Monitoring marine protected areas requires simplifying complex marine ecosystems into a suite of indicators. The Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area (TN MPA), the first MPA in the Canadian Arctic is located in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT and is selecting indicators for monitoring. Proposed health indicators for the TN MPA species of interest, the Eastern Beaufort Sea (EBS) beluga, include the body condition metrics blubber thickness and girth. Sex-specific body condition models for both metrics were developed to account for age, size, location, and timing of harvest from belugas harvested from 2000 to 2015. Models were tested to determine if the spatial variation is detected in the condition of belugas between the three areas of the TN MPA and between belugas harvested inside to outside of the TN MPA. Lastly, we assessed belugas from entrapment events to determine if indicator thresholds could be developed. Three of the indicators (girth male, girth female, blubber thickness male) contain both temporal and spatial factors, signalling the significant influence of year and harvest location on condition. Male belugas harvested from the western area of the TN MPA had smaller mean blubber thickness and girth compared to the other TN MPA areas, whereas there was no significant difference in female condition across the TN MPA. There was a significant difference inside and outside the TN MPA for all four indicators, with larger mean blubber thickness inside the TN MPA, females exhibiting larger mean girth and males exhibiting smaller mean girth inside the TN MPA. Indicators confirm that belugas from entrapment events had significantly lower body condition than belugas harvested during the summer and can serve as thresholds for condition indicators. This study provides guidance on the selection and use of condition indicators for their application in monitoring the TN MPA and demonstrates that careful consideration is required for indicator development and selection.
The ocean knows no political borders. Ocean processes, like summertime wind-driven upwelling, stretch thousands of kilometers along the Northeast Pacific (NEP) coast. This upwelling drives marine ecosystem productivity and is modulated by weather systems and seasonal to interdecadal ocean-atmosphere variability. Major ocean currents in the NEP transport water properties such as heat, fresh water, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, pCO2, and pH close to the shore. The eastward North Pacific Current bifurcates offshore in the NEP, delivering open-ocean signals south into the California Current and north into the Gulf of Alaska. There is a large and growing number of NEP ocean observing elements operated by government agencies, Native American Tribes, First Nations groups, not-for-profit organizations, and private entities. Observing elements include moored and mobile platforms, shipboard repeat cruises, as well as land-based and estuarine stations. A wide range of multidisciplinary ocean sensors are deployed to track, for example, upwelling, downwelling, ocean productivity, harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification and hypoxia, seismic activity and tsunami wave propagation. Data delivery to shore and observatory controls are done through satellite and cell phone communication, and via seafloor cables. Remote sensing from satellites and land-based coastal radar provide broader spatial coverage, while numerical circulation and biogeochemical modeling complement ocean observing efforts. Models span from the deep ocean into the inland Salish Sea and estuaries. NEP ocean observing systems are used to understand regional processes and, together with numerical models, provide ocean forecasts. By sharing data, experiences and lessons learned, the regional ocean observatory is better than the sum of its parts.
Coastal and ocean acidification has the potential to cause significant environmental and societal impacts. Monitoring carbonate chemistry parameters over spatial and temporal scales is challenging, especially with limited resources. A lack of monitoring data can lead to a limited understanding of real-world conditions. Without such data, robust experimental and model design is challenging, and the identification and understanding of episodic acidification events is nearly impossible. We present considerations for resource managers, academia, and industry professionals who are currently developing acidification monitoring programs in the Mid-Atlantic region. We highlight the following considerations for deliberation: 1) leverage existing infrastructure to include multiple carbonate chemistry parameters as well as other water quality measurements, 2) direct monitoring efforts in subsurface waters rather than limiting monitoring to surface waters, 3) identify the best available sensor technology for long-term, in-situ monitoring, 4) monitor across a salinity gradient to account for the complexity of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments, and identify potential areas of enhanced vulnerability, 5) increase sampling frequency to capture variability, 6) consider other drivers (e.g., freshwater discharge, nutrients, physiochemical parameters) that may affect acidification, and 7) conduct or continue monitoring in specific ecological and general regions that may have enhanced vulnerability. Through the incorporation of these considerations, individual monitoring programs can more efficiently and effectively leverage resources and build partnerships for a more comprehensive data collection in the region. While these considerations focus on the Mid-Atlantic region), similar strategies can be used to leverage resources in other locations.
