Reef Check Australia (RCA) has collected data on benthic composition and cover at > 70 sites along > 1000 km of Australia's Queensland coast from 2002 to 2015. This paper quantifies the accuracy, precision and power of RCA benthic composition data, to guide its application and interpretation. A simulation study established that the inherent accuracy of the Reef Check point sampling protocol is high (<± 7% error absolute), in the range of estimates of benthic cover from 1% to 50%. A field study at three reef sites indicated that, despite minor observer- and deployment-related biases, the protocol does reliably document moderate ecological changes in coral communities. The error analyses were then used to guide the interpretation of inter-annual variability and long term trends at three study sites in RCA's major 2002–2015 data series for the Queensland coast.
Sufficiently rigorous monitoring and evaluation can assess the effectiveness of management actions to conserve natural resources. However, costs of monitoring can be high in relation to program budgets, so it is critical to design monitoring efforts to ensure a high return on investment. To assess the relative contribution of different monitoring strategies to yield information for management decisions, we examine the evolution of a multi-year monitoring program across several MPAs in West Papua, Indonesia. Three monitoring strategies were implemented: external expert, science practitioner, and community monitoring staff. We place the monitoring objectives in a decision science framework, with six explicit fundamental objectives for monitoring to evaluate performance of marine protected areas. We examine each strategy in light of the six objectives to evaluate: 1) power to detect change, 2) extent of local capacity development, and 3) cost effectiveness. Over time, costs were reduced and scientific value increased through clear communication of science objectives, outcome-driven experimental design, adequately resourced monitoring programs, and a long-term view that anticipates phasing out outside consultants and transitioning monitoring responsibilities fully to locally-based staff. Investments to develop capacity of staff living locally to perform data management, analysis, interpretation, and science communication proved the most cost-effective approach in the long-term. With many globally important ecosystems in developing countries, developing local scientific capacity for the full cycle of monitoring is key to informed decision-making and ensuring long-term sustainability of efforts to conserve biodiversity.
The growth of marine recreational activities raises the issues of the current lack of knowledge on these activities and the information required to assess their potential impacts. Indeed, the monitoring of unrecorded activities is a great challenge, especially when basic information, such as the size of the population practicing the different activities, is unknown. In this paper, the experience of the monitoring of marine recreational fishing was used to carry out a diagnosis study to assess the cost-effectiveness of survey methods used in France between 2004 and 2012. Costs of alternative surveys were balanced with data quality, and particular attention was paid to potential biases. Results showed that the involvement of citizens through diary surveys could be a cost-effective option when the recruitment of participants complied with randomness and representativeness requirements. The outcomes of this study provide useful insights to help managers and decision makers implement monitoring schemes in similar contexts.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are widespread compounds that accumulating in polar regions canalise through trophic webs. Although several dozens of studies have been carried out in the last decades, the information is generally scattered across a large number of literature sources. This does not allow an efficient synthesis and constraints our understanding on how address future monitoring plans and environmental conservation strategies on the Polar Regions with respect to POPs. Thus, here, we present the outcome of a systematic map (SM) to scope, screen and chart evidences from literature dealing with POPs in Polar regions. The SMs strive to produce rigorous guidelines and have recently been proposed as useful and effective tools to summarise growing bodies of research that seek to reduce bias and increase reliability, particularly in the case of high priority and controversial topics. Our SM was based on 125 polar studies, focussing on the most studied target species among those listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List (IUCN Red List). To facilitate analysis of evidence, the studies were classified into Accumulation Monitoring (accounting for POP monitoring through sub-organismal, functional and population levels) and Food Web Monitoring approaches (accounting for contaminants monitoring through food webs). Our SM allowed us to assess and visualise, a set of both knowledge gaps and gluts and lastly a list was provided to address future research on POPs in Polar Regions.
Biotic indices for monitoring marine ecosystems are mostly based on the analysis of benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Due to their high sensitivity to pollution and fast response to environmental changes, bacterial assemblages could complement the information provided by benthic metazoan communities as indicators of human-induced impacts, but so far, this biological component has not been well explored for this purpose. Here we performed 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing to analyze the bacterial assemblage composition of 51 estuarine and coastal stations characterized by different environmental conditions and human-derived pressures. Using the relative abundance of putative indicator bacterial taxa, we developed a biotic index that is significantly correlated with a sediment quality index calculated on the basis of organic and inorganic compound concentrations. This new index based on bacterial assemblage composition can be a sensitive tool for providing a fast environmental assessment and allow a more comprehensive integrative ecosystem approach for environmental management.
