Herbivorous fishes play a critical role in maintaining or disrupting the ecological resilience of many kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass ecosystems, worldwide. The increasing rate and scale of benthic habitat loss under global change has magnified the importance of herbivores and highlights the need to study marine herbivory at ecologically relevant scales. Currently, underwater herbivore exclusions (or inclusions) have been restricted to small scale experimental plots, in large part due to the challenges of designing structures that can withstand the physical forces of waves and currents, without drastically altering the physical environment inside the exclusion area. We tested the ability of bubble curtains to deter herbivorous fishes from feeding on seaweeds as an alternative to the use of rigid exclusion cages. Kelps (Ecklonia radiata) were transplanted onto reefs with high browsing herbivore pressure into either unprotected plots, exclusion cages or plots protected by bubble curtains of 0.785 m2 and 3.14 m2. Remote underwater video was used to compare the behavioral response of fishes to kelps protected and unprotected by bubble curtains. Kelp biomass loss was significantly lower inside the bubble curtains compared to unprotected kelps and did not differ from kelp loss rates in traditional exclusion cages. Consistent with this finding, no herbivorous fishes were observed entering into the bubble curtain at any point during the experiment. In contrast, fish bite rates on unprotected kelps were 1,621 ± 702 bites h−1 (mean ± SE). Our study provides initial evidence that bubble curtains can exclude herbivorous fishes, paving the way for future studies to examine their application at larger spatial and temporal scales, beyond what has been previously feasible using traditional exclusion cages.
This report summarises the knowledge on plastics in Nordic marine species. Nordic biota interacts with plastic pollution, through entanglement and ingestion. Ingestion has been found in many seabirds and also in stranded mammals. Ingestion of plastics has been documented in 14 fish species, which many of them are of ecology and commercially importance. Microplastics have also been found in blue mussels and preliminary studies found synthetic fibres in marine worms. Comparability between and within studies of plastic ingestion by biota from the Nordic environment and other regions are difficult as there are: few studies and different methods are used. It is important that research is directed towards the knowledge gaps highlighted in this report, to get a better understanding on plastic ingestion and impact on biota from the Nordic marine environment.
The role of public aquariums in promoting conservation has changed substantially over the decades, evolving from entertainment attractions to educational and research centres. In many facilities, larger sharks are an essential part of the collection and represent one of the biggest draws for the public. Displaying healthy elasmobranchs comes with many challenges, but improvements in husbandry techniques have enabled aquariums to have success with a variety of species. The establishment of organisations such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the completion of texts like the Elasmobranch Husbandry Manual, has helped set high standards of care for sharks in captivity and promoted international conservation efforts. Aquariums keeping sharks are in a unique position to influence local, regional, and international attitudes and policies by acting as both educational and research facilities. Interactions with multiple stakeholders of diverse educational and demographic backgrounds through the use of in-house advocacy, public outreach, media interviews, and partnerships with academic and government institutions enable these facilities to engage and share information with a broad audience. Although the data collected on sharks in captivity often cannot be directly translated to animals in the wild, it offers better insight into a number of life history traits and poorly understood behaviours, and has been the foundation for many captive breeding programs. Several Northeast Pacific (NEP) shark species are commonly displayed for long durations or bred in aquariums, while other less studied species have been held for short periods to collect valuable data that can be applied towards ongoing studies and conservation measures. Here, we discuss past and current tangible benefits of holding NEP sharks in captivity, as well as noting several ways in which future research and education activities will continue to inform and shape public opinions on shark management and conservation.
This work carries out a landscape analysis for the last 60 years to compare the degree of preservation of two areas on the same Italian coastline characterized by different environmental protection levels: a National designated protected areas and a highly tourist coastal destination. The conversion of natural land-covers into human land uses were detected for protected and unprotected coastal stretches highlighting that the only establishment of a protected area is not enough to stem undesirable land-use outcomes. A survey analysis was also conducted to assess attitudes of beach users and to evaluate their perception of natural habitats, beach and coastal water quality, and coastal dynamic over time. The results of 2071 questionnaires showed that there is similarity between subjective and objective data. However, several beach users perceived a bad quality of coastal water in the legally unprotected coastal area. The implications from a planning and management perspective are discussed.
A detailed understanding of spatial genetic structure (SGS) and the factors driving contemporary patterns of gene flow and genetic diversity are fundamental for developing conservation and management plans for marine fisheries. We performed a detailed study of SGS and genetic diversity throughout the overharvested queen conch (Lobatus gigas) fishery. Caribbean countries were presented as major populations to examine transboundary patterns of population differentiation.
