Multi-use marine parks achieve conservation through spatial management of activities. Zoning of marine parks in New South Wales, Australia, includes high conservation areas and special purpose zones (SPZ) where maritime activities are concentrated. Although such measures geographically constrain anthropogenic impacts, we have limited understanding of potential ecological effects. We assessed sediment communities and contaminants adjacent to boating infrastructure (boat ramps, jetties and a marina) in a SPZ from the Clyde Estuary in Batemans Marine Park. Metal concentrations and fines content were elevated at boating structures compared to reference sites. Species richness was higher at sites with boating structures, where capitellid polychaetes and nematodes dominated the communities. Changes associated with boating structures were localised and did not extend beyond breakwalls or to reference sites outside the SPZ. The study highlights the benefits of appropriate zoning in a multi-use marine park and the potential to minimise stress on pristine areas through the application of spatial management.
Pollution and Marine Debris
A report released today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the occasion of World Oceans' Day recommends a precautionary approach toward microplastic management, with an eventual phase-out and ban of their use in personal care products and cosmetics (PCCP).
The study, entitled Plastic in Cosmetics: Are We Polluting the Environment Through our Personal Care: Plastic ingredients that contribute to marine microplastic litter' is a compilation of currently available knowledge on the linkages between cosmetics and plastic pollution in the oceans.
For the last 50 years, microparticles of plastic, called microplastics, have been used in personal care products and cosmetics (PCCP), replacing natural options in a large number of cosmetic and personal care formulations. Washed down the drain, those particles cannot be collected for recycling, nor do they decompose in wastewater treatment facilities, inevitably ending up in the global ocean, where it fragments and remains.
During an environmental impact study of an accidental oil spill in the Campeche Sound in October 2007, we examined the helminth parasites of the benthic flatfish Cyclopsetta chittendeni as well as the concentrations of hydrocarbons and heavy metals in the sediment. The aim of this study was to determine the potential effects of these contaminants on the helminth communities of the flatfish. A total of 427 hosts were examined, and 16,895 helminths, representing 17 species, were obtained from two surveys (March and July, 2008). Statistically significant negative associations were observed between the hydrocarbons and helminth parasite abundances using multivariate methods. The results suggest that in October 2007, the oil spill had a strong negative effect on these helminth communities. However, after five months, the impacted stations were re-populated by both the flatfish and helminths. The most likely explanation for this rapid recovery is the rescue effect from non-impacted habitats to impacted stations.
Accelerated contamination of habitats with debris has caused increased effort to determine ecological impacts. Strikingly, most work on organisms focuses on sublethal responses to plastic debris. This is controversial because (i) researchers have ignored medical insights about the mechanisms that link effects of debris across lower levels of biological organization to disease and mortality, and (ii) debris is considered non-hazardous by policy-makers, possibly because individuals can be injured or removed from populations and assemblages without ecological impacts. We reviewed the mechanisms that link effects of debris across lower levels of biological organization to assemblages and populations. Using plastic, we show microplastics reduce the ‘health’, feeding, growth and survival of ecosystem engineers. Larger debris alters assemblages because fishing-gear and tyres kill animals and damage habitat-forming plants, and because floating bottles facilitate recruitment and survival of novel taxa. Where ecological linkages are not known, we show how to establish hypothetical links by synthesizing studies to assess the likelihood of impacts. We also consider how population models examine ecological linkages and guide management of ecological impacts. We show that by focusing on linkages to ecological impacts rather than the presence of debris and its sublethal impacts, we could reduce threats posed by debris.
The fishery for spiny lobster Panulirus argus in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is well chronicled, but little information is available on the prevalence of lost or abandoned lobster traps. In 2007, towed-diver surveys were used to identify and count pieces of trap debris and any other marine debris encountered. Trap debris density (debris incidences/ha) in historic trap-use zones and in representative benthic habitats was estimated. Trap debris was not proportionally distributed with fishing effort. Coral habitats had the greatest density of trap debris despite trap fishers’ reported avoidance of coral reefs while fishing. The accumulation of trap debris on coral emphasizes the role of wind in redistributing traps and trap debris in the sanctuary. We estimated that 85,548±23,387 (mean±SD) ghost traps and 1,056,127±124,919 nonfishing traps or remnants of traps were present in the study area. Given the large numbers of traps in the fishery and the lack of effective measures for managing and controlling the loss of gear, the generation of trap debris will likely continue in proportion to the number of traps deployed in the fishery. Focused removal of submerged trap debris from especially vulnerable habitats such as reefs and hardbottom, where trap debris density is high, would mitigate key habitat issues but would not address ghost fishing or the cost of lost gear.