Marine ecosystems are subject to anthropogenic change at global, regional and local scales. Global drivers interact with regional- and local-scale impacts of both a chronic and acute nature. Natural fluctuations and those driven by climate change need to be understood to diagnose local- and regional-scale impacts, and to inform assessments of recovery. Three case studies are used to illustrate the need for long-term studies: (i) separation of the influence of fishing pressure from climate change on bottom fish in the English Channel; (ii) recovery of rocky shore assemblages from the Torrey Canyon oil spill in the southwest of England; (iii) interaction of climate change and chronic Tributyltin pollution affecting recovery of rocky shore populations following the Torrey Canyon oil spill. We emphasize that “baselines” or “reference states” are better viewed as envelopes that are dependent on the time window of observation. Recommendations are made for adaptive management in a rapidly changing world.
Marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) are rapidly expanding in size and number as society strives to maintain electricity generation whilst simultaneously reducing climate-change linked CO2 emissions. MREDs are part of an ongoing large-scale modification of coastal waters that also includes activities such as commercial fishing, shipping, aggregate extraction, aquaculture, dredging, spoil-dumping and oil and gas exploitation. It is increasingly accepted that developments, of any kind, should only proceed if they are ecologically sustainable and will not reduce current or future delivery of ecosystem services. The benthos underpins crucial marine ecosystem services yet, in relation to MREDs, is currently poorly monitored: current monitoring programmes are extensive and costly yet provide little useful data in relation to ecosystem-scale-related changes, a situation called ‘data-rich, information-poor’ (DRIP). MRED –benthic interactions may cause changes that are of a sufficient scale to change ecosystem services provision, particularly in terms of fisheries and biodiversity and, via trophic linkages, change the distribution of fish, birds and mammals. The production of DRIPy data should be eliminated and the resources used instead to address relevant questions that are logically bounded in time and space. Efforts should target identifying metrics of change that can be linked to ecosystem function or service provision, particularly where those metrics show strongly non-linear effects in relation to the stressor. Future monitoring should also be designed to contribute towards predictive ecosystem models and be sufficiently robust and understandable to facilitate transparent, auditable and timely decision-making.
Imagery collected from Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) provides a novel means of monitoring changes in benthic ecosystems over large spatial scales and depth ranges. However, for many benthic ecosystems there is little baseline data to quantify temporal and spatial variance for key indicator species. This information is crucial for isolating background “noise” from long-term “signals”. Here we quantify components of variance for five key deep-water sessile invertebrate species across four long-term benthic monitoring sites in a region undergoing strong climate-driven changes. We use linear mixed models to estimate the contribution of sources of spatial and temporal variance in species covers from empirical data. We then combine this information with projected long-term climate-driven changes in the cover of these groups and test the power of various survey designs to detect change through time. Large short-term temporal and spatial variability in the cover of a gorgonian octocoral results in high components of variance that limit the detectability of the projected long-term trend for this species. Conversely, for three of the sponge species high power is achievable with revisits to the four original sites every two years until 2060. By including more sites in the revisit design, high power can be achieved with less frequent revisits. For the fifth species, we find high power is unachievable due to the small trend predicted. Overall, we highlight how examination of components of variance in a system can aid in the selection of suitable indicators and the establishment of effective monitoring programs.
This report provides an assessment of emerging evidence on the socio-economic impacts of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The reports objectives are to develop a methodology for monitoring the socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures and to gather and analyse evidence on the ex post socioeconomic impacts of MPA management measures. This report presents evidence from key informant interviews, analysis of fishing activity data and three case studies.
Scientists increasingly rely on protected areas to assist in biodiversity conservation, yet the efficacy of these areas are rarely systematically assessed, often as a byproduct of underfunding, particularly in developing countries. Still, adaptive management strategies to maximize conservation success often rely on understanding the temporal and spatial dynamism of population therein. Environmental DNA (eDNA) has been employed as a time and cost-effective method to monitor species’ distribution, with quantitative PCR (qPCR) techniques also assisting in our knowledge about abundance of aquatic taxa. To date however, this novel methodology remains underutilized by conservation managers in assessing populations in protected areas. In this study, we used eDNA concentration of the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) to circumscribe population ecology in the Tian e-Zhou National Nature Reserve in Hubei, China. We developed, validated, and optimized a qPCR-based eDNA method and applied this protocol to diagnose the geographical reserve use across seasons. Our results suggest spatio-temporal idiosyncrasies, highlighting previously undescribed site and habitat preferences, and a propensity for post-breeding population dispersal. eDNA thus presents a quick and cost-effective method for assessing population-wide utilization of a protected area and, when accounting for environmental-specific nuances, can prove useful for current and future conservation goals.