Nineteen locations in the greater Caribbean from Anguilla, the Bahamas, Belize, Caribbean Netherlands, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Turks and Caicos, and the USA.
We genotyped 643 individuals with nine microsatellites. Population genetic and multivariate analyses characterized SGS. We tested the alternate hypotheses: (1) SGS is randomly distributed in space or (2) pairwise genetic structure among sites is correlated with oceanic distance (IBOD).
Our study found that L. gigas does not form a single panmictic population in the greater Caribbean. Significant levels of genetic differentiation were identified between Caribbean countries (FCT = 0.011; p = .0001), within Caribbean countries (FSC = 0.003; p = .001), and among sites irrespective of geographic location (FST = 0.013; p = .0001). Gene flow across the greater Caribbean was constrained by oceanic distance (p = .0009; Mantel r = .40), which acted to isolate local populations.
Gene flow over the spatial scale of the entire Caribbean basin is constrained by oceanic distance, which may impede the natural recovery of overfished L. gigas populations. Our results suggest a careful blend of local and international management will be required to ensure long-term sustainability for the species.
Individuals relying on natural resource extraction for their livelihood face high income variability driven by a mix of environmental, biological, management, and economic factors. Key to managing these industries is identifying how regulatory actions and individual behavior affect income variability, financial risk, and, by extension, the economic stability and the sustainable use of natural resources. In commercial fisheries, communities and vessels fishing a greater diversity of species have less revenue variability than those fishing fewer species. However, it is unclear whether these benefits extend to the actions of individual fishers and how year-to-year changes in diversification affect revenue and revenue variability. Here, we evaluate two axes by which fishers in Alaska can diversify fishing activities. We show that, despite increasing specialization over the last 30 years, fishing a set of permits with higher species diversity reduces individual revenue variability, and fishing an additional permit is associated with higher revenue and lower variability. However, increasing species diversity within the constraints of existing permits has a fishery-dependent effect on revenue and is usually (87% probability) associated with increased revenue uncertainty the following year. Our results demonstrate that the most effective option for individuals to decrease revenue variability is to participate in additional or more diverse fisheries. However, this option is expensive, often limited by regulations such as catch share programs, and consequently unavailable to many individuals. With increasing climatic variability, it will be particularly important that individuals relying on natural resources for their livelihood have effective strategies to reduce financial risk.
Climate change is reshaping the way in which contaminants move through the global environment, in large part by changing the chemistry of the oceans and affecting the physiology, health, and feeding ecology of marine biota. Climate change-associated impacts on structure and function of marine food webs, with consequent changes in contaminant transport, fate, and effects, are likely to have significant repercussions to those human populations that rely on fisheries resources for food, recreation, or culture. Published studies on climate change–contaminant interactions with a focus on food web bioaccumulation were systematically reviewed to explore how climate change and ocean acidification may impact contaminant levels in marine food webs. We propose here a conceptual framework to illustrate the impacts of climate change on contaminant accumulation in marine food webs, as well as the downstream consequences for ecosystem goods and services. The potential impacts on social and economic security for coastal communities that depend on fisheries for food are discussed. Climate change–contaminant interactions may alter the bioaccumulation of two priority contaminant classes: the fat-soluble persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as well as the protein-binding methylmercury (MeHg). These interactions include phenomena deemed to be either climate change dominant (i.e., climate change leads to an increase in contaminant exposure) or contaminant dominant (i.e., contamination leads to an increase in climate change susceptibility). We illustrate the pathways of climate change–contaminant interactions using case studies in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean. The important role of ecological and food web modeling to inform decision-making in managing ecological and human health risks of chemical pollutants contamination under climate change is also highlighted. Finally, we identify the need to develop integrated policies that manage the ecological and socioeconomic risk of greenhouse gases and marine pollutants.
