Fishing catch is often used as a cost in marine conservation planning to avoid areas of high fishing activity when identifying potential marine reserve locations. However, the theory of marine reserves indicates that reserves are more likely to benefit fisheries in areas of heavy fishing activity that would otherwise be overfished. Whether or not fishing catch is calculated as a cost depends on the balance of conservation and fisheries goals for a reserve, and thus is critical for policymakers to consider when designing marine reserve networks. This research shows the utility of running an inverted cost model of fishery catches during marine reserve spatial prioritization as a first step in a marine planning process oriented towards stabilizing local fisheries. This technique serves as a heuristic tool that may help conservation planners explore regions that would otherwise be overlooked if fisheries data were absent or integrated purely as a cost in the planning process. Drawing on data from Madagascar to illustrate our approach, this research demonstrates that the regions most frequently selected using the inverted cost model not only meet conservation targets, but are also those most accessible to community-based resource managers, the dominant management paradigm in Madagascar as well as in many developing countries.
Conservation Targets & Planning
More than half of the world's 18 penguin species are declining. We, the Steering Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Penguin Specialist Group, voted on the penguin species in most critical need of conservation action. Because of their small or rapidly declining populations, the top three species identified in this process were the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), and Yellow‐eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes). To persist, these species require immediate scientific collaboration and policy intervention. In addition to highlighting the three priority species, we used a pairwise ranking approach to prioritize research and conservation needs for all penguins. Among the 12 cross‐taxa research areas we identified, we ranked quantifying population trends, estimating demographic rates, forecasting environmental patterns of change, and improving knowledge of fisheries interactions as the highest priorities. The highest ranked conservation needs were to enhance marine spatial planning, improve stakeholder engagement, and develop disaster management and species‐specific action plans. As part of our discussions, we identified four avenues for improving translation of science into effective conservation for penguins. First, the scientific community and funding bodies must recognize the importance of and support long‐term research. Second, research on and conservation of penguins must expand its focus to include the non‐breeding season and the juvenile stage. Third, marine reserves must be designed at ecologically appropriate spatial and temporal scales. Lastly, communication between scientists and decision makers must be improved with the help of individual scientists, interdisciplinary species‐specific working groups, and international working groups.
Functional ecosystems depend on biotic and abiotic connections among different environmental realms, including terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats. Accounting for such connections is increasingly recognized as critical for conservation of ecosystems, especially given growing understanding of the way in which anthropogenic landscape disturbances can degrade both freshwater and marine habitats. This need may be paramount in conservation planning for tropical island ecosystems, as habitats across realms are often in close proximity, and because endemic organisms utilize multiple habitats to complete life histories. In this study, we used Marxan analysis to develop conservation planning scenarios across the five largest islands of Hawaii, in one instance accounting for and in another excluding habitat connectivity between inland and coastal habitats. Native vegetation, perennial streams, and areas of biological significance along the coast were used as conservation targets in analysis. Cost, or the amount of effort required for conservation, was estimated using an index that integrated degree and intensity of anthropogenic landscape disturbances. Our results showed that when connectivity is accounted for among terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats, areas identified as having high conservation value are substantially different compared to results when connectivity across realms is not considered. We also showed that the trade-off of planning conservation across realms was minimal and that cross-realm planning had the unexpected benefit of selecting areas with less habitat degradation, suggesting less effort for conservation. Our cross-realm planning approach considers biophysical interactions and complexity within and across ecosystems, as well as anthropogenic factors that may influence habitats outside of their physical boundaries, and we recommend implementing similar approaches to achieve integrated conservation efforts.
Habitat loss is accelerating a global extinction crisis. Conservation requires understanding links between species and habitats. Emerging research is revealing important associations between vegetated coastal wetlands and marine megafauna, such as cetaceans, sea turtles, and sharks. But these links have not been reviewed and the importance of these globally declining habitats is undervalued. Here, we identify associations for 102 marine megafauna species that utilize these habitats, increasing the number of species with associations based on current InternationalUnion for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) species assessments by 59% to 174, accounting for over 13% of all marine megafauna. We conclude that coastal wetlands require greater protection to support marine megafauna, and present a simple, effective framework to improve the inclusion of habitat associations within species assessments.
Current international commitments on ocean protection targets include protecting 10% of the ocean through marine protected areas (MPAs) until 2020, while also complying with efficiency and equity requirements. This has led to a race to designate large MPAs, but despite the valid marine conservation efforts, conferring adequate protection is still at risk. While fully protected areas are considered the most efficient tools to effectively protect the integrity of ecosystems, most existing or proposed MPAs are far from being fully or strongly protected. Portugal, with the 20th largest EEZ of the world is well positioned to lead ocean conservation efforts and provides a suitable case study for analysis of protection conferred by existing MPAs. To this end, Portuguese MPAs were assessed according to different types of classification systems and it was found that most MPAs confer little or no additional protection compared to outside areas. The results differ according to the classification system used, revealing the importance of finding a common system for evaluating progress in ocean conservation. The relevance of adequately labelling and understanding the levels of protection in place is demonstrated. Not differentiating the type of protection conferred by MPA regulations, while rushing towards international targets, may give a potentially false impression to society.