Organic matter (OM) in aquatic systems is either produced internally (autochthonous OM) or delivered from the terrestrial environment (ter-OM). For eutrophication (or the reverse – oligotrophication), the amount of autochthonous OM plays a key role for coastal ecosystem health. However, the influence of ter-OM on eutrophication or oligotrophication processes of coastal ecosystems is largely unclear. Therefore, ter-OM, or ter-OM proxies are currently not included in most policies or monitoring programs on eutrophication. Nevertheless, ter-OM is increasingly recognized as a strong driver of aquatic productivity: By influencing underwater light conditions and nutrient- and carbon availability, increased ter-OM input may shift systems from autotrophic toward heterotrophic production, but also alter the interactions between benthic, and pelagic habitats. Thus, by changing baseline conditions in coastal zones, ongoing, and predicted changes in inputs of ter-OM due to climate change (e.g., in precipitation) and anthropogenic activities (e.g., reduced sulfate deposition, damming, and coastal erosion) may strongly modify eutrophication symptoms within affected ecosystems, but also hinder recovery from eutrophication following a reduction in nutrient loadings (i.e., oligotrophication). In this review, we aim to shed light upon the role of ter-OM for coastal eutrophication and oligotrophication processes and ecosystem health. Specifically, we (1) discuss the theoretical interactions between ter-OM and eutrophication and oligotrophication processes in coastal waters, (2) present global case studies where altered ter-OM supply to coastal ecosystems has shifted baseline conditions, with implications for eutrophication and oligotrophication processes, and (3) provide an outlook and recommendations for the future management of coastal zones given changes in ter-OM input. We conclude that it is essential to include and target all OM sources (i.e., also ter-OM) in monitoring programs to better understand the consequences of both eutrophication and oligotrophication processes on coastal ecosystems. Our review strongly urges to include ter-OM, or ter-OM proxies in eutrophication monitoring, and policies to safeguard coastal ecosystem health also under changing climatic conditions and globally increasing anthropogenic perturbations of coastal ecosystems.
Issues related to protection of the Arctic environment are becoming increasingly urgent, as arctic ecosystems are vulnerable to increasing anthropogenic pressures. The problem of protecting Northern nature from the effects of persistent organic pollutants, which are dangerous for both biota and human health, is particularly acute. This case study analyses the existing normative acts regulating monitoring activities in the Russian Arctic. The paper emphasizes gaps in legal regulation, which are particularly prominent with regard to monitoring the quality of traditional food consumed by indigenous peoples. The author introduces proposals to change the current legislation to improve the efficiency of the state monitoring system in the Russian Arctic. Such changes will also help to harmonize monitoring activities in Russia with other Arctic States and to fill in the gaps in the Global Monitoring Reports and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) reports on persistent organic pollutants in traditional indigenous food.
Digital photography is widely used by coral reef monitoring programs to assess benthic status and trends. In addition to creating a permanent archive, photographic surveys can be rapidly conducted, which is important in environments where bottom-time is frequently limiting. However, substantial effort is required to manually analyze benthic images; which is expensive and leads to lags before data are available. Using previously analyzed imagery from NOAA’s Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program, we assessed the capacity of a trained and widely used machine-learning image analysis tool – CoralNet coralnet.ucsd.edu – to generate fully-automated benthic cover estimates for the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) and American Samoa. CoralNet was able to generate estimates of site-level coral cover for both regions that were highly comparable to those generated by human analysts (Pearson’s r > 0.97, and with bias of 1% or less). CoralNet was generally effective at estimating cover of common coral genera (Pearson’s r > 0.92 and with bias of 2% or less in 6 of 7 cases), but performance was mixed for other groups including algal categories, although generally better for American Samoa than MHI. CoralNet performance was improved by simplifying the classification scheme from genus to functional group and by training within habitat types, i.e., separately for coral-rich, pavement, boulder, or “other” habitats. The close match between human-generated and CoralNet-generated estimates of coral cover pooled to the scale of island and year demonstrates that CoralNet is capable of generating data suitable for assessing spatial and temporal patterns. The imagery we used was gathered from sites randomly located in <30 m hard-bottom at multiple islands and habitat-types per region, suggesting our results are likely to be widely applicable. As image acquisition is relatively straightforward, the capacity of fully-automated image analysis tools to minimize the need for resource intensive human analysts opens possibilities for enormous increases in the quantity and consistency of coral reef benthic data that could become available to researchers and managers.