Bird scaring lines (BSLs) protect longline fishing gear from seabird attacks, save bait, reduce incidental seabird mortality and are the most commonly prescribed seabird bycatch mitigation measure worldwide. We collaborated with fishermen to assess the efficacy of applying BSL regulations from the demersal longline sablefish fishery in Alaska to a similar fishery along the U.S West Coast. In contrast to Alaska, some U.S. West Coast vessels use floats along the line to keep hooks off the seafloor, where scavengers degrade the bait and the target catch. Our results confirmed that BSL regulations from Alaska were sufficient to protect baits from bird attacks on longlines without floats, but not baits on longlines with floats. Longlines with floats sank below the reach of albatrosses (2 m depth) at a distance astern (157.7 m ± 44.8 95% CI) that was 2.3 times farther than longlines without floats (68.8 m ± 37.8 95% CI). The floated longline distance was well beyond the protection afforded by BSLs, which is approximately 40 m of aerial extent. Black-footed albatross attacked floated longlines at rates ten times more (2.7 attacks/1000 hooks, 0.48–4.45 95%CI) than longlines without floats (0.20 attacks/1000 hooks, 0.01–0.36 95% CI). Retrospective analysis of NOAA Fisheries Groundfish Observer Program data suggested that seabird bycatch occurs in a few sablefish longline fishing sectors and a minority of vessels, but is not confined to larger vessels. Analysis also confirmed fishermen testimonials that night setting reduced albatross bycatch by an order of magnitude compared to daytime setting, without reducing target catch. Night setting could be an effective albatross bycatch prevention practice if applied to the U.S. West Coast sablefish longline fishery and provide a practical alternative for vessels that elect to use floated longlines. These results highlight the importance of understanding region-specific longline gear modifications to identify effective bycatch reduction tools and the value of working collaboratively with fishermen to craft solutions.
The Southern Resident killer whale population (Orcinus orca) was listed as endangered in 2005 and shows little sign of recovery. These fish eating whales feed primarily on endangered Chinook salmon. Population growth is constrained by low offspring production for the number of reproductive females in the population. Lack of prey, increased toxins and vessel disturbance have been listed as potential causes of the whale’s decline, but partitioning these pressures has been difficult. We validated and applied temporal measures of progesterone and testosterone metabolites to assess occurrence, stage and health of pregnancy from genotyped killer whale feces collected using detection dogs. Thyroid and glucocorticoid hormone metabolites were measured from these same samples to assess physiological stress. These methods enabled us to assess pregnancy occurrence and failure as well as how pregnancy success was temporally impacted by nutritional and other stressors, between 2008 and 2014. Up to 69% of all detectable pregnancies were unsuccessful; of these, up to 33% failed relatively late in gestation or immediately post-partum, when the cost is especially high. Low availability of Chinook salmon appears to be an important stressor among these fish-eating whales as well as a significant cause of late pregnancy failure, including unobserved perinatal loss. However, release of lipophilic toxicants during fat metabolism in the nutritionally deprived animals may also provide a contributor to these cumulative effects. Results point to the importance of promoting Chinook salmon recovery to enhance population growth of Southern Resident killer whales. The physiological measures used in this study can also be used to monitor the success of actions aimed at promoting adaptive management of this important apex predator to the Pacific Northwest.
Mass changes of ice sheets, glaciers and ice caps, land water hydrology, atmosphere, and ocean cause a nonuniform sea level rise due to the self-attraction and loading effects called sea level fingerprints (SLF). SLF have been previously derived from a combination of modeled and observed mass fluxes from the continents into the ocean. Here we derive improved SLF from time series of time variable gravity data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission for April 2002 to October 2014. We evaluate the GRACE-derived SLF using ocean bottom pressure (OBP) data from stations in the tropics, where OBP errors are the lowest. We detect the annual phase of the SLF in the OBP signal and separate it unambiguously from the barystatic sea level (BSL) at two stations. At the basin scale, the SLF explain a larger fraction of the variance in steric-corrected altimetry than the BSL, which has implications for evaluating mass transport between ocean basins.
Systematic conservation planning (SCP) to design marine protected areas (MPAs) has traditionally focused on species distributions or benthic habitat features that drive the determination of conservation priorities. Pelagic ecosystem protection is usually incidental because these ecosystems are often data-poor and are difficult to visualize in a planning context. Pelagic ecosystems, however, face increasing and cumulative impacts from threats such as overfishing and climate change, and a precautionary approach is required to protect both known and unknown biodiversity patterns and ecosystem processes. Data-driven pelagic habitat classifications are important when planning for habitat protection in the absence of sufficient in-situ data. In this study, we describe a method for creating a bioregional map of the upper-mixed layer of South Africa's pelagic realm. We selected relevant variables and parameters that best reflect key ecosystem properties at broad, meso, and local scales. We conducted a hierarchal cluster analysis using open-access sea surface temperature (SST), chlorophyll-a (chl-a), net primary productivity (NPP), mean sea level anomalies (MSLA), and seabed slope and depth data. The resulting map delineates three bioregions subdivided into seven biozones and sixteen pelagic habitats within South Africa's continental Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This habitat map was incorporated into SCP of a proposed expanded MPA network that includes offshore protected areas and meets National objectives. The proposed network will increase protection of the pelagic realm (>30 m depth) of the EEZ from 0.002% to 6.0%. We contend that bioregional analyses based on publicly available remote-sensing data are useful for identification of offshore habitats, especially when robust biological data are unavailable, as a framework for ecosystem reporting, and for inclusion in a systematic design for a representative offshore MPA network. Further research should focus on modelling and mapping the permanence of pelagic habitats and different spatio-temporal scales of variability, validating habitat boundaries with biological data, and understanding the threats and efficacy of achieving pelagic protection through management mechanisms like MPAs.
