The Pacific Lamprey Entosphenus tridentatus, an anadromous fish native to the northern Pacific Ocean and bordering freshwater habitats, has recently experienced steep declines in abundance and range contractions along the West Coast of North America. During the early 1990s, Native American tribes recognized the declining numbers of lamprey and championed their importance. In 2012, 26 entities signed a conservation agreement to coordinate and implement restoration and research for Pacific Lamprey. Regional plans have identified numerous threats, monitoring needs, and strategies to conserve and restore Pacific Lamprey during their freshwater life stages. Prime among these are needs to improve lamprey passage, restore freshwater habitats, educate stakeholders, and implement lamprey-specific research and management protocols. Key unknowns include range-wide trends in status, population dynamics, population delineation, limiting factors, and marine influences. We synthesize these key unknowns, with a focus on the freshwater life stages of lamprey in the Columbia River basin.
“Ocean connectivity” is a dynamic and rapidly evolving field of research in marine science, partly because there is an increasing demand for information on connectivity that informs effective assessment and management of marine resources. Achieving this will require a better alignment between ocean connectivity tools and developments and the needs and challenges of assessments and conservation. For these reasons, the ICES Journal of Marine Science solicited contributions to the article theme set (TS), “Beyond ocean connectivity.” We briefly summarize the nine articles that appear herein, grouping them into four general topics: methodological advances, population dynamics and assessment implications of connectivity, spatial and management implications, and connectivity in ecosystem processes. We also discuss the challenges facing ocean connectivity research if it is to effectively support advancing fisheries assessment frameworks and integrated ecosystem approaches. We hope that the contributions included in this TS serve to convince managers and fisheries scientists of the need to incorporate results from research on connectivity.
Despite major advances in our capacity to measure marine larval connectivity (i.e. the pattern of transport of marine larvae from spawning to settlement sites) and the importance of these measurements for ecological and management questions, uncertainty in experimental estimates of marine larval connectivity has been given little attention. We review potential uncertainty sources in empirical larval connectivity studies and develop Bayesian statistical methods for estimating these uncertainties based on standard techniques in the mark-recapture and genetics literature. These methods are implemented in an existing R package for working with connectivity data, ConnMatTools, and applied to a number of published connectivity estimates. We find that the small sample size of collected settlers at destination sites is a dominant source of uncertainty in connectivity estimates in many published results. For example, widths of 95% CIs for relative connectivity, the value of which is necessarily between 0 and 1, exceeded 0.5 for many published connectivity results, complicating using individual results to conclude that marine populations are relatively closed or open. This “small sample size” uncertainty is significant even for studies with near-exhaustive sampling of spawners and settlers. Though largely ignored in the literature, the magnitude of this uncertainty is straightforward to assess. Better accountability of this and other uncertainties is needed in the future so that marine larval connectivity studies can fulfill their promises of providing important ecological insights and informing management questions (e.g. related to marine protected area network design, and stock structure of exploited organisms). In addition to using the statistical methods developed here, future studies should consistently evaluate and report a small number of critical factors, such as the exhaustivity of spawner and settler sampling, and the mating structure of target species in genetic studies.
The Zoological Department of Oxford University has reviewed and synthesised major marine science findings which have been published since Rio+20 in 2012.
The purpose of this synthesis is to determine how our understanding of the ocean at an Earth System level, with a particular focus on the role of the high seas, has changed in the last five years.
The synthesis has highlighted conclusions from 271 published papers and reports relevant to the functions of the ocean.
Estuarine artificialization eliminates estuarine ecosystems’ original natural attributes on which estuarine health and function are dependent, and induces various ecological and social problems. Preventing estuaries from being overly artificialized and implementing ecological restoration for damaged estuaries is an urgent management concern. This study intended to quantitatively identify the artificialized degree of estuarine areas of interest at different stages to depict their state evolution trajectory by acquiring and analyzing the spatiotemporal maps of estuarine ecosystem naturalness. The Xiaoqinghe estuary, located in the southern coast of Laizhou Bay, was selected as a case study area. The ecosystem naturalness and regional naturalness in this estuary were evaluated through the developed naturalness index, which integrates the dynamic information of land cover and human interference intensity into an assessment framework of ecosystem naturalness spectrum created here. Results showed that the Xiaoqinghe estuary was a relatively natural estuary with higher naturalness in the early 1980s, but was highly artificialized in 2010–2015, with its average naturalness reducing by 43% over the past three decades. Those areas occupied by salt marshes and shrub-grass lowlands in 1984 have greatly deviated from their original natural state due to the highest loss of regional naturalness. The current state characteristics suggest that the Xiaoqinghe estuary has considerably lost its ability to conserve biodiversity and provide ecosystem services, and the intensity and manner of human activities should be adjusted and limited spatially. The findings and methodology illustrated in this paper can also contribute to the sustainable management of artificialized estuaries elsewhere.
