Human Impacts on the Environment

Quantifying the projected impact of the South African sardine fishery on the Robben Island penguin colony

Robinson WML, Butterworth DS, Plagányi ÉE. Quantifying the projected impact of the South African sardine fishery on the Robben Island penguin colony. ICES Journal of Marine Science [Internet]. 2015 ;72(6):1822 - 1833. Available from: http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/icesjms/fsv035
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Quantitative methods are needed to evaluate the ecological effects of fishing forage species upon which predators depend. African penguin Spheniscus demersus numbers at the Robben Island colony rose during the 1990s co-incidental with a marked increase in sardine Sardinops sagax and anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus abundances, but decreased appreciably during the 2000s as sardine suffered a series of poor recruitments. A population dynamics model is developed which relates penguin adult annual mortality to local sardine biomass, and is fit to penguin moult counts and re-sightings of tagged penguins. The predator–prey interaction is best explained by a sardine–penguin mortality relationship with average penguin survival decreasing only when the local sardine biomass is less than approximately one-quarter of the maximum observed. Results suggest that the rapid growth of the colony during the 1990s was driven primarily by immigration. Penguin projections are generated by linking to future sardine abundances predicted under the operational management procedure used to set catch limits for these sardine and anchovy fisheries, and compared with equivalent scenarios without fishing. Results indicate that fishing is likely to have a relatively small impact on penguins, especially when compared with uncertainties that arise from the variable spatial distribution of the sardine population.

Spatial and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world’s ocean

Halpern BS, Frazier M, Potapenko J, Casey KS, Koenig K, Longo C, Lowndes JStewart, R. Rockwood C, Selig ER, Selkoe KA, et al. Spatial and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world’s ocean. Nature Communications [Internet]. 2015 ;6. Available from: http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/ncomms8615
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Human pressures on the ocean are thought to be increasing globally, yet we know little about their patterns of cumulative change, which pressures are most responsible for change, and which places are experiencing the greatest increases. Managers and policymakers require such information to make strategic decisions and monitor progress towards management objectives. Here we calculate and map recent change over 5 years in cumulative impacts to marine ecosystems globally from fishing, climate change, and ocean- and land-based stressors. Nearly 66% of the ocean and 77% of national jurisdictions show increased human impact, driven mostly by climate change pressures. Five percent of the ocean is heavily impacted with increasing pressures, requiring management attention. Ten percent has very low impact with decreasing pressures. Our results provide large-scale guidance about where to prioritize management efforts and affirm the importance of addressing climate change to maintain and improve the condition of marine ecosystems.

Underwater Noise from a Wave Energy Converter Is Unlikely to Affect Marine Mammals

Tougaard J. Underwater Noise from a Wave Energy Converter Is Unlikely to Affect Marine Mammals. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2015 ;10(7):e0132391. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0132391
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Underwater noise was recorded from the Wavestar wave energy converter; a full-scale hydraulic point absorber, placed on a jack-up rig on the Danish North Sea coast. Noise was recorded 25 m from the converter with an autonomous recording unit (10 Hz to 20 kHz bandwidth). Median sound pressure levels (Leq) in third-octave bands during operation of the converter were 106–109 dB re. 1 μPa in the range 125–250 Hz, 1–2 dB above ambient noise levels (statistically significant). Outside the range 125–250 Hz the noise from the converter was undetectable above the ambient noise. During start and stop of the converter a more powerful tone at 150 Hz (sound pressure level (Leq) 121–125 dB re 1 μPa) was easily detectable. This tone likely originated from the hydraulic pump which was used to lower the absorbers into the water and lift them out of the water at shutdown. Noise levels from the operating wave converter were so low that they would barely be audible to marine mammals and the likelihood of negative impact from the noise appears minimal. A likely explanation for the low noise emissions is the construction of the converter where all moving parts, except for the absorbers themselves, are placed above water on a jack-up rig. The results may thus not be directly transferable to other wave converter designs but do demonstrate that it is possible to harness wave energy without noise pollution to the marine environment.

Human Impacts on Rocky Intertidal Gastropods: Are Marine Protected Areas Effective?

Bednar C. Human Impacts on Rocky Intertidal Gastropods: Are Marine Protected Areas Effective?. San Jose, CA: San Jose State University; 2015. Available from: http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/4529/
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Thesis

As the human population has exponentially increased, so have anthropogenic effects on the ocean including pollution, eutrophication, acidification, changes in sea level, and overfishing. The California coast is visited by millions of people every year and is subject to a range of impacts. In the near-shore marine environment, people collect intertidal gastropods for food, bait or recreation. Collecting these animals has caused a decline in body size because humans preferentially take the largest individuals. Marine protected areas (MPAs), established to protect marine resources, may serve to reduce impacts to species, including gastropods. I collected 2510 individual samples to determine the body size and frequency of five gastropod species along the central California coast to assess whether MPAs may protect intertidal species from over-exploitation. I hypothesized that gastropods in MPAs, compared to non-MPAs zones, would have larger body sizes and be more frequent and be similar in size to museum specimens. I found that, for two of the five species studied, gastropods were larger inside MPA field locations; for most species the average size of specimens from MPA sites was significantly larger than museum specimens and collected gastropods had higher frequencies of presence inside MPAs. For coastal managers, these results indicate that MPAs are effective for some gastropod species studied, but in order for all species to benefit fully from MPA protection continued research is necessary to determine species-specific requirements.