A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050 is part of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s regional strategic foresight programmes that examines whether current development strategies set a region on a path to achieve sustainable development by 2050. The publication follows a previous study on the Caribbean entitled Achieving a Resilient Future for Small States: Caribbean 2050, which was launched at the Commonwealth Global Biennial Conference on Small States in May 2016.
The study commences with an analysis of whether the Commonwealth Pacific small states (Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) are set to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Chapter 2). It then focuses on a number of critical areas impacting on the region’s development:
- Governance, focusing on political governance (Chapter 3), development effectiveness and co-ordination (Chapter 4) and ocean governance (Chapter 5).
- Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (Chapter 6).
- Information and communications technology (Chapter 7).
- Climate change, focusing on migration and climate change (Chapter 8) and energy issues (Chapter 9).
In each of these areas, possible trajectories to 2050 are explored, gaps in the current policy responses are identified and practical recommendations are offered.
Coastal Social–Ecological Systems (SESs) are subject to several stresses, including climate change, that challenge fisheries and natural resource management. Fishers are front-line observers of changes occurring both on the coast and in the sea and are among the first people to be affected by these changes. In this study, we perform a meta-analysis of observations and adaptations to climate change by subsistence-oriented coastal fishers extracted from a global review of peer-reviewed and grey literature. Fishers' observations compiled from across the globe indicate increased temperatures and changes in weather patterns, as well as coastal erosion, sea level rise and shifts in species range and behaviours. Coastal areas offer a wide array of resources for diversifying livelihoods, but climate change is reducing these options. Specifically, climate change could reduce the resilience of fishers' communities, limiting options for diversification or forcing fishers to abandon their houses or villages.
Species invasions in marine ecosystems pose a threat to native fish communities and can disrupt the food webs that support valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. In the Gulf of Mexico, densities of invasive Indo-Pacific Lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles, are among the highest in their invaded range. In a workshop setting held over a 2-week period, we adapted an existing trophic dynamic model of the West Florida Shelf, located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to simulate the lionfish (both species) invasion and community effects over a range of harvest scenarios for both lionfish and native predators. Our results suggest small increases in lionfish harvest can reduce peak biomass by up to 25% and also that reduced harvest of native reef fish predators can lead to lower lionfish densities. This model can help managers identify target harvest and benefits of a lionfish fishery and inform the assessment and management of valuable reef fish fisheries.
A major goal of ecosystem-based fisheries management is to prevent fishery-induced shifts in community states. This requires an understanding of ecological resilience: the ability of an ecosystem to return to the same state following a perturbation, which can strongly depend on species interactions across trophic levels. We use a structured model of a temperate rocky reef to explore how multi-trophic level fisheries impact ecological resilience. Increasing fishing mortality of prey (urchins) has a minor effect on equilibrium biomass of kelp, urchins, and spiny lobster predators, but increases resilience by reducing the range of predator harvest rates at which alternative stable states are possible. Size-structured predation on urchins acts as the feedback maintaining each state. Our results demonstrate that the resilience of ecosystems strongly depends on the interactive effects of predator and prey harvest in multi-trophic level fisheries, which are common in marine ecosystems but are unaccounted for by traditional management.
What exactly does “doing conservation” or “incorporating conservation” into ocean science mean? Although today it is often coupled with the sustainable use of natural resources, by definition, conservation traditionally involves the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment or natural ecosystems (Soulé and Wilcox, 1980). In other words, if the conservation intervention is successful then the ecosystem should reflect a better (or perhaps, more commonly, a “less worse”) state as a result. In this context, is simply conducting science conservation? Are outreach and advocacy conservation—whether through old school print and TV/radio broadcasts or through social media such as blogs or building a Twitter following? The field of modern marine conservation is an interdisciplinary one (e.g., van Dyke, 2008; Parsons and MacPherson, 2016) with a landscape that is populated with individuals engaged in science, education, social marketing, economics, resource management, and policy.
But how are we measuring our impact considering this diverse field? How do we know that the ecosystems toward which we direct our conservation efforts are “better” or at least “less worse” than they would be without them? Conservation needs to be more than just “being busy” or “feeling” that we are having an impact. And shouldn't we strive to ensure that conservation is not just conversation? How do we connect our actions to ecosystem responses in meaningful time frames?
