Quantitative measurement of the heterogeneity in the intensity of human interference is key to accurately assessing the impact of human activity. The same human activities in different landscape configurations should have different impacts. This study constructed a weighted analysis to describe and measure heterogeneity under the Hemeroby index model framework, based on gradient structures analysis of coastal landscape patterns and dynamic changes in landscape patterns. Shenzhen’s coastal landscape in 2015 was selected as a case study for this method. The results showed heterogeneity in the intensity of human interference that meaning more information with clearer details. The intensity of human interference was generally stronger in the west than in the east. High-intensity human (0.95) were continuously distributed in the west, while in the east these were scattered in towns, ports, coastal beach resorts, etc. The highest intensity human activities were clustered in the 6 km band, and from here these decreased inland but increased to the coastline. The lowest intensity human activities were clustered in the east of the 2 km band.
Human Impacts on the Environment
Subaqueous dredging is a management activity undertaken globally to improve navigation, remove contaminants, mitigate flood risk and/or generate aggregate. Water Injection Dredging (WID) is a hydrodynamic technique involving the turbation and downstream displacement of fine sediments using vessel-mounted water jets. Despite the technique being widely applied internationally, the environmental and ecological effects of WID are poorly understood. For the first time, this study used a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) experimental design to assess the effects of WID on water physicochemistry, and macroinvertebrate and fish communities within a 5.7 km-long reach of tidal river. WID targeted the central channel (thalweg) to avoid disturbance of the channel margins and banks. Mean but not peak turbidity levels were substantially elevated, and dissolved oxygen levels were reduced during periods of WID, although effects were relatively short-lived (≈3 h on average). Dredging resulted in significant reductions in benthic macroinvertebrate community abundance (particularly taxa that burrow into fine sediments), taxonomic richness and diversity. In contrast, minor changes were detected in marginal macroinvertebrate communities within and downstream of the dredged reach following WID. Reductions in fish taxonomic richness and diversity were recorded downstream of the dredged reach most likely due to behavioural avoidance of the sediment plume. No visibly stressed or dead fish were sampled during dredging. Results suggest that mobile organisms and marginal communities were largely unaffected by thalweg WID and that the technique represents a more ecologically sensitive alternative to traditional channel margin mechanical dredging techniques.
Human activities are changing ecosystems at an unprecedented rate, yet large-scale studies into how local human impacts alter natural systems and interact with other aspects of global change are still lacking. Here we provide empirical evidence that local human impacts fundamentally alter relationships between ecological communities and environmental drivers. Using tropical coral reefs as a study system, we investigated the influence of contrasting levels of local human impact using a spatially extensive dataset spanning 62 outer reefs around inhabited Pacific islands. We tested how local human impacts (low versus high determined using a threshold of 25 people km−2 reef) affected benthic community (i) structure, and (ii) relationships with environmental predictors using pre-defined models and model selection tools. Data on reef depth, benthic assemblages, and herbivorous fish communities were collected from field surveys. Additional data on thermal stress, storm exposure, and market gravity (a function of human population size and reef accessibility) were extracted from public repositories. Findings revealed that reefs subject to high local human impact were characterised by relatively more turf algae (>10% higher mean absolute coverage) and lower live coral cover (9% less mean absolute coverage) than reefs subject to low local human impact, but had similar macroalgal cover and coral morphological composition. Models based on spatio-physical predictors were significantly more accurate in explaining the variation of benthic assemblages at sites with low (mean adjusted-R2 = 0.35) rather than high local human impact, where relationships became much weaker (mean adjusted-R2 = 0.10). Model selection procedures also identified a distinct shift in the relative importance of different herbivorous fish functional groups in explaining benthic communities depending on the local human impact level. These results demonstrate that local human impacts alter natural systems and indicate that projecting climate change impacts may be particularly challenging at reefs close to higher human populations, where dependency and pressure on ecosystem services are highest.
Many marine animals have evolved sensory abilities to use electric and magnetic cues in essential aspects of life history, such as to detect prey, predators and mates as well as to orientate and migrate. Potential disruption of vital cues by human activities must be understood in order to mitigate potential negative influences. Cable deployments in coastal waters are increasing worldwide, in capacity and number, owing to growing demands for electrical power and telecommunications. Increasingly, the local electromagnetic environment used by electro- and magneto-sensitive species will be altered. We quantified biologically relevant behavioural responses of the presumed, magneto-receptive American lobster and the electro-sensitive Little skate to electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions of a subsea high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission cable for domestic electricity supply. We demonstrate a striking increase in exploratory/foraging behaviour in skates in response to EMF and a more subtle exploratory response in lobsters. In addition, by directly measuring both the magnetic and electric field components of the EMF emitted by HVDC cables we found that there were DC and unexpectedly AC components. Modelling, restricted to the DC component, showed good agreement with measured results. Our cross-disciplinary study highlights the need to integrate an understanding of the natural and anthropogenic EMF environment together with the responses of sensitive animals when planning future cable deployments and predicting their environmental effects.