One of the main challenges in assessing marine biodiversity is the lack of consistent approaches to monitor it. This threatens to undermine ocean best practice in marine monitoring, as it impedes a reduction in the bias and variance of sampled data and restricts the confidence in the advice that can be given. In particular, there is potential for confounding between the monitoring methods, their measured ecological properties, and the questions they seek to answer. Australia has developed significant long-term marine monitoring and observing programs and has one of the largest marine estates, including the world’s largest representative network of marine parks. This new network will require ongoing monitoring and evaluation, beyond what direct funding can support, which needs to be integrated in a standardized way with other national programs to develop sufficient monitoring capacity. The aim of this paper is to describe the process undertaken in developing a suite of field manuals that provide Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for marine sampling in Australian waters so that data are comparable over time and space, thereby supporting a robust, cost-effective, and objective national monitoring program. We encourage readers to refer to the complete manuals of interest at www.nespmarine.edu.au/field-manuals. We generally limit SOP development to benthic or demersal sampling, (multibeam, autonomous underwater vehicles, baited remoted underwater video (BRUV), towed imagery, grabs and box corers, sleds and trawls), with a few exceptions (e.g., pelagic BRUVs). Collaboration was a key characteristic of our approach so rather than single groups trying to impose their standards, more than 70 individuals from over 30 organizations contributed to the first version of this field manual package. We also discuss the challenges that arose while developing these national SOPs, the associated solutions that were implemented, and the plans for ensuring their long-term maintenance and national and international uptake. We anticipate that this paper will contribute to international collaborations by evoking valuable suggestions and sharing of lessons learnt from other national initiatives so that we might work toward a global ocean best practice for biological and geoscientific monitoring of the marine environment.
Detecting the effects of introduced artificial structures on the marine environment relies upon research and monitoring programs that can provide baseline data and the necessary statistical power to detect biological and/or ecological change over relevant spatial and temporal scales. Here we report on, and assess the use of, Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) systems as a technique to monitor diversity, abundance and assemblage composition data to evaluate the effects of marine renewable energy infrastructure on mobile epi-benthic species. The results from our five-year study at a wave energy development facility demonstrate how annual natural variation (time) and survey design (spatial scale and power) are important factors in the ability to robustly detect change in common ecological metrics of benthic and bentho-pelagic ecosystems of the northeast Atlantic. BRUV systems demonstrate their capacity for use in temperate, high energy marine environments, but also how weather, logistical and technical issues require increased sampling effort to ensure statistical power to detect relevant change is achieved. These factors require consideration within environmental impact assessments if such survey methods are to identify and contribute towards the management of potential positive or negative effects on benthic systems.
Barrier islands are dynamic ecosystems that change gradually from coastal processes, including currents and tides, and rapidly from episodic events, such as storms. These islands provide many important ecosystem services, including storm protection and erosion control to the mainland, habitat for fish and wildlife, and tourism. Habitat maps, developed by scientists, provide a critical tool for monitoring changes to these dynamic ecosystems. Barrier island monitoring often requires custom habitat maps due to several factors, including island size and the classification of unique geomorphology-based habitats, such as beach, dune, and barrier flats. In this study, we reviewed barrier-island-specific habitat mapping efforts and highlighted common habitat class types, source data, and mapping approaches. We also developed a framework for mapping geomorphology-based barrier island habitats using a rule-based, geographic object-based image analysis approach, which included the use of field data, tide data, high-resolution orthophotography, and lidar data. This framework integrates several barrier island mapping advancements with regard to the use of landscape position information for automated dune extraction and the use of Monte Carlo analyses for the treatment of elevation uncertainty for elevation-dependent habitats. Specifically, we used the uncertainty analyses to refine automated dune delineation based on elevation relative to extreme storm water levels and to increase the accuracy of intertidal and supratidal/upland habitat delineation. We found that dune extraction results were enhanced when elevation relative to storm water levels and visual interpretation were also applied. This framework could also be applied to beach–dune systems found along a mainland.
Applying a proteomic approach for biomonitoring marine environments offers a useful tool for identifying organisms’ stress responses, with benthic filter-feeders being ideal candidates for this practice. Here, we investigated the proteomic profile of two solitary ascidians (Chordata, Ascidiacea): Microcosmus exasperatus, collected from five sites along the Mediterranean coast of Israel; and Polycarpa mytiligera collected from four sites along the Red Sea coast. 193 and 13 proteins in M. exasperatus and P. mytiligera, respectively, demonstrated a significant differential expression. Significant differences were found between the proteomes from the northern and the southern sites along both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea coasts. Some of the significant proteins had previously been shown to be affected by environmental stressors, and thus have the potential to be further developed as biomarkers. Obtaining a proteomic profile of field-collected ascidians provides a useful tool for the early-detection of a stress response in ascidians worldwide.