Marine managers routinely use spatial data to make decisions about their marine environment. Uncertainty associated with this spatial data can have profound impacts on these management decisions and their projected outcomes. Recent advances in modeling techniques, including species distribution models (SDMs), make it easier to generate continuous maps showing the uncertainty associated with spatial predictions and maps. However, SDM predictions and maps can be complex and nuanced. This complexity makes their use challenging for non-technical managers, preventing them from having the best available information to make decisions. To help bridge these communication and information gaps, we developed maps to illustrate how SDMs and associated uncertainty can be translated into readily usable products for managers. We also explicitly described the potential impacts of uncertainty on marine zoning decisions. This approach was applied to a case study in Saipan Lagoon, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Managers in Saipan are interested in minimizing the potential impacts of personal watercraft (e.g., jet skis) on staghorn Acropora (i.e., Acropora aspera, A. formosa, and A. pulchra), which is an important coral assemblage in the lagoon. We used a recently completed SDM for staghorn Acropora to develop maps showing the sensitivity of zoning options to three different prediction and three different uncertainty thresholds (nine combinations total). Our analysis showed that the amount of area and geographic location of predicted staghorn Acropora presence changed based on these nine combinations. These dramatically different spatial patterns would have significant zoning implications when considering where to exclude and/or allow jet skis operations inside the lagoon. They also show that different uncertainty thresholds may lead managers to markedly different conclusions and courses of action. Defining acceptable levels of uncertainty upfront is critical for ensuring that managers can make more informed decisions, meet their marine resource goals and generate favorable outcomes for their stakeholders.
Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP)
The term Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs) refers to areas which are not protected areas and yet significantly contribute to conservation; they were recently defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity. Efforts to address the designation of OECMs include further definition of the term and the development of typologies of OECMs and of screening tools which can be applied to identify potential OECMs. While the designation process of OECMs is still unclear, especially in the marine environment, we suggest a decision process which can be used by planners to identify and designate specific types of OECMs as part of the marine spatial planning (MSP) process. These OECMs are areas where marine communities benefit from access restrictions established due to safety or security concerns. We applied the suggested process on two case studies of the Italian Northern Adriatic and the Israeli Mediterranean seas. When consideration of OECMs comes at the expense of designating marine protected areas, OECMs can become controversial. However, OECM designation can promote achievement of marine conservation goals and of ecosystem-based management of uses. Therefore, we suggest that while spatial targets for conservation should focus mainly on areas dedicated for marine reserves, OECMs, especially of the type for ancillary conservation discussed in this paper, can be achieved through MSP. Using MSP for the designation of recognized OECMs may significantly promote marine conservation goals in unexpected ways and may help realize ecosystem-based management.
The ecosystem approach has become a common tool in environmental governance over the last decade. Within the EU context, this is most clearly accentuated through the adoption of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning, that both include requirements for Member States to apply the approach. This paper examines the organization of marine spatial planning (MSP) by the EU countries in the Baltic Sea Region in terms of management levels and geographic delimitations. The research shows that there is no consistent interpretation of what is the appropriate level of management, or ecosystem scale. These findings are used to inform a discussion on the application of the ecosystem approach in the countries around the Baltic Sea, and its effect on the potential of transboundary cooperation initiatives.
The spatial extent of human activities must be understood for consistent and proportionate regulation, and effective marine planning. Redundant offshore pipelines can be removed or left in situ, but data on the footprint of these options are not readily available. The extents of three North Sea in situ decommissioning scenarios are presented. Leaving pipelines in situ would occupy <0.01% (12.3 km2) of UK waters, and this was similar to, or smaller than, other regulated activities (e.g. aggregate extraction). Adding armouring to large pipelines occupied up to 95 km2, while creating fisheries exclusion zones occupied up to 1119 km2. Removal of pipelines >30″ would be required to regain 50% or more of the seabed currently occupied. At present, the technology to remove pipelines >16″ safely and cost-efficiently is untested for large-scale decommissioning projects. The summaries presented inform the debate over the significance of decommissioning, and the regional consequences of different options.