Coastal lagoons with small catchment basins are highly sensitive to natural processes and anthropogenic activities. To figure out the environmental changes of a coastal lagoon and its contribution to carbon burial, two sediment cores were collected in Xincun Lagoon, southeastern Hainan Island and 210Pb activities, grain size parameters, total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN), total inorganic carbon (TIC) and stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) were measured. The results show that in 1770–1815, the decreasing water exchange capacity with outer open water, probably caused by the shifting and narrowing of the tidal inlet, not only diminished the currents and fined the sediments in the lagoon, but also reduced the organic matter of marine sources. From 1815 to 1950, the sedimentary environment of Xincun Lagoon was frequently influenced by storm events. These extreme events resulted in the high fluctuation of sediment grain size and sorting, as well as the great variation in contributions of terrestrial (higher plants, soils) and marine sources (phytoplankton, algae, seagrass). The extremely high content of TIC, compared to TOC before 1950 could be attributed to the large-scale coverage of coral reefs. However, with the boost of seawater aquaculture activities after 1970, the health growth of coral species was severely threatened, and corresponding production and inorganic carbon burial flux reduced. The apparent enhanced inorganic carbon burial rate after 1990 might result from the concomitant carbonate debris produced by seawater aquaculture. This result is important for local government long-term coastal management and environmental planning.
The oceans are deteriorating at a fast pace. Conservation measures, such as Marine Protected Areas, are being implemented to relieve areas from local stressors and allow populations to restore to natural levels. Successful networks of MPAs operate if the space among MPAs is smaller than the dispersal capacity of the species under protection. We studied connectivity patterns across populations in a series of MPAs in the common yellowhead Jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons. Using the power of genome-wide variation, we estimated that the maximum effective dispersal is 8.3 km. We found that MPAs exchange migrants likely via intermediate unprotected habitats through stepping stone dispersal. At scales >50 km such connectivity is decreased, particularly across the Mona Passage. The MPA network studied would be unable to maintain connectivity of these small benthic fishes if habitat in between them is extirpated. Our study highlights the power of SNPs to derive effective dispersal distance and the ability of SNPs to make inferences from single individuals. Given that overall reef fish diversity is driven by species with life histories similar to that of the yellowhead jawfish, managers face a challenge to develop strategies that allow connectivity and avoid isolation of populations and their possible extinction.
The end of the Pliocene marked the beginning of a period of great climatic variability and sea-level oscillations. Here, based on a new analysis of the fossil record, we identify a previously unrecognized extinction event among marine megafauna (mammals, seabirds, turtles and sharks) during this time, with extinction rates three times higher than in the rest of the Cenozoic, and with 36% of Pliocene genera failing to survive into the Pleistocene. To gauge the potential consequences of this event for ecosystem functioning, we evaluate its impacts on functional diversity, focusing on the 86% of the megafauna genera that are associated with coastal habitats. Seven (14%) coastal functional entities (unique trait combinations) disappeared, along with 17% of functional richness (volume of the functional space). The origination of new genera during the Pleistocene created new functional entities and contributed to a functional shift of 21%, but minimally compensated for the functional space lost. Reconstructions show that from the late Pliocene onwards, the global area of the neritic zone significantly diminished and exhibited amplified fluctuations. We hypothesize that the abrupt loss of productive coastal habitats, potentially acting alongside oceanographic alterations, was a key extinction driver. The importance of area loss is supported by model analyses showing that animals with high energy requirements (homeotherms) were more susceptible to extinction. The extinction event we uncover here demonstrates that marine megafauna were more vulnerable to global environmental changes in the recent geological past than previously thought.
Genetic analyses of marine population structure often find only slight geographic differentiation in species with high dispersal potential. Interpreting the significance of this slight genetic signal has been difficult because even mild genetic structure implies very limited demographic exchange between populations, but slight differentiation could also be due to sampling error. Examination of genetic isolation by distance, in which close populations are more similar than distant ones, has the potential to increase confidence in the significance of slight genetic differentiation. Simulations of one-dimensional stepping stone populations with particular larval dispersal regimes shows that isolation by distance is most obvious when comparing populations separated by 2–5 times the mean larval dispersal distance. Available data on fish and invertebrates can be calibrated with this simulation approach and suggest mean dispersal distances of 25–150 km.
Design of marine reserve systems requires an understanding of larval transport in and out of reserves, whether reserves will be self-seeding, whether they will accumulate recruits from surrounding exploited areas, and whether reserve networks can exchange recruits. Direct measurements of mean larval dispersal are needed to understand connectivity in a reserve system, but such measurements are extremely difficult. Genetic patterns of isolation by distance have the potential to add to direct measurement of larval dispersal distance and can help set the appropriate geographic scales on which marine reserve systems will function well.
Human-mediated introduction of nonnative species into coastal areas via aquaculture is one of the main pathways that can lead to biological invasions. To develop strategies to counteract invasions, it is critical to determine whether populations establishing in the wild are self-sustaining or based on repeated introductions. Invasions by the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) have been associated with the growing oyster aquaculture industry worldwide. In this study, temporal genetic variability of farmed and wild oysters from the largest enclosed bay in Ireland was assessed to reconstruct the recent biological history of the feral populations using 7 anonymous microsatellites and 7 microsatellites linked to expressed sequence tags (ESTs). There was no evidence of EST-linked markers showing footprints of selection. Allelic richness was higher in feral than in aquaculture samples (P = 0.003, paired t-test). Significant deviations from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium due to heterozygote deficiencies were detected for almost all loci and samples, most likely explained by the presence of null alleles. Relatively high genetic differentiation was found between aquaculture and feral oysters (largest pairwise multilocus FST 0.074, P < 0.01) and between year classes of oysters from aquaculture (largest pairwise multilocus FST 0.073, P < 0.01), which was also confirmed by the strong separation of aquaculture and wild samples using Bayesian clustering approaches. A 10-fold higher effective population size (Ne) and a high number of private alleles in wild oysters suggest an established self-sustaining feral population. The wild oyster population studied appears demographically independent from the current aquaculture activities in the estuary and alternative scenarios of introduction pathways are discussed.