Coastal erosion along the Caribbean coast of Colombia: Magnitudes, causes and management

Rangel-Buitrago NGuillermo, Anfuso G, Williams AThomas. Coastal erosion along the Caribbean coast of Colombia: Magnitudes, causes and management. Ocean & Coastal Management [Internet]. 2015 ;114:129 - 144. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0964569115001775
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

“Sun, Sea and Sand” tourism is one of the fastest increasing activities in Colombia. The coast, specifically the Caribbean coast, represents the favourite destination for national and foreign visitors. However, over the last 30 years while tourism activities increased, coastal erosion became a serious problem rising in magnitude and dominance. This paper deals with a historic overview of Colombian Caribbean coastal erosion, the calculus of associated magnitudes and deepens knowledge and understanding of the different factors that control this process in this location. Coastal change in terms of erosion-sedimentation was determined by comparatives analysis of satellite images for the 1980–2014 period, as well as field surveys. Results showed circa 50% of the Colombian Caribbean coast is undergoing serious erosion. In detail, 48.3% (1182 km) of the investigated coast is experiencing erosion; 33.2% (812.6 km) can be considered stable, and 18.4% (450.5 km) is accreting. Coastal erosion can be associated with a diversity of factors contrasting in their degree of magnitude and influence, such as, amongst others: sedimentary imbalance, extreme waves, ecosystem destruction and sea level rise. These processes are often multiplied by human activities e.g. inappropriate building of coastal infrastructures, e.g. groins, illegal mining of sand and destruction of mangroves. Currently, coastal erosion produces not only beach loss but also deterioration of scenic quality and further significant financial investments for hard shore protection structures (groins and breakwaters, principally). Therefore, coastal erosion has become an obstacle that hinders the economic growth of Colombia. Results obtained can be used in the correct application of coastal management policies in order to preserve socio-economic activities, such tourism. Specifically, stronger management laws in line with Marine Spatial Planning attributes need to be implemented and enforced; more sustainable funding found for legislation and a better support network for decision making with the over riding objective of increased sustainability.

Larval fish assemblage structure in the surface layer of the northwestern Mediterranean under contrasting oceanographic scenarios

Álvarez I, Rodríguez JMaría, Catalán IA, Hidalgo M, Alvarez-Berastegui D, Balbín R, Aparicio-Gonzalez A, Alemany F. Larval fish assemblage structure in the surface layer of the northwestern Mediterranean under contrasting oceanographic scenarios. Journal of Plankton Research [Internet]. 2015 :fbv055. Available from: http://www.plankt.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/plankt/fbv055
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

During the summer, the relative influence of resident Atlantic Waters (AW) and new AW largely drives the mesoscale dynamics around the Balearic Islands (NW Mediterranean). Two principal summer hydrographic scenarios were identified in the region, differentiated by the relative position of the density front between new and resident AW within the archipelago and its associated mesoscale activity. In this study, we investigated how those early summer mesoscale scenarios influence larval fish assemblages, by analyzing data from two cruises representative of these two scenarios (2004 and 2005). Redundancy analysis was used to assess the variance in the larval fish assemblage that could be significantly explained by the most parsimonious combination of available environmental variables in both years. While depth was the most important variable in explaining the larval fish assemblage structure variability observed under both scenarios, indicators of mesoscale activity (dynamic height, geostrophic velocity) contributed significantly to understanding the dynamics of the larval fish community. Mesoscale activity was higher in summer 2004, leading to higher larval fish abundances and zooplankton biomass and lower larval fish diversity than in the unusually warm summer 2005, which showed lower mesoscale activity. The larval assemblage dynamics are discussed in terms of extrinsic and species-specific factors.

Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through our Personal Care: Plastic ingredients that contribute to marine microplastic litter

Anon. Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through our Personal Care: Plastic ingredients that contribute to marine microplastic litter. UNEP; 2015. Available from: http://unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=26827&ArticleID=35180&l=en
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Report

A report released today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the occasion of World Oceans' Day recommends a precautionary approach toward microplastic management, with an eventual phase-out and ban of their use in personal care products and cosmetics (PCCP).

The study, entitled Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through our Personal Care: Plastic ingredients that contribute to marine microplastic litter' is a compilation of currently available knowledge on the linkages between cosmetics and plastic pollution in the oceans. 

For the last 50 years, microparticles of plastic, called microplastics, have been used in personal care products and cosmetics (PCCP), replacing natural options in a large number of cosmetic and personal care formulations. Washed down the drain, those particles cannot be collected for recycling, nor do they decompose in wastewater treatment facilities, inevitably ending up in the global ocean, where it fragments and remains.