Planning for marine areas, from coastal to open-ocean regions, is being developed worldwide to foster sustainable ocean management and governance. Over the past decades, significant progress has been made by governments in their thinking about marine spatial planning (MSP). MSP is globally widespread and a topic of increasing importance in the scientific and policy realms. It is currently under development in almost 70 countries, encompassing six continents and four ocean basins. Despite its acceptance and use, development and implementation of MSP still faces a myriad of present and future, conceptual and practical challenges, some of them being more striking and widespread. Here, we highlight seven major challenges that need to be properly addressed so that MSP can truly contribute to a sustainable use of the world's oceans. These include, among others, shortcomings in political and institutional frameworks, stakeholder engagement, encompassing human and social dimensions in MSP, balancing economic development and marine ecosystem conservation, and adapting to global environmental change.
Systematic conservation planning (SCP) has increasingly been used to prioritize conservation actions, including the design of new protected areas to achieve conservation objectives. Over the last 10 years, the number of marine SCP studies has increased exponentially, yet there is no structured or reliable way to find information on methods, trends, and progress. The rapid growth in methods and marine applications warrants an updated analysis of the literature, as well as reflection on the need for continuous and systematic documentation of SCP exercises in general. To address these gaps, we developed a database to document SCP exercises and populated it with 155 marine SCP exercises found in the primary literature. Based on our review, we provide an update on global advances and trends in marine SCP literature. We found accelerating growth in the number of studies over the past decade, with increasing consideration of socioeconomic variables, land-sea planning, and ecological connectivity. While several studies aimed to inform conservation decisions, we found little evidence of input from practitioners. There are important gaps in geographic coverage and little correspondence with areas most threatened. Five countries lead most studies, but their networks suggest potential for capacity building through collaborations. The varying quality and detail in documentation of studies confirmed the limited opportunities to develop and assess the application of best practice in conservation planning. A global database to track the development, implementation, and impact of SCP applications can thus provide numerous benefits. Our database constitutes an important step towards the development of a centralized repository of information on planning exercises and can serve several roles to advance SCP theory and practice: it facilitates assessing geographic coverage and gaps; scientists and practitioners can access information to identify trends in the use of data, methods, and tools; reviewers and editors of journals can assess whether studies have covered important literature and developments; donors and non-government organizations can identify regions needing further work; and practitioners and policy-makers can learn from previous plans.
Species distribution models (SDMs) are statistical tools aiming at mapping and predicting species distributions across landscapes. Data acquisition being limited in space and time, SDM are commonly used to predict species distribution in unsampled areas or years, with the expectation that modelled habitat–species relationships will hold across spatial or temporal contexts (i.e., model transferability). This key aspect of habitat modelling has major implications for spatial management, yet it has received limited attention, especially in the dynamic marine realm. Our aims were to test geographical and temporal habitat model transferability and to make recommendations for future population‐scale habitat modelling.
Two contrasted regions of the North Western Mediterranean Sea: the cold and productive waters of the Gulf of Lion, and the warm and oligotrophic waters of Corsica.
We GPS‐tracked 189 Scopoli's shearwaters, Calonectris diomedea, at four breeding sites during the chick‐rearing period in 2011 and 2012 (418 foraging trips), and analysed their fine‐scale foraging behaviour. We then built colony‐specific habitat models (GAMMs) to test SDM geographical and temporal transferability and investigated the effect of extrinsic (environmental extrapolation) and intrinsic (trip characteristics) factors on transferability.
Scopoli's shearwaters from our four study sites had comparable foraging strategies (as assessed from trip characteristics and isotopic diet tracers). Despite such similarities, SDMs revealed colony‐specific habitat associations. Geographical and temporal model transferability was better within than between regions.
Crucially, our study illustrates how habitat–species relationships can vary between colonies located <200 km apart, and underlines the effect of spatio‐temporal extrapolation in habitat modelling. We therefore warn that defining adequate spatial scales for model predictions is critical to sound marine spatial planning and conservation.
