Anthropogenic threats to natural systems can be exacerbated due to connectivity between marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems, complicating the already daunting task of governance across the land-sea interface. Globalization, including new access to markets, can change social-ecological, land-sea linkages via livelihood responses and adaptations by local people. As a first step in understanding these trans-ecosystem effects, we examined exit and entry decisions of artisanal fishers and smallholder farmers on the rapidly globalizing Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We found that exit and entry decisions demonstrated clear temporal and spatial patterns and that these decisions differed by livelihood. In addition to household characteristics, livelihood exit and entry decisions were strongly affected by new access to regional and global markets. The natural resource implications of these livelihood decisions are potentially profound as they provide novel linkages and spatially-explicit feedbacks between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Our findings support the need for more scientific inquiry in understanding trans-ecosystem tradeoffs due to linked-livelihood transitions as well as the need for a trans-ecosystem approach to natural resource management and development policy in rapidly changing coastal regions.
Ecosystem-based Management (EBM)
Assessing the stock status of mixed and/or multi-species fishery resources is challenging. This is especially true in highly diverse systems, where landed catches are small, but comprise many species. In these circumstances, whole-of-ecosystem management requires consideration of the impact of harvesting on a plethora of species. However, this is logistically infeasible and cost prohibitive. To overcome this issue, selected ‘indicator’ species are used to assess the risk to sustainability of all ‘like’ species susceptible to capture within a fishery resource. Indicator species are determined via information on their (1) inherent vulnerability, i.e. biological attributes; (2) risk to sustainability, i.e. stock status; and (3) management importance, i.e. commercial prominence, social and/or cultural amenity value of the resource. These attributes are used to determine an overall score for each species which is used to identify ‘indicator’ species. The risk status (i.e. current risk) of the indicator species then determines the risk-level for the biological sustainability of the entire fishery resource and thus the level of priority for management, monitoring, assessment and compliance. A range of fishery management regimes are amenable to the indicator species approach, including both effort limited fisheries (e.g. individually transferable effort systems) and output controlled fisheries (e.g. species-specific catch quotas). The indicator species approach has been used and refined for fisheries resources in Western Australia over two decades. This process is now widely understood and accepted by stakeholders, as it focuses fishery dependent- and/or independent-monitoring, biological sampling, stock assessment and compliance priorities, thereby optimising the use of available jurisdictional resources.
The rapid exploitation of coastal and marine ecosystemic capital is on course to reach a critical point. The difficulty of implementing Integrated and ecosystem based management models, taking into the account the great complexity of the marine socio-ecological systems, has resulted in a significant gap between theory and practice. The majority of authors emphasize difficulties in engaging and convincing private stakeholders and a number of economic sectors involved in these processes. This reticence is traditionally more pronounced in the port sector, despite their important role in the transformation of coastal and marine areas. This paper seeks to establish bridges between the Environmental Management systems and Tools (EMT) of economic sectors and the Integrated and Ecosystem Based Management models (IEBM). To achieve this goal, an effort has been made to rethink concepts and principles traditionally used in EMT to bring them into line with those of IEBM. A DPSIR adapted framework is proposed and applied in a conceptual model, where the necessary elements for environmental management tools and ecosystemic models coexist. The logic of ecosystem services has been included, with special attention to the variable of human behaviour. How the proposals fit into the reality of the maritime-port sector was analysed in a transversal way, seeking Socio-Ecological Port System (SEPS) perspectives. This made it possible to move from Environmental Management Systems to an Integrated and Ecosystem Based Port Environmental Management System (PEMS-IEB). From a managerial perspective, it was also suggested that an additional DPSIR framework should be applied to the “response” component, the management system itself, understood as a system with its own elements, processes and interrelations.