First indications that northern bottlenose whales are sensitive to behavioural disturbance from anthropogenic noise

Miller PJO, Kvadsheim PH, Lam FPA, Tyack PL, Cure C, DeRuiter SL, Kleivane L, Sivle LD, van IJsselmuide SP, Visser F, et al. First indications that northern bottlenose whales are sensitive to behavioural disturbance from anthropogenic noise. Royal Society Open Science [Internet]. 2015 ;2(6). Available from: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/cgi/doi/10.1098/rsos.140484
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Although northern bottlenose whales were the most heavily hunted beaked whale, we have little information about this species in its remote habitat of the North Atlantic Ocean. Underwater anthropogenic noise and disruption of their natural habitat may be major threats, given the sensitivity of other beaked whales to such noise disturbance. We attached dataloggers to 13 northern bottlenose whales and compared their natural sounds and movements to those of one individual exposed to escalating levels of 1–2 kHz upsweep naval sonar signals. At a received sound pressure level (SPL) of 98 dB re 1 μPa, the whale turned to approach the sound source, but at a received SPL of 107 dB re 1 μPa, the whale began moving in an unusually straight course and then made a near 180° turn away from the source, and performed the longest and deepest dive (94 min, 2339 m) recorded for this species. Animal movement parameters differed significantly from baseline for more than 7 h until the tag fell off 33–36 km away. No clicks were emitted during the response period, indicating cessation of normal echolocation-based foraging. A sharp decline in both acoustic and visual detections of conspecifics after exposure suggests other whales in the area responded similarly. Though more data are needed, our results indicate high sensitivity of this species to acoustic disturbance, with consequent risk from marine industrialization and naval activity.

Open ocean dead zones in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean

Karstensen J, Fiedler B, Schütte F, Brandt P, Körtzinger A, Fischer G, Zantopp R, Hahn J, Visbeck M, Wallace D. Open ocean dead zones in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Biogeosciences [Internet]. 2015 ;12(8):2597 - 2605. Available from: http://www.biogeosciences.net/12/2597/2015/bg-12-2597-2015.html
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Here we present first observations, from instrumentation installed on moorings and a float, of unexpectedly low (<2 μmol kg−1) oxygen environments in the open waters of the tropical North Atlantic, a region where oxygen concentration does normally not fall much below 40 μmol kg−1. The low-oxygen zones are created at shallow depth, just below the mixed layer, in the euphotic zone of cyclonic eddies and anticyclonic-modewater eddies. Both types of eddies are prone to high surface productivity. Net respiration rates for the eddies are found to be 3 to 5 times higher when compared with surrounding waters. Oxygen is lowest in the centre of the eddies, in a depth range where the swirl velocity, defining the transition between eddy and surroundings, has its maximum. It is assumed that the strong velocity at the outer rim of the eddies hampers the transport of properties across the eddies boundary and as such isolates their cores. This is supported by a remarkably stable hydrographic structure of the eddies core over periods of several months. The eddies propagate westward, at about 4 to 5 km day−1, from their generation region off the West African coast into the open ocean. High productivity and accompanying respiration, paired with sluggish exchange across the eddy boundary, create the "dead zone" inside the eddies, so far only reported for coastal areas or lakes. We observe a direct impact of the open ocean dead zones on the marine ecosystem as such that the diurnal vertical migration of zooplankton is suppressed inside the eddies.

Assessing demographic effects of dams on diadromous fish: a case study for Atlantic salmon in the Penobscot River, Maine

Nieland JL, Sheehan TF, Saunders R. Assessing demographic effects of dams on diadromous fish: a case study for Atlantic salmon in the Penobscot River, Maine. ICES Journal of Marine Science [Internet]. 2015 . Available from: http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1093/icesjms/fsv083
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Dams are a major contributor to the historic decline and current low abundance of diadromous fish. We developed a population viability analysis to assess demographic effects of dams on diadromous fish within a river system and demonstrated an application of the model with Atlantic salmon in the Penobscot River, Maine. We used abundance and distribution of wild- and hatchery-origin adult salmon throughout the watershed as performance metrics. Salmon abundance, distribution to upper reaches of the Penobscot watershed, and the number and proportion of wild-origin fish in the upper reaches of the Penobscot watershed increased when dams, particularly mainstem dams, were removed or passage efficiency was increased. Salmon abundance decreased as indirect latent mortality per dam was increased. Salmon abundance increased as marine or freshwater survival rates were increased, but the increase in abundance was larger when marine survival was increased than when freshwater survival was increased. Without hatchery supplementation, salmon abundance equalled zero with low marine and freshwater survival but increased when marine and freshwater survival rates were increased. Models, such as this one, that incorporate biological, environmental, and functional parameters can be used to predict ecological responses of fish populations and can help evaluate and prioritize management and restoration actions for diadromous fish.

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