Realistic predictions of climate change effects on natural resources are central to adaptation policies that try to reduce these impacts. However, most current forecasting approaches do not incorporate species-specific, process-based biological information, which limits their ability to inform actionable strategies. Mechanistic approaches, incorporating quantitative information on functional traits, can potentially predict species- and population-specific responses that result from the cumulative impacts of small-scale processes acting at the organismal level, and can be used to infer population-level dynamics and inform natural resources management. Here we present a proof-of-concept study using the European anchovy as a model species that shows how a trait-based, mechanistic species distribution model can be used to explore the vulnerability of marine species to environmental changes, producing quantitative outputs useful for informing fisheries management. We crossed scenarios of temperature and food to generate quantitative maps of selected mechanistic model outcomes (e.g., Maximum Length and Total Reproductive Output). These results highlight changing patterns of source and sink spawning areas as well as the incidence of reproductive failure. This study demonstrates that model predictions based on functional traits can reduce the degree of uncertainty when forecasting future trends of fish stocks. However, to be effective they must be based on high spatial- and temporal resolution environmental data. Such a sensitive and spatially explicit predictive approach may be used to inform more effective adaptive management strategies of resources in novel climatic conditions.
Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP)
Many important areas identified for conservation priorities focus on areas of high species richness, however, it is unclear whether these areas change depending on what aspect of richness is considered (e.g. evolutionary distinctiveness, endemicity, or threatened species). Furthermore, little is known of the extent of spatial congruency between biodiversity measures in the marine realm. Here, we used the distribution maps of all known marine sharks, rays, and chimaeras (class Chondrichthyes) to examine the extent of spatial congruency across the hotspots of three measures of species richness: total number of species, evolutionarily distinct species, and endemic species. We assessed the spatial congruency between hotspots considering all species, as well as on the subset of the threatened species only. We consider three definitions of hotspot (2.5%, 5%, and 10% of cells with the highest numbers of species) and three levels of spatial resolution (1°, 4°, and 8° grid cells). Overall, we found low congruency among all three measures of species richness, with the threatened species comprising a smaller subset of the overall species patterns irrespective of hotspot definition. Areas of congruency at 1° and 5% richest cells contain over half (64%) of all sharks and rays and occurred off the coasts of: (1) Northern Mexico Gulf of California, (2) USA Gulf of Mexico, (3) Ecuador, (4) Uruguay and southern Brazil, (5) South Africa, southern Mozambique, and southern Namibia, (6) Japan, Taiwan, and parts of southern China, and (7) eastern and western Australia. Coarsening resolution increases congruency two-fold for all species but remains relatively low for threatened measures, and geographic locations of congruent areas also change. Finally, for pairwise comparisons of biodiversity measures, evolutionarily distinct species richness had the highest overlap with total species richness regardless of resolution or definition of hotspot. We suggest that focusing conservation attention solely on areas of high total species richness will not necessarily contribute efforts towards species that are most at risk, nor will it protect other important dimensions of species richness.
Coastal and marine ecosystems characterized by foundation species, such as seagrass beds, coral reefs, salt marshes, oyster reefs, and mangrove forests, are rich in biodiversity and support a range of ecosystem services including coastal protection, food provisioning, water filtration, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities, cultural value, among others. These ecosystems have experienced degradation and a net loss of total area in regions around the world due to a host of anthropogenic stressors, resulting in declines in the associated ecosystem services they provide. Because of the extensive degradation in many locations, increasing attention has turned to ecosystem restoration of these marine habitats. Restoration techniques for marine and coastal ecosystems are generally more expensive when compared to terrestrial ecosystems, highlighting the importance of carefully selecting locations that will provide the largest return on investment, not only for the probability and magnitude of restoration success, but also for ecosystem service outcomes. However, site selection and spatial planning for marine ecosystem restoration receive relatively little attention in the scientific literature, suggesting a need to better study how spatial planning tools could be incorporated into restoration practice. To the degree that site selection has been formally evaluated in the literature, the criteria have tended to focus more on environmental conditions beneficial for the restored habitat, and less on ecosystem service outcomes once the habitat is restored, which may vary considerably from site to site, or with more complex landscape dynamics and spatial patterns of connectivity. Here we (1) review recent (2015–2019) scientific peer-reviewed literature for several marine ecosystems (seagrass beds, salt marshes, and mangrove forests) to investigate how commonly site selection or spatial planning principles are applied or investigated in scholarly research about marine ecosystem restoration at different spatial scales, (2) provide a conceptual overview of the rationale for applying spatial planning principles to marine ecosystem restoration, and (3) highlight promising analytical approaches from the marine spatial planning and conservation planning literatures that could help improve restoration outcomes. We argue that strategic site selection and spatial planning for marine ecosystem restoration, particularly applied at larger spatial scales and accounting for ecosystem service outcomes, can help support more effective restoration.
