The Juan Fernández Ridge (JFRE) is a vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) located off the coast of central Chile formed by the Juan Fernández Archipelago and a group of seamounts. This ecosystem has unique biological and oceanographic features, characterized by: small geographical units, high degree of endemism with a high degree of connectivity within the system. Two fleets have historically operated in this system: a long term coastal artisanal fishery associated with the Islands, focused mainly on lobster, and a mainland based industrial demersal finfish fishery operating on the seamounts which is currently considered overexploited. The management of these fisheries has been based on a classical single-species approach to determine output controls (industrial fleet) and a mixed management system with formal and informal components (artisanal fleet). There has been growing interest in increasing the exploitation of fisheries, and modernization of the fishing fleet already operating in the JFRE. Under this scenario of increased levels of fishing exploitation and the high level of interrelation of species it might be necessary to understand the impact of these fisheries from a holistic perspective based on a ecosystem-based modeling approach. To address these challenges we developed an Atlantis end-to-end model was configured for this ecosystem. The implemented model has a high degree of skill in representing the observed trends and fluctuations of the JFRE. The model shows that the industrial fishing has a localized impact and the artisanal fisheries have a relatively low impact on the ecosystem, mainly via the lobster fishery. The model indicates that the depletion of large sized lobster has leads to an increase in the population of sea urchins. Although this increase is not sufficient, as yet, to cause substantial flow-on effects to other groups, caution is advised in case extra pressure leads the ecosystem towards a regime shift.
Human Impacts on the Environment
Reef sharks are vulnerable predators experiencing severe population declines mainly due to overexploitation. However, beyond direct exploitation, human activities can produce indirect or sub-lethal effects such as behavioral alterations. Such alterations are well known for terrestrial fauna but poorly documented for marine species. Using an extensive sampling of 367 stereo baited underwater videos systems, we show modifications in grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) occurrence and feeding behavior along a marked gradient of isolation from humans across the New Caledonian archipelago (South-Western Pacific). The probability of occurrence decreased by 68.9% between wilderness areas (more than 25 hours travel time from the capital city) and impacted areas while the few individuals occurring in impacted areas exhibited cautious behavior. We also show that only large no-entry reserves (above 150 km²) can protect the behavior of grey reef sharks found in the wilderness. Influencing the fitness, human linked behavioral alterations should be taken into account for management strategies to ensure the persistence of populations.
Coastal cities continue to experience rapid urbanisation and population growth worldwide, linked to the diverse economic and social benefits flowing from proximity to the sea. Growing concern over human impacts upon coastal waters and global strategic goals for healthier cities requires that coastal cities develop innovative ways to inspire and empower communities to embrace and cherish city seascapes. Coastal city communities have much to gain from a healthier relationship with the sea. This paper proposes a collaborative community-led marine park concept that celebrates a city's connection to the marine environment, enhances sustainable economic prosperity and enables communities to participate in activities that deepen understanding, value, care and enjoyment of the city seascape. A city marine park (CMP) is not a marine protected area because it does not have biodiversity and heritage protection or ecosystem governance as a primary goal and does not aim to restrict human activities. A CMP enables city communities to collaborate towards a shared vision of elevated status and value for the city seascape. A CMP considers socio-economic and geographical context, including land-sea connectivity, and is integrated within a coastal city's strategic urban planning. This paper highlights core themes of a CMP and the diverse and wide-ranging benefits from coordinated activities that better connect the city community with its seascape. If co-created by the coastal city community and civic leaders, a CMP will form an enduring spatial nexus for progress toward healthy cities addressing multiple interlinked global sustainable development goals.
Determining what abiotic and biotic factors affect the diversity and abundance of species through time and space is a basic goal of ecology and an integral step in predicting current and future distributions. Given the pervasive effect of humans worldwide, including anthropogenic factors when quantifying community dynamics is needed to understand discrete and emergent effects of humans on marine ecosystems, especially systems with economically important species. However, there are limited studies that combine a large-scale ecological survey with multiple natural and anthropogenic factors to determine the drivers of community dynamics of temperate reef systems. We combined data from a 24-year fish survey on temperate reefs along the Southeast United States coast with information on recreational and commercial fisheries landings, surface and bottom temperature, habitat characteristics, and climate indices to determine what factors may alter the community structure of fishes within this large marine ecosystem. We found that both abundance and richness of temperate reef fishes declined from 1990 to 2013. Climate indices and local temperature explained the greatest variation, and recreational fishing explained slightly more variation compared to commercial fishing in the temperate reef fish community over a multi-decadal scale. When including habitat characteristics in a 3 year analysis, depth, and local temperature explained the greatest variation in fish assemblage, while the influence of habitat was comparatively minimal. Finally, the interaction between predictor variables and fish traits indicated that bigger and longer-lived fishes were positively correlated with depth and winter temperature. Our findings suggest that lesser-studied anthropogenic impacts, such as recreational fishing, may influence communities throughout large ecosystems as much as other well-studied impacts such as climate change and commercial fishing. In addition, climate indices should be considered when assessing changes, natural or anthropogenic, to fish communities.
This study examines the extent of macroplastic pollution on Samandağ beach and the potential effects on green sea turtles during nesting. For this purpose, a total of 39 different turtle tracks were studied. Mean plastic concentration was found to be 19.5 ± 1.2 pcs m−2. Among the different types of crawling, the highest concentrations of plastics were found on the tracks of turtles that did not attempt to dig nests (25.9 ± 8.4 pcs m−2). In total, 7 different types of plastics (disposable, film, fishing-related, foam, fragments, miscellaneous, and textile) were found, with film-type plastics being the most prevalent (11 pcs m−2). Samandağ beach was found to be greatly more polluted than any other beach in the Mediterranean Sea. We concluded that this pollution can cause negative effects, especially entanglement and entrapment, on green sea turtle females and hatchlings.
