The objective of this issue of «Science for MPA Management» is to explore the process of the ecosystem approach adopted in 2008 by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the European Union. In this context, Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are identified as a key element in the implementation of monitoring that aims to report on the progress made towards the achievement of the Good Environmental Status of the Mediterranean. Their role must nevertheless be strengthened, with in particular a potential support from the MedPAN network to coordinate monitoring in MPAs on different components related to the EcAP process on a Mediterranean scale.
The bias in catch time series data that occurs when improvements in fisheries catch reporting systems (e.g., consideration of a previously unmonitored fishery, or region) lead to an increase in current catches without the corresponding past catches being corrected retroactively, here called ‘presentist bias’ is described, and two examples, pertaining to Mozambique and Tanzania are given. This bias has the effect of generating catch time series at the aggregate that appear ‘stable’ or increasing when in fact catches are declining over time, with potentially serious consequences for the assessment of the status of national fisheries, or in interpreting the global landings data disseminated by the FAO. The presentist bias can be compensated for by retroactive national data corrections as done, e.g., through catch reconstructions.
Ecological theory suggests that large-scale patterns such as community stability can be influenced by changes in interspecific interactions that arise from the behavioural and/or physiological responses of individual species varying over time1,2,3. Although this theory has experimental support2,4,5, evidence from natural ecosystems is lacking owing to the challenges of tracking rapid changes in interspecific interactions (known to occur on timescales much shorter than a generation time)6and then identifying the effect of such changes on large-scale community dynamics. Here, using tools for analysing nonlinear time series6,7,8,9 and a 12-year-long dataset of fortnightly collected observations on a natural marine fish community in Maizuru Bay, Japan, we show that short-term changes in interaction networks influence overall community dynamics. Among the 15 dominant species, we identify 14 interspecific interactions to construct a dynamic interaction network. We show that the strengths, and even types, of interactions change with time; we also develop a time-varying stability measure based on local Lyapunov stability for attractor dynamics in non-equilibrium nonlinear systems. We use this dynamic stability measure to examine the link between the time-varying interaction network and community stability. We find seasonal patterns in dynamic stability for this fish community that broadly support expectations of current ecological theory. Specifically, the dominance of weak interactions and higher species diversity during summer months are associated with higher dynamic stability and smaller population fluctuations. We suggest that interspecific interactions, community network structure and community stability are dynamic properties, and that linking fluctuating interaction networks to community-level dynamic properties is key to understanding the maintenance of ecological communities in nature.
Here, we report trading of endangered shark species in a world hotspot for elasmobranch conservation in Brazil. Data on shark fisheries are scarce in Brazil, although the northern and northeastern regions have the highest indices of shark bycatch. Harvest is made primarily with processed carcasses lacking head and fins, which hampers reliable species identification and law enforcement on illegal catches. We used partial sequences of two mitochondrial genes (COI and/or NADH2) to identify 17 shark species from 427 samples being harvested and marketed on the northern coast of Brazil. Nine species (53%) are listed under some extinction threat category according to Brazilian law and international authorities (IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature; CITES – Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The number increases to 13 (76%) if we also consider the Near Threatened category. Hammerhead sharks are under threat worldwide, and composed 18.7% of samples, with Sphyrna mokarran being the fourth most common species among samples. As illegal trade of threatened shark species is a worldwide conservation problem, molecular identification of processed meat or specimens lacking diagnostic body parts is a highly effective tool for species identification and law enforcement.
Shipping is the dominant marine anthropogenic noise source in the world's oceans, yet we know little about vessel encounter rates, exposure levels and behavioural reactions for cetaceans in the wild, many of which rely on sound for foraging, communication and social interactions. Here, we used animal-borne acoustic tags to measure vessel noise exposure and foraging efforts in seven harbour porpoises in highly trafficked coastal waters. Tagged porpoises encountered vessel noise 17–89% of the time and occasional high-noise levels coincided with vigorous fluking, bottom diving, interrupted foraging and even cessation of echolocation, leading to significantly fewer prey capture attempts at received levels greater than 96 dB re 1 µPa (16 kHz third-octave). If such exposures occur frequently, porpoises, which have high metabolic requirements, may be unable to compensate energetically with negative long-term fitness consequences. That shipping noise disrupts foraging in the high-frequency-hearing porpoise raises concerns that other toothed whale species may also be affected.
Synchronised multispecies mass spawning events are striking features of reproduction in corals. This synchronous gamete release of thousands of animals over vast stretches of reef is thought to be cued by rhythms of the Moon. However, the mechanisms are not fully understood. We propose an explanation that may contribute to understanding this mechanism, that spawning is triggered by the coincidence of two factors, each in different lunar rhythms. We investigate this proposal in case studies using seven years of coral spawning data from two locations: Kochi, Japan and Lizard Island, Australia. Our calculations show that a feature in a lunar synodic rhythm (the third quarter) will synchronise with a feature in a lunar non-synodic rhythm (the zero declination) usually once, although occasionally twice in a year. Supported by data on the date of spawning from the two locations, we suggest that this coincidence of lunar factors exerts an important influence on the timing of annual mass spawning in corals. This coincidence may be associated with low atmospheric pressure. Spawning at the time of the third lunar quarter may favour fertilisation success due to the reduced currents during neap tides associated with the lower gravitational pressure of the lunar quarters.