This paper summarizes the results of a focus group discussion session on this topic held at the 2016 International Marine Conservation Congress, St John's, Newfoundland. It aims to assess ways to measure positive effects of marine conservation efforts beyond the “feel good” aspect to demonstrable impact.
High-resolution distribution maps can help inform conservation measures for protected species; including where any impacts of proposed commercial developments overlap the range of focal species. Around Orkney, northern Scotland, UK, the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) population has decreased by 78% over 20 years. Concern for the declining harbour seal population has led to constraints being placed on tidal energy generation developments. For this study area, telemetry data from 54 animals tagged between 2003 and 2015 were used to produce density estimation maps. Predictive habitat models using GAM-GEEs provided robust predictions in areas where telemetry data were absent, and were combined with density estimation maps, and then scaled to population levels using August terrestrial counts between 2008 and 2015, to produce harbour seal usage maps with confidence intervals around Orkney and the North coast of Scotland. The selected habitat model showed that distance from haul out, proportion of sand in seabed sediment, and annual mean power were important predictors of space use. Fine-scale usage maps can be used in consenting and licensing of anthropogenic developments to determine local abundance. When quantifying commercial impacts through changes to species distributions, usage maps can be spatially explicitly linked to individual-based models to inform predicted movement and behaviour.
Researchers have long recognized the importance of ecological differences at the species level in structuring natural communities yet until recently have often overlooked the influence of intraspecific trait variation, which can profoundly alter community dynamics [ 1 ]. Human extraction of living resources can reduce intraspecific trait variation by, for example, causing truncation of age and size structure of populations, where numbers of older individuals decline far more with exploitation than younger individuals. Age truncation can negatively affect population and community stability, increasing variability in population and community biomass [ 2–6 ], reducing productivity [ 7–10 ] and life-history diversity in traits such as the spatial and temporal pattern of reproduction and migration [ 4, 11–16 ]. Here, we quantified the extent of age truncation in 63 fished populations across five ocean regions, as measured by how much the proportions of fish in the oldest age groups declined over time. The proportion of individuals in the oldest age classes decreased significantly in 79% to 97% of populations (compared to historical or unfished values, respectively), and the magnitude of decline was greater than 90% in 32% to 41% of populations. The pervasiveness and intensity of age truncation indicates that fishing is likely reducing the stability of many marine communities. Our findings suggest that more emphasis should be given to management measures that reduce the impact of fishing on age truncation, including no-take areas, slot limits that prohibit fishing on all except a narrow range of fish sizes, and rotational harvesting.
Sea level rise (SLR), a well-documented and urgent aspect of anthropogenic global warming, threatens population and assets located in low-lying coastal regions all around the world. Common flood hazard assessment practices typically account for one driver at a time (e.g., either fluvial flooding only or ocean flooding only), whereas coastal cities vulnerable to SLR are at risk for flooding from multiple drivers (e.g., extreme coastal high tide, storm surge, and river flow). Here, we propose a bivariate flood hazard assessment approach that accounts for compound flooding from river flow and coastal water level, and we show that a univariate approach may not appropriately characterize the flood hazard if there are compounding effects. Using copulas and bivariate dependence analysis, we also quantify the increases in failure probabilities for 2030 and 2050 caused by SLR under representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5. Additionally, the increase in failure probability is shown to be strongly affected by compounding effects. The proposed failure probability method offers an innovative tool for assessing compounding flood hazards in a warming climate.
Calcareous octocorals are ecologically important calcifiers, but little is known about their biomineralization physiology, relative to scleractinian corals. Many marine calcifiers promote calcification by up-regulating pH at calcification sites against the surrounding seawater. Here, we investigated pH in the red octocoral Corallium rubrum which forms sclerites and an axial skeleton. To achieve this, we cultured microcolonies on coverslips facilitating microscopy of calcification sites of sclerites and axial skeleton. Initially we conducted extensive characterisation of the structural arrangement of biominerals and calcifying cells in context with other tissues, and then measured pH by live tissue imaging. Our results reveal that developing sclerites are enveloped by two scleroblasts and an extracellular calcifying medium of pH 7.97 ± 0.15. Similarly, axial skeleton crystals are surrounded by cells and a calcifying medium of pH 7.89 ± 0.09. In both cases, calcifying media are more alkaline compared to calcifying cells and fluids in gastrovascular canals, but importantly they are not pH up-regulated with respect to the surrounding seawater, contrary to what is observed in scleractinians. This points to a potential vulnerability of this species to decrease in seawater pH and is consistent with reports that red coral calcification is sensitive to ocean acidification.