In the Pacific Northwest, residents are mobilizing to prevent the coastal export of fossil fuels and protect unique ecosystems and place-based communities. This paper examines the diverse groups, largely from the Bellingham area, and how they succeeded in blocking construction of what was to be the largest coal-shipping port in North America, the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT). Tribes, environmental organizations, faith-based groups, and other citizen groups used a multitude of approaches to prevent development, both independently and in concert. This paper reviews the various ways in which the groups collaborated and supported one another to resist the neoliberalization of the coast and support local sovereignty, unique ecosystems, and place-based communities. Groups like Power Past Coal, Protect Whatcom, and Coal-Free Bellingham fought for important and protective changes and evidenced communitywide political support, but the sovereign rights of the Lummi Nation were the legal bar to constructing the coal terminal.
Microplastic (MP) pollution is an emerging issue in aquatic sciences. Little comparative information currently exists about the problem in coastal systems exposed to different levels of human impact. Here we report a year-long study on the abundance of MP in the water column of three estuaries on the east-coast of Australia. The estuaries are subject to different scales of human impact; the Clyde estuary has little human modification, the Bega estuary has a small township and single wastewater treatment works discharging to its waters, and the Hunter estuary which has multiple townships, multiple wastewater treatment plants, and heavy industry. MP abundance followed an expected pattern with the lowest abundance in the low-impact Clyde estuary (98 part. m3), moderate levels of MP in the moderately impacted Bega estuary (246 part. m3), and high MP abundance in the highly impacted Hunter estuary (1,032 part. m3). The majority of particles were < 200 μm and fragment-like rather than fiber-like. MP abundance was positively related to maximum antecedent rainfall in the Bega estuary, however there are no clear environmental factors that could explain MP variation in the other systems. MP were generally higher in summer and following freshwater inflow events. On the Hunter estuary MP abundance was at times as high as zooplankton abundance, and within the range of numbers reported in other highly impacted systems globally. The results confirm that higher levels of human impact lead to greater plastic pollution and highlight the need to examine aquatic ecosystems under a range of conditions in order to adequately characterize the extent of MP pollution in rivers and coastal systems.
Consideration of whether to completely remove an oil and gas production platform from the seafloor or to leave the submerged jacket as a reef is an imminent decision for California, as a number of offshore platforms in both state and federal waters are in the early stages of decommissioning. Laws require that a platform at the end of its production life be totally removed unless the submerged jacket section continues as a reef under state sponsorship. Consideration of the eventual fate of the populations of fishes and invertebrates beneath platforms has led to global reefing of the jacket portion of platforms instead of removal at the time of decommissioning. The construction and use of artificial reefs are centuries old and global in nature using a great variety of materials. The history that led to the reefing option for platforms begins in the mid-20th century in an effort for general artificial reefs to provide both fishing opportunities and increase fisheries production for a burgeoning U.S. population. The trend toward reefing platforms at end of their lives followed after the oil and gas industry installed thousands of standing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico where they had become popular fishing destinations. The National Fishing Enhancement Act and subsequent National Artificial Reef Plan laid the foundation for Rig-to-Reefs. Reefing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico is a well-established practice that is also applied globally. Deliberation of reefing decommissioned platforms and many years of scientific study beneath California platforms has culminated in a California State law that now allows consideration of the concept. This paper summarizes the history, practices, published science, and available information involved when considering the reefing option. It is hoped that this material will inform the public, policy makers, and regulators about their upcoming decisions.
Thousands of offshore oil and gas structures are approaching the end of their operating life globally, yet our understanding of the environmental effects of different decommissioning strategies is incomplete. Past focus on a narrow set of criteria has limited evaluation of decommissioning effects, restricting decommissioning options in most regions. We broadly review the environmental effects of decommissioning, analyse case studies, and outline analytical approaches that can advance our understanding of ecological dynamics on oil and gas structures. We find that ecosystem functions and services increase with the age of the structure and vary with geographical setting, such that decommissioning decisions need to take an ecosystem approach that considers their broader habitat and biodiversity values. Alignment of decommissioning assessment priorities among regulators and how they are evaluated, will reduce the likelihood of variable and sub-optimal decommissioning decisions. Ultimately, the range of allowable decommissioning options must be expanded to optimise the environmental outcomes of decommissioning across the broad range of ecosystems in which platforms are located.
Marine benthic habitats are modified by a number of human-related disturbances. When these disturbances occur at large scales over areas of high environmental variability, it is difficult to assess impacts using metrics such as species richness or individual species distributions because of varying species-specific responses to environmental drivers (e.g., exposure, sediment, temperature). Impact assessment can also be problematic when assessed at broad spatial scales because of regional heterogeneity of species pools. Even when effects on individual species can be detected, it is difficult to upscale from individual species to ecosystem scale effects. Here, we use a functional group approach to assess broad scale patterns in ecological processes with respect to fishing and environmental drivers. We used data from field surveys of benthic communities from two large, widely separated areas in New Zealand’s EEZ (Chatham Rise and Challenger Plateau). We assigned 828 taxonomic units (most identified to species) into functional groups related to important ecosystem processes and likely sensitivity to, and recovery from, fishing disturbance to the seafloor. These included: opportunistic early colonists; substrate stabilisers (e.g., tube mat formers); substrate destabilisers; shell hash-creating species; emergent epifauna; burrowers; and predators and scavengers. Effects of fishing disturbance on benthic functional composition were observed, even at this broad spatial scale. Responses varied between functional groups, with some being tolerant of fishing impacts and others showing rapid declines with minimal fishing effort. The use of a functional group approach facilitates assessment of impacts across regions and species, allowing for improved generalisations of impacts to inform management and decision making.