The purpose of this article is to present the Mexican experience related to the US-Mexico joint Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem-Based Assessment and Management Project, particularly the community involvement and mangrove wetland restoration, and the challenges for its replication and up-scaling. Results focus on community engagement, environmental education and social participation, strategies for hydrological restoration of mangrove, and difficulties and recommendations for the implementation of the Strategic Action Program. The main conclusions are that the community-based hydrologic restoration approach, is a good way to ensure long-term restoration of wetlands. Changing from mangrove plantations to the hydrological restoration of wetlands, and construction of human capacities resulted in a more efficient strategy for ecosystem restoration and had influenced the forest environmental policy. The involvement of government and education institutions as execution agencies will contribute to a more efficient appropriation of the project and LME approach. The development of economic alternatives and the ecological monitoring are some of the identified challenges within the implementation phase of the Strategic Action Program.
Historical tipping of vast quantities of colliery spoil at various foreshore locations in NE England has changed the morphology and sedimentology of large areas of the shoreline and nearshore sea bed, and has impacted adversely upon the ecology and amenity use of the area. Tipping started early in the 20th Century, well before statutory controls to regulate impacts of activities on the marine environment came into force in the UK in 1974, and ended with the closure of the last colliery in 2005. The spoil tipping acted as a form of artificial sediment recharge to the foreshore, akin to conventional beach recharge schemes that use sand or shingle to replenish foreshores for coastal defence and amenity purposes, but creating a legacy of contaminated beaches and prograding (advancing) shores. Since closure of the collieries, however, the foreshores have received no artificial supply of material, and the shoreline in all former tipping areas has since been in retreat due to natural erosion. This has caused problems where assets are present at the rear of the spoil beaches, requiring coastal defence structures for their protection. As well as collating and analysing historical maps, records, literature and data relating to colliery spoil tipping, the coastal changes that have occurred since its cessation have been assessed by reference to more recent maps, literature, aerial photographs and new and up-to-date beach profile transect survey data from contemporary coastal monitoring programmes. It is envisaged that where sea cliffs are protected by colliery spoil beaches, and hence currently are dormant, they could become re-activated by erosion and start to retreat at short term rates of several metres per year and longer-term rates of up to 0.3 m/year in the foreseeable future.
Habitat fragmentation impacts ecosystem functioning in many ways, including reducing the availability of suitable habitat for animals and altering resource dynamics. Fragmentation in seagrass ecosystems caused by propeller scarring is a major source of habitat loss, but little is known about how scars impact ecosystem functioning. Propeller scars were simulated in seagrass beds of Abaco, Bahamas, to explore potential impacts. To determine if plant-herbivore interactions were altered by fragmentation, amphipod grazers were excluded from half the experimental plots, and epiphyte biomass and community composition were compared between grazer control and exclusion plots. We found a shift from light limitation to phosphorus limitation at seagrass patch edges. Fragmentation did not impact top-down control on epiphyte biomass or community composition, despite reduced amphipod density in fragmented habitats. Seagrass and amphipod responses to propeller scarring suggest that severely scarred seagrass beds could be subject to changes in internal nutrient stores and amphipod distribution.
Increases in the intensity of disturbances in coastal lagoons can lead to shifts in vegetation from aquatic angiosperms to macroalgal or phytoplankton communities. Such abrupt and discontinuous responses are facilitated by instability in the equilibrium controlling the trajectory of the community response. We hypothesized that the shift in macrophyte populations is reversible, and that this reversibility is dependent on changes in the pressures exerted on the watershed and lagoon functioning. Biguglia lagoon (Mediterranean Sea, Corsica) is an interesting case study for the evaluation of long-term coastal lagoon ecosystem functioning and the trajectory of submerged macrophyte responses to disturbances, to facilitate the appropriate restoration of ecosystems. We used historical data for a two hundred-year period to assess changes in human activities on the watershed of the Biguglia lagoon. Macrophyte mapping (from 1970) and monitoring data for dynamics (from 1999) were used to investigate the trajectory of the community response. The changes observed in this watershed included a large number of hydrological developments affecting salinity and resulting in changes in macrophyte distribution. Nutrient inputs over the last 40 years have led to a shift in the aquatic vegetation from predominantly aquatic angiosperm community to macroalgae and phytoplankton in 2007 (dystrophic crisis). Changes in hydrological management and improvements in sewage treatment after 2007 led to a significant increase of aquatic angiosperms over a relatively short period of time (4–5 years), particularly for Ruppia cirrhosa and Stuckenia pectinata. There has been a significant resurgence of Najas marina, due to changes in salinity. The observed community shift suggests that Biguglia lagoon is resilient and that the transition may be reversible. The restored communities closely resemble those present before disturbance. These findings demonstrate the need to understand watershed exploitation and ecosystem variability in lagoon restoration.
The intensity and frequency of climate-driven disturbances are increasing in coastal marine ecosystems. Understanding the factors that enhance or inhibit ecosystem resilience to climatic disturbance is essential. We surveyed 97 experts in six major coastal biogenic ecosystem types to identify “bright spots” of resilience in the face of climate change. We also evaluated literature that was recommended by the experts that addresses the responses of habitat-forming species to climatic disturbance. Resilience was commonly reported in the expert surveys (80% of experts). Resilience was observed in all ecosystem types and at multiple locations worldwide. The experts and literature cited remaining biogenic habitat, recruitment/connectivity, physical setting, and management of local-scale stressors as most important for resilience. These findings suggest that coastal ecosystems may still hold great potential to persist in the face of climate change and that local- to regional-scale management can help buffer global climatic impacts.