Wildfire is a common disturbance that can significantly alter vegetation in watersheds and affect the rate of sediment and nutrient transport to adjacent nearshore oceanic environments. Changes in runoff resulting from heterogeneous wildfire effects are not well-understood due to both limitations in the field measurement of runoff and temporally-limited spatial data available to parameterize runoff models. We apply replicable, scalable methods for modeling wildfire impacts on sediment and nonpoint source pollutant export into the nearshore environment, and assess relationships between wildfire severity and runoff. Nonpoint source pollutants were modeled using a GIS-based empirical deterministic model parameterized with multi-year land cover data to quantify fire-induced increases in transport to the nearshore environment. Results indicate post-fire concentration increases in phosphorus by 161 percent, sediments by 350 percent and total suspended solids (TSS) by 53 percent above pre-fire years. Higher wildfire severity was associated with the greater increase in exports of pollutants and sediment to the nearshore environment, primarily resulting from the conversion of forest and shrubland to grassland. This suggests that increasing wildfire severity with climate change will increase potential negative impacts to adjacent marine ecosystems. The approach used is replicable and can be utilized to assess the effects of other types of land cover change at landscape scales. It also provides a planning and prioritization framework for management activities associated with wildfire, including suppression, thinning, and post-fire rehabilitation, allowing for quantification of potential negative impacts to the nearshore environment in coastal basins.
The Tupinambás Ecological Station (TES) is a Marine Protected Area consisting of two sectors: the Archipelago of Alcatrazes and the Cabras and Palmas islets. This investigation aimed to provide a first diagnosis of the concentrations of metals (Al, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Ni, Pb, Zn), As and P in sediments from the TES. 24 sediment samples were collected in both sectors using a Van Veen grab sampler. Sediment textures and levels of Organic Matter (OM) and CaCO3 were determined, as well as the concentrations of the above-mentioned elements after partial acid digestion. Sediments were predominantly sandy. Higher levels of CaCO3 occurred in the Alcatrazes sector, whereas the OM contents were higher in the islets sector. Metals concentrations were low and associated with fines, while P and As presented a different behavior. The observed concentrations to all studies elements in sediments from the TES were considered as background values.
Radiation doses to marine biota near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been estimated for the immediate aftermath and subsequent period of the accident. Dose estimations using monitoring data have been complemented by means of dynamic transfer modelling, improving on the more traditional equilibrium transfer approach. Earlier assessments using equilibrium transfer models overestimated the exposures in the immediate aftermath of the accident, whereas dynamic transfer modelling brings them more in line with the doses calculated from monitored activity concentrations in the biota. On that basis, marine biota populations in the vicinity of Fukushima do not seem to be at significant risk. The situation in the late post-accident period shows a tendency for lower exposures, but radiocaesium in sediments and biota persists to this day, with some organisms inhabiting local hotspots. Little is known about how long radionuclides will continue to remain in the local environment, or the long-term effects on populations due to limited knowledge on the effects of chronic radiation exposures to marine organisms. Therefore, the marine environment at Fukushima needs further study. The Fukushima nuclear accident remains an ongoing problem for marine radioecology, requiring constant re-evaluation of the cumulative extent of contamination and effects on the environment for years to come.
The Mediterranean Sea (MS) is a semienclosed basin that is considered one of the most oligotrophic seas in the world. In such an environment, inputs of allochthonous nutrients and micronutrients play an important role in sustaining primary productivity. Atmospheric deposition and riverine runoff have been traditionally considered the main external sources of nutrients to the MS, whereas the role of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) has been largely ignored. However, given the large Mediterranean shore length relative to its surface area, SGD may be a major conveyor of dissolved compounds to the MS. Here, we used a 228Ra mass balance to demonstrate that the total SGD contributes up to (0.3–4.8)⋅1012 m3⋅y−1 to the MS, which appears to be equal or larger by a factor of 16 to the riverine discharge. SGD is also a major source of dissolved inorganic nutrients to the MS, with median annual fluxes of 190⋅109, 0.7⋅109, and 110⋅109 mol for nitrogen, phosphorous, and silica, respectively, which are comparable to riverine and atmospheric inputs. This corroborates the profound implications that SGD may have for the biogeochemical cycles of the MS. Inputs of other dissolved compounds (e.g., iron, carbon) via SGD could also be significant and should be investigated.
There is growing concern that modifications to the global environment such as ocean acidification and increased ultraviolet radiation may interact with anthropogenic pollutants to adversely affect the future marine environment. Despite this, little is known about the nature of the potential risks posed by such interactions. Here, we performed a multifactorial microcosm experiment to assess the impact of ocean acidification, ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation and oil hydrocarbon contamination on sediment chemistry, the microbial community (composition and function) and biochemical marker response of selected indicator species. We found that increased ocean acidification and oil contamination in the absence of UV-B will significantly alter bacterial composition by, among other things, greatly reducing the relative abundance of Desulfobacterales, known to be important oil hydrocarbon degraders. Along with changes in bacterial composition, we identified concomitant shifts in the composition of oil hydrocarbons in the sediment and an increase in oxidative stress effects on our indicator species. Interestingly, our study identifies UV-B as a critical component in the interaction between these factors, as its presence alleviates harmful effects caused by the combination of reduced pH and oil pollution. The model system used here shows that the interactive effect of reduced pH and oil contamination can adversely affect the structure and functioning of sediment benthic communities, with the potential to exacerbate the toxicity of oil hydrocarbons in marine ecosystems.