Coral reef degradation due to environmental change, including anthropogenic disturbances, is a major concern worldwide. Detecting and assessing both temporal and spatial changes in benthic cover is a crucial requirement to inform policy makers and guide conservation measures. Here, we introduce a spatial approach based on high resolution multispectral and hyperspectral image analysis, developed in order to detect and quantify changes in benthic cover in a highly heterogeneous shallow coral reef flat in Reunion Island in the South-West Indian Ocean. We propose a new index called HCAI (Hyperspectral Coral to Algae Index), defined as the ratio of living coral cover to the sum of living coral and algal covers. Benthic cover estimates were derived from airborne hyperspectral image processing using water column correction and unmixing models implemented with the four main coral reef benthic components: corals, algae, seagrass and sand. Ground truth and LIDAR data acquired simultaneously were used to validate processing accuracy. A significant positive correlation (adjusted R2 = 0.72, p-value < 0.001) was obtained between coral cover recorded in situ and estimated from image analysis. Moreover, 13 habitat classes based on the four main benthic component covers were mapped at a scale of an entire reef. Diachronic analyses of hyperspectral images between 2009 and 2015 revealed an overall decrease of the HCAI index and a decrease in the area of all the dominant coral classes along the reef (−28.24% for the coral class for example), while the area of habitat classes dominated by algae strongly increased during the same period. Moreover, we detected and documented the spatial and temporal evolutions of coral geomorphological features composed with coral rubble deposits called rubble tongues (RTs) using different available sensors (i.e. hyperspectral, satellite, and orthophotography). Since 2003, four detected (RTs) have spread shoreward at a mean rate of 8.4 m.y−1 including significant loss of reef structural complexity and heterogeneity, a spreading pattern which was confirmed by 2009 and 2015 hyperspectral data. Remote sensing and more specifically airborne hyperspectral approaches open new perspectives for coral reef monitoring, at high temporal and spatial resolutions.
The North Norfolk coast is a naturally eroding coastline that has been subject to various management strategies over time, many of which have impeded its natural evolution. The Kelling to Lowestoft-Ness Shoreline Management Plan underpins management of the North Norfolk coast, advocating policies of managed realignment and no active intervention for much of this coastline. Implementation of these policies would give rise to significant loss of housing in North Norfolk during the course of this century. This has caused intense conflict between local communities and coastal planners, with the former feeling abandoned to the vagaries of natural coastal processes. Coastal planners need to work closely with local communities to implement a long-term vision for a sustainable coast. The issues of conflicting land-use planning policies and compensation for affected communities must be addressed. The wider implications of current management strategies are not fully understood and may, in some cases, be unsustainable.
Underwater Cultural Heritage (hereinafter UCH) constitutes an invaluable resource that has been poorly – if at all – addressed in most spatial planning attempts, due to the sectorial approach that has prevailed so far when planning in the sea. Lately however, that spatial planning in the marine space (MSP) is being re-launched under a place-based approach, the chances and challenges for UCH are considerably different.
According to the existing international legislation (UNCLOS), coastal states can only interfere with UCH up to their Contiguous Zone (24 nm from the baseline), whilst beyond that limit UCH is left “abandoned” (unless “flag” or “cultural origin” states claim their protection). Of course, this “freezing” of jurisdictions beyond the CZ, means that for the greatest part of the oceans and seas, UCH protection totally depends on the wise regulation of all other human activities that affect directly or indirectly, cultural heritage.
The paper argues that MSP under a place-based approach is a unique opportunity for better protection and wiser management of UCH in greater distances than ever, provided that coastal states proclaim their EEZ (in order to extend as much as possible the area within which they can practice MSP and therefore, tackle conflicts and encourage synergies with UCH). The paper proposes a five-step strategy for considering UCH in MSP. Step 1: Register and evaluate UCH sites and objects, Step 2: Identify ways to upgrade the economic value of UCH, Step 3: Select the most appropriate type of protection zoning, Step 4: Provide regulations and restrictions for activities within the UCH protection zone, Step 5: Ensure integration and cohesion of the planning adopted in the UCH buffer zones with the spatial/sea-use planning adopted in the wider marine area. The paper concludes by highlighting that beyond any strategy, the greater challenge and stake is how to compromise blue growth trend with UCH preservation and promotion.