Reconciling food security, economic development and biodiversity conservation is a key challenge, especially in the face of the demographic transition characterizing many countries in the world. Fisheries and marine ecosystems constitute a difficult application of this bio-economic challenge. Many experts and scientists advocate an ecosystem approach to manage marine socio-ecosystems for their sustainability and resilience. However, the ways by which to operationalize ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) remain poorly specified. We propose a specific methodological framework—viability modelling—to do so. We show how viability modelling can be applied using four contrasted case-studies: two small-scale fisheries in South America and Pacific and two larger-scale fisheries in Europe and Australia. The four fisheries are analysed using the same modelling framework, structured around a set of common methods, indicators and scenarios. The calibrated models are dynamic, multispecies and multifleet and account for various sources of uncertainty. A multicriteria evaluation is used to assess the scenarios’ outcomes over a long time horizon with different constraints based on ecological, social and economic reference points. Results show to what extent the bio-economic and ecosystem risks associated with the adoption of status quo strategies are relatively high and challenge the implementation of EBFM. In contrast, strategies called ecoviability or co-viability strategies, that aim at satisfying the viability constraints, reduce significantly these ecological and economic risks and promote EBFM. The gains associated with those ecoviability strategies, however, decrease with the intensity of regulations imposed on these fisheries.
Better mitigation of anthropogenic stressors on marine ecosystems is urgently needed to address increasing biodiversity losses worldwide. We explore opportunities for stressor mitigation using whole-of-systems modelling of ecological resilience, accounting for complex interactions between stressors, their timing and duration, background environmental conditions and biological processes. We then search for ecological windows, times when stressors minimally impact ecological resilience, defined here as risk, recovery and resistance. We show for 28 globally distributed seagrass meadows that stressor scheduling that exploits ecological windows for dredging campaigns can achieve up to a fourfold reduction in recovery time and 35% reduction in extinction risk. Although the timing and length of windows vary among sites to some degree, global trends indicate favourable windows in autumn and winter. Our results demonstrate that resilience is dynamic with respect to space, time and stressors, varying most strongly with: (i) the life history of the seagrass genus and (ii) the duration and timing of the impacting stress.
Bivalve aquaculture has become increasingly important for marine protein production and is an alternative to exploiting natural resources. Its further and sustainable development should follow an ecosystem approach, to maintain both biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The identification of critical thresholds to development remains difficult. The present work aims at combining the calculation of the system’s ecological carrying capacity (ECC) with the ecosystem view of resilience for a bay system exposed to bivalve (scallop) aquaculture. Using a trophic food-web model, a stepwise further expansion of culture activities was simulated, and the impact on the system was evaluated twofold: First, a recently developed approach to estimating ECC was used, and second, a resilience indicator was calculated, which is based on the distribution of consumption flows within the trophic network (sensu Arreguín-Sanchez in Ecol Model 272: 27–276, 2014). Results suggest that a culture expansion beyond present-day scale would (a) cause a shift in community composition towards a system dominated by secondary consumers, (b) lead to the loss of system compartments, affecting ecosystem functioning, and (c) result in a decrease in resilience, emphasizing the need to regulate aquaculture activities. The applicability and potential of this presented method in the context of an ecosystem-based approach to aquaculture is discussed. This work aims at adding to the ongoing discussion on sustainable bivalve aquaculture and is expected to help guide aquaculture management.
Despite promises that ‘healthy’ marine systems show increased resilience, the effects of ecosystem management strategies on invasion success in marine systems is still unclear. We show that resistance to the invasive alga, Sargassum horneri, in a temperate reef system occurs through alternate mechanisms in different ecosystem states. In an old marine protected area (MPA), invasion of S. horneri was suppressed, likely due to competitive pressure from native algae, resulting from protection of urchin predators. In a nearby fished urchin barren, invasion of S. horneri was also suppressed, due to herbivory by urchins whose predators are fished. Within newer MPAs with intermediate levels of interacting species, S. horneri was abundant. Here, neither competition from native algae nor herbivory was sufficient to prevent invasion. We confirm that invasion in marine systems is complex and show that multiple mechanisms in single systems must be considered when investigating biotic resistance hypotheses.
We propose a framework to support management that builds on a social–ecological system perspective on the Arctic Ocean. We illustrate the framework’s application for two policy-relevant scenarios of climate-driven change, picturing a shift in zooplankton composition and alternatively a crab invasion. We analyse archetypical system dynamics between the socio-economic, the natural, and the governance systems in these scenarios. Our holistic approach can help managers identify looming problems arising from complex system interactions and prioritise among problems and solutions, even when available data are limited.
Implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) for forage fish requires methods to evaluate tradeoffs associated with competing management objectives that focus on supporting fishery yields or providing food for predators. We developed an Ecopath with Ecosim ecosystem model of the U.S. Northwest Atlantic continental shelf (NWACS) for the period 1982–2013 to inform an EAFM for Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus. The model (with 61 trophic groups and 8 fishing fleets) was parameterized and fitted to time series using data from stock assessments, surveys, and literature. Fifty-year simulations evaluated how Atlantic Menhaden fishing mortality rates (F) influenced different ecosystem indicators, including population biomasses, fishery yields, prey-to-predator ratios, and the proportion of trophic groups that were positively or negatively affected. We quantified tradeoffs associated with a range of alternative ecosystem-based reference points for Atlantic Menhaden F and biomass (B), including F for maximum sustainable yield (FMSY), 0.5FMSY, proxies for current single-species Freference points, 75% of virgin unfished biomass (B0), and 40%B0. Striped Bass Morone saxatilis were most sensitive to increases in Atlantic Menhaden fishing, largely due to their strong dietary reliance on this prey species, but other higher-trophic-level groups (birds, highly migratory species, sharks, and marine mammals) were also negatively impacted. Other commercially important predators of Atlantic Menhaden (e.g., Bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix and Weakfish Cynoscion regalis) had moderate to negligible responses at the highest levels of Atlantic Menhaden F. The alternative reference points considered resulted in (1) variable Atlantic Menhaden biomasses (40–75% of B0) and yields (54–100% of MSY), (2) up to a 60% decline in Striped Bass B and yield, (3) negative impacts on the B of ≤13% of modeled groups, and (4) positive impacts on the B of ≤6% of modeled groups. Simulations demonstrated the varied responses, potential winners and losers, and tradeoffs resulting from alternative management strategies for Atlantic Menhaden. These results and the NWACS model can help to advance an EAFM for Atlantic Menhaden and other fishes.
Vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are ecosystems at risk from the effects of fishing or other kinds of disturbance, as determined by the vulnerability of their components (e.g., habitats, communities, or species). Habitat suitability modeling is being used increasingly to predict distribution patterns of VME indicator taxa in the deep sea, where data are particularly sparse, and the models are considered useful for marine ecosystem management. The Louisville Seamount Chain is located within the South Pacific Regional Fishery Management Organization (SPRFMO) Convention Area, and some seamounts are the subject of bottom trawling for orange roughy by the New Zealand fishery. The aim of the present study was to produce high-resolution habitat suitability maps for VME indicator taxa and VME habitat on these seamounts, in order to evaluate the feasibility of designing within-seamount spatial closures to protect VMEs. We used a multi-model habitat suitability mapping approach, based on bathymetric and backscatter data collected by multibeam echo sounder survey, and data collected by towed underwater camera for the stony coral and habitat-forming VME indicator species Solenosmilia variabilis, as well as two taxa indicative of stony coral habitat (Brisingida, Crinoidea). Model performance varied among the different model types used (Boosted Regression Tree, Random Forest, Generalized Additive Models), but abundance-based models consistently out-performed models based on presence-absence data. Uncertainty for ensemble models (combination of all models) was lower overall compared to the other models. Maps resulting from our models showed that suitable habitat for S. variabilis is distributed around the summit-slope break of seamounts, and along ridges that extend down the seamount flanks. Only the flat, soft sediment summits are predicted to be unsuitable habitat for this stony coral species. We translated a definition for stony coral-reef habitat into a S. variabilis abundance-based threshold in order to use our models to map this VME habitat. These maps showed that coral-reef occurred in small and isolated patches, and that most of the seabed on these seamounts is predicted to be unsuitable habitat for this VME. We discuss the implications of these results for spatial management closures on the Louisville Seamount Chain seamounts and the wider SPRFMO area, and future modeling improvements that could aid efforts to use habitat suitability maps for managing the impact of fishing on VMEs.