Spatial conservation prioritization is used worldwide for designing marine protected areas (MPA) that achieve set conservation objectives with minimal impacts to marine users. People involved in small-scale fisheries (SSF) may incur negative and disproportionate impacts from implementing MPAs, yet limited available data often restricts their representation in MPA planning. Using a Philippines case study, we focus here on the systematic design of a MPA network that aims to minimize and distribute costs equitably for SSF whilst achieving representation targets for biodiversity conservation. The objectives of the study are to: (1) document a participatory mapping approach for collecting SSF data for prioritization using the local knowledge of fishers; and (2) examine how the completeness and resolution of SSF data may affect prioritization outputs in terms of biodiversity representation, spatial efficiency, and distribution equity. In the data-poor region, we conducted participatory mapping workshops with fishers in 79 communities to collect data on the spatial distribution patterns of different SSF fisheries and communities, and employed remote sensing techniques to define coastal habitats, which were targeted for inclusion in MPAs. The datasets were integrated within the decision-support tool Marxan with Zones to develop three scenarios. The SSF data incorporated in each scenario varied based on their completeness (considered all fishing methods or only dominant methods) and resolution (fishing methods itemized by community or municipality). All scenarios derived MPA plans that met representation targets with similar area coverage. The outputs, however, varied in terms of distribution equity, measured by the distribution of opportunity costs (loss of fishing grounds) across different fisheries and communities. Scenarios that did not include minority fisheries or variations between communities, led to inequitable costs. These results highlight the need to incorporate detailed data on SSF at appropriate resolutions, and how this can be achieved through participatory approaches.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is advanced by its champions as an impartial and rational process that can address complex management issues. We argue that MSP is not innately rational and that it problematises marine issues in specific ways, often reflecting hegemonic agendas. The illusion of impartial rationality in MSP is derived from governmentalities that appear progressive but serve elite interests. By understanding the creation of governmentalities, we can design more equitable planning processes. We conceptualise governmentalities as consisting of problematisations, rationalities and governance technologies, and assess England’s first marine plans to understand how specific governmentalities de-radicalise MSP. We find that progressive framings of MSP outcomes, such as enhanced well-being, are deployed by the government to garner early support for MSP. These elements, however, become regressively problematised in later planning phases, where they are framed by the government as being difficult to achieve and are pushed into future iterations of the process. Eviscerating progressive elements from the planning process clears the way for the government to focus on implementing a neoliberal form of MSP. Efforts to foster radical MSP must pay attention to the emergence of governmentalities, how they travel through time/space and be cognisant of where difference can be inserted into planning processes. Achieving progressive MSP will require the creation of a political frontier early in the process, which cannot be passed until pathways for progressive socio-environmental outcomes have been established; advocacy for disenfranchised groups; broadening MSP evaluations to account for unintended impacts; and the monitoring of progressive objectives.
With the concept of marine spatial planning (MSP) firmly established in the UK with its own legislation, policies and plans underway, this paper critically revisits MSP as part of the wider debate associated with the social reconstruction of the marine environment, as first discussed by Peel and Lloyd’s seminal paper in 2004. We propose that their identified ‘marine problem’ remains and indeed has exacerbated. We ascertain that there has been much change in the governance of the marine environment that has both positively and negatively altered the way that society has (re)constructed solutions to that marine problem. We revisit Hannigan’s (1995) social constructionist framework, showing the degree to which the prerequisites have been satisfied, by providing an overview of how the marine problem has intensified in the preceding 15 years and how the marine problem has now captured the wider public’s attention. We then look at the how the response to the marine problem has evolved by examining at the current marine planning arrangements across the UK. We conclude by stating that the whence of MSP is clear, culminating with the formal introduction of MSP in the UK which has positively altered the way in which the marine environment is socially reconstructed. The whither is much more unclear. With a continually rapidly moving agenda of change, there is much more to be done for us to say that the marine problem has been successfully socially reconstructed.
