China is the largest plastic consumer in the world. Despite its plastic waste import ban in 2017, this populous economy inevitably generates a large amount of waste, including plastic waste, a considerable part of which has become marine litter. Data from the 2018 National Coastal Cleanup and Monitoring Project, the largest beach litter monitoring activities using the citizen science approach in China, have been retrieved and analyzed to understand spatial patterns, composition, and original usage of marine litter. Within this project, 24 beaches were surveyed every two months. As a result, the mean density was 3.85 ± 5.39 items m−2, much higher than that reported by previous studies in China. There were great differences in the spatial distribution of litter. The highest densities appeared in the runoff-affected area of the Yangtze River, which was another difference from previous studies. Low-density, easy-to-transport foamed plastics were the major contributor to marine litter in these areas. Along China's coast, approximately 90% of litter was from land-based sources, and over half of that originated from domestic sources. Including foamed plastic products, plastic litter with low recycling value dominated. Both natural and human factors influencing the spatiotemporal distribution and composition of litter are discussed. Socioeconomic factors, such as the lifestyle and consumption levels of citizens and local waste management systems, are possible explanations for the low-value characteristic of marine litter. The deviation between previous data and citizen science data in this study may be caused by many factors. Based on the discussion on these factors, some suggestions for citizen science research in China are also put forward.
Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
Numerous organisations collect data in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), but they are rarely analysed together due to different program objectives, methods, and data quality. We developed a weighted spatio-temporal Bayesian model and used it to integrate image-based hard-coral data collected by professional and citizen scientists, who captured and/or classified underwater images. We used the model to predict coral cover across the GBR with estimates of uncertainty; thus filling gaps in space and time where no data exist. Additional data increased the model's predictive ability by 43%, but did not affect model inferences about pressures (e.g. bleaching and cyclone damage). Thus, effective integration of professional and high-volume citizen data could enhance the capacity and cost-efficiency of monitoring programs. This general approach is equally viable for other variables collected in the marine environment or other ecosystems; opening up new opportunities to integrate data and provide pathways for community engagement/stewardship.
Population studies of marine mammals are costly and time-consuming. Nevertheless, many people are happy to use their own resources to apply similar procedures to those necessary to evaluate dolphin populations in dolphin watching tourism. This offers a unique opportunity to collect sufficient data on dolphins to allow for conservation status evaluation by means of Citizen Science, a trending method. Here we crossed information on which species are targeted by tourism and which were lacking important population and ecology data, returning a list of 16 dolphin species which could benefit from dolphin watching tourism to assemble population data with conservation value. We make the case for engaging tourists and tourism agencies in a citizen science effort to raise data on dolphin species. For that, we offer suggestions for dolphin population analyses applicable by non-scientist personal.
YOUMARES 9, a conference from and for YOUng MArine RESearchers, is well-established and an format to present current research topics to early career scientists. This international conference represented a platform for early career scientists in Germany, Europe, and worldwide to build up a scientific network. At large congresses, young scientists often do not have the opportunity to present themselves. YOUMARES 9 was important, giving young researchers a place to discuss their research and engage in discussions on important research questions early in their scientific career. YOUMARES 9 was organized by master’s students and doctoral candidates as a bottom-up conference. The bottom-up concept of YOUMARES 9 was professionalized by a core organizational team and a local team provided by the host. The participants of the organizational team learned to organize conferences, communicate with different stakeholders, and moderate sessions or lead workshops. As a result, the team learned self-confidence and strengthened their key competencies besides their scientific work. These kinds of conferences are indeed a very good way of supporting young researchers in their starting careers. Young researchers learn to present their work and discuss it with peers and network. To sum up, all participants learn the parts of “how to do research” that take place outside of the lab. During the conference, there is a spirit of curiosity, interest, and energy of young researchers and an open-minded atmosphere. It was great to be the host of YOUMARES 9 under the theme “The oceans: our research, our future” from 11 to 14 September 2018 at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, ICBM. It was a pleasure to welcome over 300 participants to Oldenburg. Originally, YOUMARES 9 started with a zero budget, but with support from various sponsors from science and industry, it ended up being a prestigious conference. As a future perspective, such conferences would be an essential link between industry, institutions, and universities to provide young scientists the best possibilities for future careers inside and outside the universities. These proceedings, which include a peer-reviewed process, are an excellent summary of the research activities of young marine scientists and document the actual challenges in marine and social sciences. This book is the second that was published open access with Springer in the context of YOUMARES.
The current development of citizen science is an opportunity for marine biodiversity surveys to use recreational SCUBA diver data. In France, the DORIS project is extensively used for marine species identification, while many initiatives offer volunteer divers the means to record their observations. Thanks to the scientific synergy generated by the flagship project of the artificial reefs (ARs) of Prado Bay, located off the coast of Marseille (France), a multi-annual biodiversity survey was performed by a team of recreational divers certified by the French Federation for Submarine Sports and Education (FFESSM). The analysis of their observations with other citizen science data showed a good taxonomic coverage for fishes and mollusks. These observations also allowed (1) to follow AR colonization over the study period, with the increasing number of taxa and the growing occurrence of large fishes, and (2) to characterize taxa distribution between the different AR types, revealing the inefficiency of one type of AR which failed to provide the results expected from its design. This example demonstrates that the transition from species identification to ecologically relevant observation is perfectly feasible using volunteer naturalist SCUBA divers, on condition that both the protocols and the data are validated by professional scientists.