In response to concerns about human impacts to coastal ecosystems, conservationists and practitioners are increasingly turning to networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). Although MPAs manage for fishing pressure, many species and habitats in MPAs remain exposed to a multitude of stressors, including stressors from global climate change and regional land- and ocean-based activities. To support the adaptive management of MPAs that are subject to multiple interacting stressors, coastal managers need to understand the potential impacts from other single and multiple stressors. To demonstrate how this can be done, we quantify and map cumulative impacts resulting from multiple stressors to California's network of MPAs, using a widely available cumulative impacts mapping tool. Among individual stressors, those related to climate, including ocean acidification, UV radiation increases, and SST anomalies, were found to have the most intense impacts, especially on surface waters and in the rocky intertidal. Climate stressors are challenging to limit at the local MPA scale, but intense land- and ocean-based impacts that were found to affect a majority of MPAs, such as sediment increases, invasive species, organic pollutants and pollution from shipping and ports, may be more easily regulated at a regional or local scale. This is especially relevant for South and Central coast MPAs where these impacts are the greatest on beaches, tidal flats, and coastal marshes. Accounting for cumulative impacts from these and other stressors when developing monitoring and management plans in California and across the world, would help to improve the efficacy of MPAs.
The complexity of ecosystem-based management (EBM) of natural resources has given rise to research frameworks such as integrated ecosystem assessments (IEA) that pull together large amounts of diverse information from physical, ecological, and social domains. Conceptual models are valuable tools for assimilating and simplifying this information to convey our understanding of ecosystem structure and functioning. Qualitative network models (QNMs) may allow us to conduct dynamic simulations of conceptual models to explore natural–social relationships, compare management strategies, and identify tradeoffs. We used previously developed QNM methods to perform simulations based on conceptual models of the California Current ecosystem's pelagic communities and related human activities and values. Assumptions about community structure and trophic interactions influenced the outcomes of the QNMs. In simulations where we applied unfavorable environmental conditions for production of salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), intensive management actions only modestly mitigated declines experienced by salmon, but strongly constrained human activities. Moreover, the management actions had little effect on a human wellbeing attribute, sense of place. Sense of place was most strongly affected by a relatively small subset of all possible pair-wise interactions, although the relative influence of individual pair-wise interactions on sense of place grew more uniform as management actions were added, making it more difficult to trace effective management actions via specific mechanistic pathways. Future work will explore the importance of changing conceptual models and QNMs to represent management questions at finer spatial and temporal scales, and also examine finer representation of key ecological and social components.
Sandy beaches constitute high natural value ecosystems which have been worldwide a target for growing human activities and ensuing pressures in the last decades, which caused ecological damages on these environments and led to its environmental quality decline. However, little is known about the responses of these ecosystems to distinct stressors and pressures, and holistic and integrated coastal management actions that protect beach environments and their ecological processes are yet to be developed. The aim of this viewpoint article is to present and discuss the utility of using a population approach to macrofaunal key species as a helpful tool for the assessment, management, and sustainable use of sandy beaches. The role of macrofaunal key species as indicators of environmental changes and of ecological quality condition is discussed and illustrated by some practical examples from the literature. The population is presented as a highly relevant ecological unit in management and one of the easiest ones to use, responding more rapidly to disturbances in the ecosystem than the most complex units. In this context, bio-ecology and population dynamics models are presented as tools and their potential, to improve the way we assess and manage ecological quality conditions of beach ecosystems aiming at its sustainable use, are discussed. Also, the advantages and drawbacks of the use of these tools in the population approach are evaluated. Monitoring, assessment and management practices focusing on beach key species bio-ecology as ecological indicator hold large potential in nowadays fast changing scenario, and should be encouraged as a function of their identifiable responses to manmade and natural disturbances.
The lower mid-littoral and shallow subtidal communities were studied in the district of Vlora (Albania), three years after the establishment of a Marine Protected Area, with particular attention to the long-lived species. The bioconstructions built in the mid-littoral zone by the calcified rhodobiont Lithophyllum byssoides were in poor condition and sometimes even dead. In contrast, the brown alga Cystoseira amentacea constituted lush stands. For assessing the ecological status of the studied area, the CARLIT method, based upon macroalgal communities, was applied. The observed range of ecological status was wide (‘high’ through ‘bad’) and was overall among the lowest assessed to date in the Mediterranean Sea. The occurrence of extensive sea-urchin barren-grounds, though not taken into consideration by the CARLIT index, confirmed the poor condition of large sectors of the study area. Overall, the CARLIT index is well correlated with anthropogenic pressures, as assessed by the LUSI index.
Recent shifts towards ecosystem-based management and other holistic and participatory forms of oceans governance and management have come with demands for ways to better incorporate social data into decision-making processes such as integrated ecosystem assessments. This includes information related to a wide range of values associated with different aspects of marine social-ecological systems. This paper addresses that demand by first discussing various notions of value in the literature, and then presenting two case studies from British Columbia, Canada that illuminate some of the opportunities and complexities of using a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches to bear on the challenge. Findings suggest that values are diverse and are contextually dependent, varying at small scales. Findings further suggest that values are hierarchically arranged and grouped differently by individuals into what might be called perspectives. Finally, the findings highlight that mixed-methods approaches featuring qualitative and quantitative elements may provide a step towards resolving tensions between, on one the one hand, a need to distil complex systems into observable, measurable indicators where the inevitable tradeoffs involved in resource management can be articulated, weighed, and on the other hand, a sense that characterizing the broad range of values that are relevant in shaping attitudes and conceptions of “what should be” in marine systems requires holistic thinking and attention to scale, context, relationality, subjectivity and rich detail.