Marine ecosystems are being continually impacted by human activities and, among these, fisheries have been one of the most damaging. Fisheries modify the structure and functioning of food-webs through biomass removal and physical damage to the seabed, leading to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by the oceans. The ecosystem-based approach to fisheries is considered the most efficient way to achieve the goal of sustainable use of marine resources while allowing for biodiversity protection. The Strait of Sicily is a biologically important area of the central Mediterranean Sea characterized by high habitat complexity and rich biodiversity, however, due to the multispecific nature of local fisheries and weak implementation of the adopted management plans, this region is particularly vulnerable. We used fishery independent time series (1994–2016) to identify the main demersal assemblages and map their spatial distribution. The pressure of fishing effort on each of these defined assemblages was then quantified in order to evaluate the impact of bottom trawling on demersal communities. Our results showed four spatially distinct and temporally stable assemblages of the Strait of Sicily. These have a clear spatial distribution, different species composition and biodiversity values and are driven primarily by environmental gradients (i.e., mainly depth and, to a lesser extent, surface salinity). The demersal assemblages were subsequently grouped in homogeneous areas characterized by specific communities of commercial and non-commercial species and response to trawling impacts. These areas are proposed as Spatial Managements Units to evaluate and manage demersal mixed fisheries, while also considering biodiversity conservation in the central Mediterranean Sea.
The Red Sea Project (TRSP) is a development that extends over 28,000 km2 along the shores of the Red Sea that will progress to become a sustainable luxury tourism destination on the west coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The destination incorporates the Al Wajh lagoon, a pristine 2,081 km2 area that includes 92 islands with valuable habitats (coral reefs, seagrass, and mangroves) and species of global conservation importance. The Red Sea Development Company, responsible for the execution of TRSP, has committed to achieve a net-positive impact on biodiversity while developing the site for sustainable tourism. This requires reaching conservation outcomes superior to those of a “business as usual” scenario for an undeveloped site. After careful optimization of the development plans to explore every opportunity to avoid impacts, we applied marine spatial planning to optimize the conservation of the Al Wajh lagoon in the presence of development. We subsequently tested five conservation scenarios (excluding and including development) using Marxan, a suite of tools designed to identify priority areas for protection on the basis of prescribed conservation objectives. We succeeded in creating a three-layer conservation zoning, achieving conservation outcomes as those possible in the “business as usual” scenario. Subsequently, we designed additional actions to remove existing pressures and generate net positive conservation outcomes. The results demonstrate that careful design and planning could potentially allow coastal development to enhance, rather than jeopardize, conservation.
During winter months, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) frequent the coastal waters of Virginia near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Located within the Bay is Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval military installation, and the Port of Virginia, the sixth busiest container port in the United States. These large seaports, combined with the presence of recreational boaters, commercial fishing vessels, and sport-fishing boats, result in a constant heavy flow of vessel traffic through the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and adjacent areas. From December 2015 to February 2017, 35 satellite tags were deployed on humpback whales to gain a better understanding on the occurrence, movements, site-fidelity, and overall behavior of this species within this high-traffic region. The tags transmitted data for an average of 13.7 days (range 2.7–43.8 days). Location data showed that at some point during tag deployment, nearly all whales occurred within, or in close proximity to, the shipping channels located in the study area. Approximately one quarter of all filtered and modeled locations occurred within the shipping channels. Hierarchical state-space modeling results suggest that humpback whales spend considerable time (82.0%) engaged in foraging behavior at or near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Of the 106 humpback whales photo-identified during this research, nine individuals (8.5%) had evidence of propeller strikes. One whale that had previously been tagged and tracked within shipping channels, was found dead on a local beach; a fatality resulting from a vessel strike. The findings from this study demonstrate that a substantial number of humpback whales frequent high-traffic areas near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, increasing the likelihood of injurious vessel interactions that can result in mortalities.
As human use of the oceans increases, marine spatial planning (MSP) is being more widely adopted to achieve improved environmental, economic, and social outcomes. However, there is a lack of practical guidance for stakeholder driven, scientifically informed MSP processes in small island and data‐limited contexts. Here, we present an overview of MSP on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, with a focus on the scientific and technical input that helped inform the process. Montserrat presents an interesting case study of MSP in the small island context as it has ocean uses that are common to many islands, namely small‐scale fisheries and tourism, but the marine environment has been heavily impacted due to volcanic activity. We detail the methods for data collection and analysis and the decision‐making process that contributed to a marine spatial plan. We highlight aspects of the process that may be useful for other small islands embarking on MSP, and lessons learned regarding scientific support, including the need for on‐site scientific support and guidance throughout MSP, the importance of setting clear objectives, working within data limitations and making data accessible, and choosing and using appropriate decision support tools.