This work aimed to study the effects of recreational diving and snorkeling on the distribution, diversity, and abundance of surgeonfishes in six northern islands, different in their diving and snorkeling load, at the Hurghada area in the Egyptian Red Sea waters. SCUBA diving survey was conducted in summer 2019 using transect technique in the reef flat and reef slope in the study sites to compare total and single surgeonfish species census among sites and microhabitats. A total of six species of surgeonfish belonging to three genera were recorded during the current survey, including Zebrasoma xanthurum, Zebrasoma desjardinii, Acanthurus gahhm, Acanthurus sohal, Naso lituratus, and Naso unicornis. Z. desjardinii was the most abundant species, recording 41.2% relative abundance, followed by Acanthurus sohal (19%). In all sites, surgeonfish species diversity and average/total abundance in reef flat was always higher than that recorded in the reef slope. Meanwhile, the recreational effect results showed that, in reef flat habitats, surgeonfishes total/average abundance was inversely related to the numbers of divers and snorkelers across survey sites. In contrast, deeper habitat at the opened reef edge exhibited inverse distribution pattern, whereas, the obtained results showed that surgeonfish preferred the reef edge when the diving activities load increased.
Chile has one of the largest coastlines in the world with at least 50% of the world cetacean species occurring within its jurisdictional waters. However, little is known regarding the health status and main causes of death in cetaceans off continental Chile. In this report, we summarize the major pathological findings and most likely causes of death of 15 cetaceans stranded along the Chilean coast between 2010 and 2019. Drowning, due to fishing gear entanglement, was the most likely cause of death in 3 Burmeister’s porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis), a Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and a short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Additionally, the 3 Burmeister’s porpoises had mild to moderate eosinophilic and histiocytic pneumonia with pulmonary vasculitis associated with the nematode Pseudalius inflexus. A fourth Burmeister’s porpoise died of drowning after stranding alive at a sandy beach. Two fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) died most likely of trauma associated with large vessel collision. A long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and an Orca (Orcinus orca) stranded most likely due to traumatic intra/interspecific interaction with other odontocete although for the pilot whale, osteoporosis with loss of alveolar bone and all teeth could have played a role. For a Strap-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon layardi), Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), Southern right-whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii), Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) and a dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus), the cause of stranding could not be determined. This study shows, despite the small number of examined carcasses that in Chile, human related trauma is an important cause of single cetacean stranding events.
Coastal eutrophication caused by anthropogenic nutrient inputs is one of the greatest threats to the health of coastal estuarine and marine ecosystems worldwide. Globally, ∼24% of the anthropogenic N released in coastal watersheds is estimated to reach coastal ecosystems. Seven contrasting coastal ecosystems subject to a range of riverine inputs of freshwater and nutrients are compared to better understand and manage this threat. The following are addressed: (i) impacts of anthropogenic nutrient inputs on ecosystem services; (ii) how ecosystem traits minimize or amplify these impacts; (iii) synergies among pressures (nutrient enrichment, over fishing, coastal development, and climate-driven pressures in particular); and (iv) management of nutrient inputs to coastal ecosystems. This comparative analysis shows that “trophic status,” when defined in terms of the level of primary production, is not useful for relating anthropogenic nutrient loading to impacts. Ranked in terms of the impact of cultural eutrophication, Chesapeake Bay ranks number one followed by the Baltic Sea, Northern Adriatic Sea, Northern Gulf of Mexico, Santa Barbara Channel, East China Sea, and the Great Barrier Reef. The impacts of increases in anthropogenic nutrient loading (e.g., development of “dead zones,” loss of biologically engineered habitats, and toxic phytoplankton events) are, and will continue to be, exacerbated by synergies with other pressures, including over fishing, coastal development and climate-driven increases in sea surface temperature, acidification and rainfall. With respect to management, reductions in point source inputs from sewage treatment plants are increasingly successful. However, controlling inputs from diffuse sources remains a challenging problem. The conclusion from this analysis is that the severity of coastal eutrophication will likely continue to increase in the absence of effectively enforced, ecosystem-based management of both point and diffuse sources of nitrogen and phosphorus. This requires sustained, integrated research and monitoring, as well as repeated assessments of nutrient loading and impacts. These must be informed and guided by ongoing collaborations among scientists, politicians, managers and the public.
