In order to inform decision making and policy, research to address sustainability challenges requires cross-disciplinary approaches that are co-created with a wide and inclusive diversity of disciplines and stakeholders. As the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development approaches, it is therefore timely to take stock of the global range of cross-disciplinary questions to inform the development of policies to restore and sustain ocean health. We synthesized questions from major science and policy horizon scanning exercises, identifying 89 questions with relevance for ocean policy and governance. We then scanned the broad ocean science literature to examine issues potentially missed in the horizon scans and supplemented the horizon scan outcome with 11 additional questions. This resulted in an unprioritized list of 100 general questions that would require a cross-disciplinary approach to inform policy. The questions fell into broad categories including: coastal and marine environmental change, managing ocean activities, governance for sustainable oceans, ocean value, and technological and socio-economic innovation. Each question can be customized by ecosystem, region, scale, and socio-political context, and is intended to inspire discussions of salient cross-disciplinary research directions to direct scientific research that will inform policies. Governance and management responses to these questions will best be informed by drawing upon a diversity of natural and social sciences, local and traditional knowledge, and engagement of different sectors and stakeholders.
Management and Management Effectiveness
Coral reefs are under threat and innovative management strategies are urgently required. However, discoveries from innovative fields of coral reef research are rarely transposed in practical conservation actions. This is mainly due to the difficulties in knowledge exchange between scientists and conservation stakeholders. The ManaCo consortium (http://manaco.ird.nc/) is an international network federating conservation stakeholders and researchers in a common effort to preserve the coral reefs. The focus is on using modern tools to build a bridge between indigenous knowledge and scientific innovation. ManaCo aims to orientate research toward relevant conservation needs and to facilitate the transposition of research into concrete management strategies. This will allow to coordinate a collaborative response against coral reef decline. We invite anyone sharing the same interests in joining us.
The coasts and islands that flank Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s largest emirate, host the country’s most significant coastal and marine habitats including coral reefs. These reefs, although subject to a variety of pressures from urban and industrial encroachment and climate change, exhibit the highest thresholds for coral bleaching and mortality in the world. By reviewing and benchmarking global, regional and local coral reef conservation efforts, this study highlights the ecological importance and economic uniqueness of the UAE corals in light of the changing climate. The analysis provides a set of recommendations for coral reef management that includes an adapted institutional framework bringing together stakeholders, scientists, and managers. These recommendations are provided to guide coral reef conservation efforts regionally and in jurisdictions with comparable environmental challenges.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a primary tool for conserving marine biodiversity. The literature presents a scattered picture regarding the extent to which co-management can be considered valuable. In this study we examine, what conditions are for co-management to make a contribution to conserving marine ecosystems (e.g., stopping coral bleaching and safeguarding fish populations). By combining data on MPA management practices with a novel source of global biodata collected by citizens (ReefCheck), we demonstrate that if co-management is part of a formal governmental strategy, coral reefs show up to 86% fewer bleached colonies and up to 12.2 times larger fish populations than co-managed MPAs lacking formalized governmental support.
As global ocean-bound commerce increases, managing human activities has become important in reducing conflict with threatened wildlife. This study investigates environmental factors determining abundance and distribution of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and their prey (Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera) in central California. We provide insights into environmental drivers of the ecology and distribution of these species, model whale distributions and determine coincident hotspots of whales and their prey that will help decrease human threats to whales and protect critical feeding habitat. We developed separate predictive models of whale abundances (using negative binomial regression on count data) and krill abundance (using a two-part hurdlemodel combining logistic and negative binomial regressions) over a 14 year period (2004–2017). Variables included in situ surface and midwater oceanographic measures (temperature, salinity, and fluorescence), basin-scale climate indices, and bathymetric- and distance-related data. Predictions were applied to 1 km2 cells spanning the study area for May, June, July, and September during each of the 14 years of surveys to identify persistent distribution patterns. Both whales and krill were found to consistently use the northeast region of Cordell Bank, the Farallon Escarpment, and the shelf-break waters. The main identified blue whale hotspots were also krill hotspots, while co-occurrence was more limited and varied seasonally for humpback whales and krill. These results are valuable in identifying patterns in important areas of ecological interaction to assist management of whales. Areas north of Cordell Bank are of particular management concern since they overlap with the end of the San Francisco Bay northern shipping lane. Our findings can help decrease threats to whales, particularly in important foraging areas, by supporting implementation of vessel management and informing potential conflicts with other human uses.