As the configuration of global environmental governance has become more complex over the past fifty years, numerous scholars have underscored the importance of understanding the transnational networks of public, private and nonprofit organizations that comprise it. Most methodologies for studying governance emphasize social structural elements or institutional design principles and focus less attention on the social interactions that generate diffuse, hybrid regimes. Yet capturing the dynamics of these networks requires a relational methodology that can account for a range of elements that constantly shift and change relative to overlapping institutional boundaries. Collaborative Event Ethnography draws on insights from multi-sited, team, and institutional ethnography to assemble teams of researchers to study major international conferences, which offer important political spaces where public, private, and nonprofit actors align around sanctioned logics and techniques of governance. Drawing on insights generated from these conferences and field sites across the globe, we trace the constitutive forces behind paradigm shifts in biodiversity conservation, specifically the interconnected rise of market-based approaches, global targets, and new conservation enclosures. We show how the iterative refining of the methodology over five events generated an increasingly robust understanding of global conservation governance as processual, dynamic, and contingent, constituted through constantly shifting assemblages of state and nonstate actors, devices and narratives that collectively configure fields of governance. Finally, we reflect on how our team, as an evolving combination of researchers, research interests, and data collection tools—itself an assemblage, —has informed the continual refinement of the methodology and generated novel understandings of global conservation governance.
Mangrove forests provide critical services around the globe to both human populations and the ecosystems they occupy. However, losses of mangrove habitat of more than 50% have been recorded in some parts of the world, and these losses are largely attributable to human activities. The importance of mangroves and the threats to their persistence have long been recognized, leading to actions taken locally, by national governments, and through international agreements for their protection. In this review, we explore the status of mangrove forests as well as efforts to protect them. We examine threats to the persistence of mangroves, consequences, and potential solutions for effective conservation. We present case studies from disparate regions of the world, showing that the integration of human livelihood needs in a manner that balances conservation goals can present solutions that could lead to long-term sustainability of mangrove forests throughout the world.
The coastal zone of China contains extensive coastal wetlands but it is also one of the most densely populated areas. Rapid changes of land use pattern associated with socio-economic development in the coastal zone have had tremendous impacts on the health of coastal wetlands and their provision of ecological services. In this study, we used a landscape development intensity index and landscape stress index to evaluate the conservation efficacy of the coastal zone and coastal protected areas along the coastline of China from 1990 to 2015. We then analyzed the impact of population density and gross domestic product (GDP) on landscape development intensity. The results showed that landscape development intensity in coastal zone increased over the 25 year period, but the growth rate of landscape development intensity and landscape stress slowed between 2005 and 2015. Higher levels of landscape development intensity were widespread in the coastal zone of northern China compared with southern China, and the coastal zones of the Huanghai Sea and the Bohai Sea were the focus of coastal wetlands conservation in mainland China. A number of coastal protected areas, including 33 coastal national nature reserves and 67 national special marine reserves, have been established in mainland China, protecting 16.80% of the coastline. Coastal wetlands have been effectively protected to some extent by building these protected areas, with results showing lower landscape development intensity. The conservation efficacy of coastal wetlands as a whole was affected by population expansion and GDP, but the effects were not necessarily all negative. A higher population density or GDP did not necessarily lead to stronger landscape development intensity in local areas.
Sharks constitute a vital sector of marine and estuarine nekton and are of great commercial importance all over the world. International concern over the fate of shark fisheries has grown recently. However, information concerning the species diversity, geographic distribution and life histories of sharks in the Indo-Pacific region is highly limited. Comprehensive research on the species composition, distribution and seasonal occurrence of sharks in the southern South China Sea (SSCS) was conducted for four years. A total of 4742 sharks belonging to 10 families and 28 species were recorded from 6 fishing ports in SSCS. The families recorded included Squalidae, Heterodontidae, Orectolobidae, Hemiscylliidae, Alopiidae, Scyliorhinidae, Triakidae, Hemigaleidae, Carcharhinidae and Sphyrnidae. Seventeen of 28 shark species were landed at various developmental stages from in the ranges of or even less than the length at birth and from newborn juveniles to fully-mature. The results suggest that these sharks were born just before fishing and landing, and reproductive-stage sharks were also fished and landed. In total, 15 species, four species and one species in 28 shark species were categorized as Near Threatened, Vulnerable and Endangered species, respectively, on the IUCN Red List. Sharks are not targeted by fisheries practices in the SSCS, but are caught as bycatch throughout the year in various developmental stages. Thus, current fisheries practices in the SSCS area might lead to further decline to critical levels and lead to extinction of some of species in the future. These results suggest that the need for gear selectivity of the commercial fishing gears in order to reduce mortality and to conserve shark stocks.
Identifying critical aggregation sites and behavioral patterns of imperiled species contributes to filling knowledge gaps essential for their conservation. Manta rays present a prominent example of such species, the populations of which are declining globally due to directed fishery, by-catch, and other anthropogenic stressors. Our goal was to explore manta ray aggregation sites in the Philippines in order to determine the factors governing the mantas’ visits – a knowledge gap essential to understand manta ecology, facilitate ecosystem-based fishery management, and promote sustainable manta-based ecotourism. Diving surveys, environmental conditions assessment, and autonomous cameras were employed to study manta behavior and visit patterns to a cleaning station cluster on a commonly fished seamount, visited by both Mobula birostris and Mobula alfredi. Our findings reveal several environmental conditions (e.g., sea state, moon illumination, and flow) that serve as predictors of manta presence/absence at the site. We suggest that these conditions affect both the behavior of the manta’s food (i.e., the spatial distribution of plankton) and the cleaning effectiveness of the cleaner wrasse, which consequently influence manta activity. The findings suggest a trade-off between cleaning and foraging: i.e., mantas tend to visit the cleaning stations when environmental conditions are less favorable for foraging but suitable for effective cleaning; while being absent from the cleaning stations when environmental conditions form plankton aggregations, ideal for efficient feeding. This study sheds light on manta behavior and habitat use on dynamic, small spatio-temporal scales (i.e., hundreds of meters to a few kilometers, hours to days). The acquired data may be applied in the planning of marine protected areas and in fishery management (e.g., to reduce the chances of manta bycatch by limiting fishing activities to periods of manta absence) as well as contribute to enhancing sustainable exploitation, such as ecotourism, by increasing the chances of diving encounters with manta rays.