Blue whale survival and fitness are highly contingent on successful food intake during an intense feeding season. Factors affecting time spent at the surface or at depth in a prey patch are likely to alter foraging effort, net energy gain, and fitness. We specifically examined the energetic consequences of a demonstrated reduction in dive duration caused by vessel proximity, and of krill density reductions potentially resulting from krill exploitation or climate change. We estimated net energy gain over a simulated 10-h foraging bout under baseline conditions, and three scenarios, reflecting krill density reductions, vessel interactions of different amplitudes, and their combined effects. Generally, the magnitude of the effects increased with that of krill density reductions and duration of vessel proximity. They were also smaller when peak densities were more accessible, i.e., nearer to the surface. Effect size from a reduction in krill density on net energy gain were deemed small to moderate at 5% krill reduction, moderate to large at 10% reduction, and large at 25 and 50% reductions. Vessels reduced cumulated net energy gain by as much as 25% when in proximity for 3 of a 10-h daylight foraging period, and by up to 47–85% when continuously present for 10 h. The impacts of vessel proximity on net energy gain increased with their duration. They were more important when whales were precluded from reaching the most beneficial peak densities, and when these densities were located at deeper depths. When krill densities were decreased by 5% or more, disturbing foraging blue whales for 3 h could reduce their net energy gain by ≥30%. For this endangered western North Atlantic blue whale population, a decrease in net energy gain through an altered krill preyscape or repeated vessel interactions is of particular concern, as this species relies on a relatively short feeding season to accumulate energy reserves and to fuel reproduction. This study highlights the importance of distance limits during whale-watching operations to ensure efficient feeding, as well as the vulnerability of this specialist to fluctuations in krill densities.
Motorboats are a pervasive, growing source of anthropogenic noise in marine environments, with known impacts on fish physiology and behaviour. However, empirical evidence for the disruption of parental care remains scarce and stems predominantly from playback studies. Additionally, there is a paucity of experimental studies examining noise-mitigation strategies. We conducted two field experiments to investigate the effects of noise from real motorboats on the parental-care behaviours of a common coral-reef fish, the Ambon damselfish Pomacentrus amboinensis, which exhibits male-only egg care. When exposed to motorboat noise, we found that males exhibited vigilance behaviour 34% more often and spent 17% more time remaining vigilant, compared to an ambient-sound control. We then investigated nest defence in the presence of an introduced conspecific male intruder, incorporating a third noise treatment of altered motorboat-driving practice that was designed to mitigate noise exposure via speed and distance limitations. The males spent 22% less time interacting with the intruder and 154% more time sheltering during normal motorboat exposure compared to the ambient-sound control, with nest-defence levels in the mitigation treatment equivalent to those in ambient conditions. Our results reveal detrimental impacts of real motorboat noise on some aspects of parental care in fish, and successfully demonstrate the positive effects of an affordable, easily implemented mitigation strategy. We strongly advocate the integration of mitigation strategies into future experiments in this field, and the application of evidence-based policy in our increasingly noisy world.
Anthropogenic contaminants in the marine environment often biodegrade slowly, bioaccumulate in organisms, and can have deleterious effects on wildlife immunity, health, reproduction, and development. In this study, we evaluated tissue toxicant concentrations and pathology data from 83 odontocetes that stranded in the southeastern United States during 2012–2018. Mass spectrometry was used to analyze blubber samples for five organic toxicants (atrazine, bisphenol-A, diethyl phthalates, nonylphenol monoethoxylate [NPE], triclosan), and liver samples were analyzed for five non-essential elements (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, thallium), six essential elements (cobalt, copper, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc) and one toxicant mixture class (Aroclor1268). Resultant data considerably improve upon the existing knowledge base regarding toxicant concentrations in stranded odontocetes. Toxicant and element concentrations varied based on animal demographic factors including species, sex, age, and location. Samples from bottlenose dolphins had significantly higher average concentrations of lead, manganese, mercury, selenium, thallium, and zinc, and lower average concentrations of NPE, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, and iron than samples from pygmy sperm whales. In adult female bottlenose dolphins, average arsenic concentrations were significantly higher and iron concentrations were significantly lower than in adult males. Adult bottlenose dolphins had significantly higher average concentrations of lead, mercury, and selenium, and significantly lower average manganese concentrations compared to juveniles. Dolphins that stranded in Florida had significantly higher average concentrations of lead, mercury, and selenium, and lower concentrations of iron than dolphins that stranded in North Carolina. Histopathological data are presented for 72 animals, including microscopic evidence of Campula spp. and Sarcocystis spp. infections, and results of Morbillivirus and Brucella spp. molecular diagnostic testing. Sublethal cellular changes related to toxicant exposure in free-ranging odontocetes may lead to health declines and, in combination with other factors, may contribute to stranding.