Multiple stressors caused by human-induced disturbances can affect the foraging opportunities of cetaceans, potentially depleting their energy stores, and ultimately impact survival and reproductive success. Currently, blubber thickness and lipid composition is used as measure of health and nutritional status in cetaceans. This assumes that blubber functions in the same manner as adipose tissue in terrestrial mammals. However, cetaceans have evolved to have thickened blubber which serves as thermoregulation, buoyancy and energy store. In addition, blubber is composed of several layers and regions that have different physiological functions. We currently lack a clear understanding of how blubber biology contributes to maintaining energy status in cetaceans and several studies show blubber thickness, and composition in some body regions, is an inappropriate measure of health. Before new markers of health can be identified, we need to understand how environmental stressors influence blubber biology and particularly unravel its complex signaling roles with other organs. Currently, we do not understand how changes in energy status drive changes in health in cetaceans, and eventually population dynamics. This review synthesizes recent developments in cetacean blubber biology to propose potential directions to develop novel cetacean health markers.
In order to understand the multiple values of landscape, this paper suggests an evaluative methodology that takes into account a quantitative approach, public opinion, and an economic estimation. This study analyzes the coastal scenery of 40 Italian beaches using a fuzzy logic and a Contingent Valuation (CV). Each site was classified into five categories: Class I beaches were littorals with high natural settings; Class II sites were natural and semiurban beaches having low influences by anthropic structures; Classes III, IV, and V had lower evaluations due to poor physical and human condition. A questionnaire survey analyzed beach users’ preferences, judgment, and Willingness to Pay (WTP). Results suggest that landscape judgment is directly correlated to scenery assessment; therefore, beaches of Class I and II were judged beautiful while beaches of Class IV and V had poor judgments. Similarly, the importance given to the landscape was highest in Class I and II than in the others. WTP for the conservation of the selected beaches was about €16 per season. Our findings suggest that people are disposed to pay more for a beach with the top-grade of scenery (Class I and II) and low grade of urbanization. Moreover, WTP would rise for females and for nonresident users with an academic degree, which appreciated the coastal landscape.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a multiple-use marine protected area with a history of tension between management entities and local stakeholders. At the root of the issues are differences in the definition of “successful management” between these two stakeholder groups and recent administrative vacancies within the Sanctuary’s management staff have made it difficult for the Sanctuary to update its management plan. This study surveyed two primary stakeholder groups in the Florida Keys in order to gain understanding of their perceptions of successful management. A comprehensive intercept survey detailing various management objectives was presented to participants in person using tablets and targeted emails over a period of five months. Results found that residency status was not the primary parameter influencing perception of management success, and that rather industry affiliation was strongly linked with views on management success. Significant differences between residents and visitors did exist when perception of threats to the Sanctuary was analyzed, indicating that those groups could benefit from targeted outreach and education ahead of changes to the management plan of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The increasing public perception that marine megafauna is under threat is an outstanding incentive to investigate their essential habitats (EMH), their responses to human and climate change pressures, and to better understand their largely unexplained behaviors and physiology. Yet, this poses serious challenges such as the elusiveness and remoteness of marine megafauna, the growing scrutiny and legal impositions on their study, and difficulties in disentangling environmental drivers from human disturbance. We argue that advancing our knowledge and conservation on marine megafauna can and should be capitalized in regions where exceptional access to multiple species (i.e., megafauna ‘hotspots’) combines with the adequate legal framework, sustainable practices, and research capacity. The wider Azores region, hosting EMHs of all key groups of vulnerable or endangered vertebrate marine megafauna, is a singular EMH hotspot on a migratory crossroads, linking eastern and western Atlantic margins and productive boreal waters to tropical seas. It benefits from a sustainable development model based on artisanal fisheries with zero or minor megafauna bycatch, and one of the largest marine protected area networks in the Atlantic covering coastal, oceanic and deepsea habitats. Developing this model can largely ensure the future integrity of this EMH hotspot while fostering cutting-edge science and technological development on megafauna behavior, biologging and increased ocean observation, with potential major impacts on the Blue Growth agenda. An action plan is proposed.
In recent years, special attention has been paid to the issues of rational nature management and ecological state of the natural environment of the Arctic zone, given the important economic, social and environmental role of this region. The active industrial development of the Arctic zone unambiguously leads to a change in the living conditions of marine biological resources. The Arctic plays an important role in Russian fisheries. The paper considers the conceptual provisions of rational nature management in the conditions of industrial development of the Russian Arctic and identifies the problems and conditions for sustainable development of the Russian fisheries.