Marine fauna in the California Current System is susceptible to entanglement in anthropogenic debris. We examined beach survey data from six California counties to describe trends of entangled marine birds and mammals (1997–2017). Surveyors reported 357 cases of entanglements among 65,604 carcasses. Monterey County had the greatest average entanglement rate (0.007) of surveyed counties, however, was not statistically different from Santa Cruz (p > 0.05). Twenty-six seabird species (97%) and three marine mammal species (3%), and three non-marine birds were affected. Numerically, Common Murre (23%), Brandt's Cormorant (13%), Western Gull (9.6%), Sooty Shearwater (8%) and Brown Pelican (7%) were the most affected due to abundance, but their entanglement rates were not statistically different (p > 0.05). The most vulnerable species were those frequently documented as entanglement despite low deposition numbers (Merganser spp. 25%). Entangling material consisted primarily of monofilament line (some hooks/lures), but other entanglement items were reported.
Pollution is a widespread global problem, in which there is a particular need to involve the general populations. Approaches for involving the public in order to contribute for reaching a sustainable environment may include plastic collection and mapping of urban soundscape. Here we briefly reflect on some of the latest initiatives in Denmark involving citizen labor and citizen science.
Cetacean communities face significant threats from adverse interactions with human activities such as bycatch, vessel collision, and environmental pollution. Monitoring of marine mammal populations can help to assess and safeguard marine biodiversity for future generations. Traditional surveys can be costly and time-consuming to undertake, but we explore the ability of citizen science to inform environmental assessments and subsequent conservation management. We use data collected from platforms of opportunity within the Bay of Biscay to investigate spatial changes in cetacean diversity, with the aim of identifying hotspots which may be suitable for further investigation and conservation. Seventeen species of cetaceans were recorded over a ten year period, many of which are data deficient in European waters (e.g. Bottlenose dolphin, Short-beaked common dolphin, Striped dolphin, Risso's dolphin, Long-finned pilot whale, Killer whale, Northern bottlenose whale, Cuvier's beaked whale, Sowerby's beaked whale and True's beaked whale). Biodiversity (determined by Simpson's Diversity index) ranged from 0.19 to 0.77. The central and southern areas of the survey area indicated the highest biodiversity (0.65–0.77), and these locations may benefit most from protection as Important Marine Mammal Areas. We present a case for this designation, and discuss the benefits and limitations of citizen science for informing conservation action.
Citizen science is a rapidly growing field with well-designed and run citizen science projects providing substantial benefits for conservation and management. Marine citizen science presents a unique set of challenges and lags behind terrestrial citizen science, but also provides significant opportunities to work in data-poor fisheries. This paper analyses case studies of citizen science projects developed in collaboration with small-scale fishing communities in Mexico’s Pacific Ocean, Gulf of California and Caribbean Sea. The design and performance of these projects were evaluated against the previously published Ten Principles of Citizen Science, and Scientific Stages of Inquiry. Our results suggest that fisheries monitoring, submarine monitoring of no take zones, oceanographic monitoring, and the use of species identification apps by fishers meet the requirements of the published guidelines and are effective tools for involving the small-scale fishing community in science. Translating effective citizen science projects in to effective fishery management, however, is still at an early stage. Whilst citizen science data have been used locally by communities to adapt fishing practices, calculate recommendations for total allowable catches, establish and evaluate no take zones and detect range extensions of species affected by climate change, challenges remain regarding how to garner official recognition for the data, incorporate these growing sources of data into national policy, and use the data for adaptive management regimes at the national level.
Effective marine park management and protection of coral reefs can only happen if managers have adequate knowledge of reef health and area. However, obtaining such information is labor intensive and difficult with limited funding and time. Reef Check Malaysia was engaged by Department of Marine Parks Malaysia to map the coral reefs surrounding Tioman Island Marine Park and document health status and site specific threats. To achieve this, we utilized the Reef Check survey method, a simple, rapid and holistic standardized reef monitoring protocol based on scientific principles. This method is suitable where funds and time are limited. A total of 95 sites surrounding Tioman Island were surveyed with the assistance of certified Reef Check EcoDiver volunteers and representatives from local stakeholders. This citizen science approach proved successful and generated a baseline map revealing a difference in the health of coral reefs between the west and east sides of Tioman Island, where the West had <25% live coral cover as compared to >50% on the East. Combined with data on indicator fish and invertebrates, as well as human and natural impacts, the results suggest that Tioman Island should be separated into three distinctive conservation priority zones to enhance management strategies of this marine park. This is an example of an innovative way to engage and involve local stakeholders in planning conservation and management strategies.