rising sea levels exacerbate storm surges and floods, and increase the risk of socio-economic and ecological impacts (case study 4). Because of rapid economic growth in Chinese coastal areas, L-O-H interactions have become the most significant factors changing natural and artificial environments. If the coastal zone is to be developed sustainably, human activities must be regulated.
Despite decades of work in environmental science and ecology, estimating human influences on ecosystems remains challenging. This is partly due to complex chains of causation among ecosystem elements, exacerbated by the difficulty of collecting biological data at sufficient spatial, temporal, and taxonomic scales. Here, we demonstrate the utility of environmental DNA (eDNA) for quantifying associations between human land use and changes in an adjacent ecosystem. We analyze metazoan eDNA sequences from water sampled in nearshore marine eelgrass communities and assess the relationship between these ecological communities and the degree of urbanization in the surrounding watershed. Counter to conventional wisdom, we find strongly increasing richness and decreasing beta diversity with greater urbanization, and similar trends in the diversity of life histories with urbanization. We also find evidence that urbanization influences nearshore communities at local (hundreds of meters) rather than regional (tens of km) scales. Given that different survey methods sample different components of an ecosystem, we then discuss the advantages of eDNA—which we use here to detect hundreds of taxa simultaneously—as a complement to traditional ecological sampling, particularly in the context of broad ecological assessments where exhaustive manual sampling is impractical. Genetic data are a powerful means of uncovering human-ecosystem interactions that might otherwise remain hidden; nevertheless, no sampling method reveals the whole of a biological community.
Abstract. The impact of current climate variability adversely affects countless communities and this was demonstrated by the supertyphoon Haiyan that ravaged the Eastern and Central Philippines in 2013. In the coming years, the impacts are expected to be more marked and for some communities, catastrophic. According to Dazé et al (2009), vulnerability to climate variations can differ within countries, communities and even households and therefore, adaptation requires context-specific activities with strategies vital in the planning process for an effective adaptation program in response to these hazards. This study was conducted to assess the vulnerability of selected coastal communities to hydrometeorological hazards (HMHs) in Iloilo Province, Central Philippines, specifically in the municipalities of Oton and Concepcion, as these coastal towns have the highest number of registered affected persons (relative to population) in the aftermath of typhoon Fengshen in 2008 (IPDCC 2008), and supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013 (Municipality of Concepcion, unp. data). Assessment of vulnerability was done by constructing a vulnerability index (VI) and results show that study sites in the municipality of Concepcion are more vulnerable to HMHs, as compared to the sites in the municipality of Oton.
Coastal areas are vulnerable to flooding and storm damage—issues that are magnified by climate change and sea level rise. When located in coastal areas, stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) are subject to flooding, storm damage, and salt and wind exposure. These impacts are expected to increase over time due to sea level rise, higher groundwater levels, and more frequent and intense storms due to climate change. To help communities address these impacts, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, funded the development of Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Stormwater BMPs and Recommended BMP Design Considerations in Coastal Communities.
We examined the effect of artificial light on the near shore trajectories of turtle hatchlings dispersing from natal beaches. Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchlings were tagged with miniature acoustic transmitters and their movements tracked within an underwater array of 36 acoustic receivers placed in the near shore zone. A total of 40 hatchlings were tracked, 20 of which were subjected to artificial light during their transit of the array. At the same time, we measured current speed and direction, which were highly variable within and between experimental nights and treatments. Artificial lighting affected hatchling behaviour, with 88% of individual trajectories oriented towards the light and spending, on average, 23% more time in the 2.25 ha tracking array (19.5 ± 5 min) than under ambient light conditions (15.8 ± 5 min). Current speed had little to no effect on the bearing (angular direction) of the hatchling tracks when artificial light was present, but under ambient conditions it influenced the bearing of the tracks when current direction was offshore and above speeds of approximately 32.5 cm s−1. This is the first experimental evidence that wild turtle hatchlings are attracted to artificial light after entering the ocean, a behaviour that is likely to subject them to greater risk of predation. The experimental protocol described in this study can be used to assess the effect of anthropogenic (light pollution, noise, etc.) and natural (wave action, current, wind, moonlight) influences on the in-water movements of sea turtle hatchlings during the early phase of dispersal.
There is great interest in the restoration and conservation of coastal habitats for protection from flooding and erosion. This is evidenced by the growing number of analyses and reviews of the effectiveness of habitats as natural defences and increasing funding world-wide for nature-based defences–i.e. restoration projects aimed at coastal protection; yet, there is no synthetic information on what kinds of projects are effective and cost effective for this purpose. This paper addresses two issues critical for designing restoration projects for coastal protection: (i) a synthesis of the costs and benefits of projects designed for coastal protection (nature-based defences) and (ii) analyses of the effectiveness of coastal habitats (natural defences) in reducing wave heights and the biophysical parameters that influence this effectiveness. We (i) analyse data from sixty-nine field measurements in coastal habitats globally and examine measures of effectiveness of mangroves, salt-marshes, coral reefs and seagrass/kelp beds for wave height reduction; (ii) synthesise the costs and coastal protection benefits of fifty-two nature-based defence projects and; (iii) estimate the benefits of each restoration project by combining information on restoration costs with data from nearby field measurements. The analyses of field measurements show that coastal habitats have significant potential for reducing wave heights that varies by habitat and site. In general, coral reefs and salt-marshes have the highest overall potential. Habitat effectiveness is influenced by: a) the ratios of wave height-to-water depth and habitat width-to-wavelength in coral reefs; and b) the ratio of vegetation height-to-water depth in salt-marshes. The comparison of costs of nature-based defence projects and engineering structures show that salt-marshes and mangroves can be two to five times cheaper than a submerged breakwater for wave heights up to half a metre and, within their limits, become more cost effective at greater depths. Nature-based defence projects also report benefits ranging from reductions in storm damage to reductions in coastal structure costs.