Fishing Reserves (FRs) are primarily designated for the enhancement of local fisheries and, secondarily, for biodiversity conservation. In Spain, FRs are considered marine protected areas (MPAs) and included in the country's MPA network. MPAs’ ecological effectiveness is linked to a number of legal, managerial and bio-physical factors. With the amount of MPA area rapidly rising and conservation funds largely stagnant or decreasing, rapid, cost-effective MPA assessment techniques are becoming increasingly useful to verify fulfillment of global conservation targets and ascertain potential conservation effectiveness. Here, a rapid MPA protection assessment framework and one MPA ecological effectiveness framework were applied to the Spanish Network of 10 FRs (FRN): the MaPAF and NEOLI frameworks. The FRN was moderately legally protected, with over 50.5% of its area having three or more overlapping legal designations, but only 3.8% of the FRN's area being no-take. All FRs had management plans and active surveillance. According to MaPAF, Columbretes FR was the most highly legally protected whereas Cabo de Palos was the FR with the greatest managerial effort. Both rank highest in protection. In contrast, Masía Blanca FR and Alborán FR were the least legally protected whereas Alborán FR and Graciosa FR were the least managerially protected FRs of the FRN and rank the lowest in protection, respectively. According to the NEOLI framework, Columbretes would also be the most effective FR whereas Masía Blanca FR would be the least ecologically effective. These results can help to spur and better allocate conservation efforts across the fastly growing Spanish MPA network.
Ship’s ballast water has been a vector for the spreading of nonindigenous invasive species (NIS) around the globe for more than a century and has had devastating impact on aquatic ecosystems in many regions. Due to the harsh climate, shipping activities in Arctic waters have been limited compared to many parts of the world but will increase in the coming years due to climate changes. This will potentially affect the pristine Arctic marine ecosystems by introduction of NIS. In this chapter, we present the international ballast water regulations that have entered into force and the specific challenges of ballast water management in relation to the Arctic environment and marine ecosystems. We discuss the risk of NIS affecting the Arctic marine ecosystems including the impact of increased shipping activity, changes in living conditions of marine organisms because of climate changes and lack of knowledge of the eco-physiological boundaries and distributions of Arctic marine species. It is concluded that at present only a few marine NIS have been recorded in the Arctic area. Despite the existing and planned ballast water regulations, NIS establishment in the region will increase with an unknown magnitude due to lack of biological data.
The Arctic has been an integrated part of the international system for centuries, and systemic developments have deeply influenced the region and its communities. Central Arctic Ocean marine resource governance is in the nexus of climate change and international systemic developments. The international systemic context for the Arctic is: The rise of China and emerging Asian economies driving gradual power transition from Western to Eastern states. Struggles continue over the domestic order and international position of post-Soviet Russia, where either side considers whether to escalate the Ukraine crisis horizontally to the Arctic. The USA and China interact concerning governing Arctic marine resources as Arctic Ocean coastal state/status quo power and fishing nation/rising power. Russia and the West choose not to escalate the Ukraine crisis horizontally into Arctic marine resource management. Co-creating of knowledge and epistemic communities are important for Arctic status quo and rising Asian countries to manage power transition in the Arctic and for Russia and the West to continue Arctic cooperation despite political crisis elsewhere.
Future estimates indicate that the reduction of the Arctic ice cap will open up new areas and increase the viability of the region to be increasingly used for international shipping (Liu and Kronbak, J Trans Geo 18(3):434–444. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2009.08.004, 2010). The Arctic sea routes and related coastal area are therefore gaining increasing levels of interest, as they become a more attractive alternative for maritime transport. This demand for new infrastructure and development in areas where there has previously been little or none, presents a unique situation to analyze. The increased interest and demand for new development along Arctic sea routes through an environmentally sensitive region make the Arctic an ideal area of which to study the transition toward liquefied natural gas becoming the prominent marine fuel.
We must develop a better understanding of how and under what conditions such a transition will take place and who will make decisions that will influence any such transition. Exploring past and current aspects of maritime and energy governance is an important step in developing an understanding of how a transition towards liquefied natural gas could re-shape our understanding of Arctic governance.
In Easter Island, most of fisheries regulations are top-down implemented by the central fisheries authority located ~4000 km eastwards. This could generate problems in regulations compliance, given the cultural differences between the western worldview and Polynesian culture of Easter Island. A total of 18 issues that must be considered previously to an intervention in the island were identified. Four of them scored the highest difference between Rapanui and public services representatives. Among them, “Integrating traditions and culture” had a little priority for the public services representatives, but was the most important for the Rapanui. According to the public services representatives in Easter Island and local fishermen, there is a little compliance with regulations related to fisheries and, due to cultural aspects, it is not possible to enforce regulations and apply sanctions. The low compliance with fisheries regulations is due to the lack of representativeness of regulations. Interventions in the island are based on western worldview that does not fit with social and ecological domains of social-ecological system. A flexible governance system, based on decision making at local level in line with local tradition is needed to navigate to a resource management and conservation in Easter Island.
This literature review encompasses more than one-hundred and sixty worldwide studies on artificial reefs (ARs) in terms of their design, application, performance and management. Over the past three decades, research on ARs has increased remarkably, suggesting an increase in social and economic aspects of ARs. The scope of AR research has largely expanded from early AR design and deployment to improve fisheries to various additional purposes. In particular, recent research on ARs has had a tendency to focus on variations in the community structure or composition of ARs, suggesting that the purpose of AR research has shifted from improving fisheries as a resource to rehabilitation of marine ecosystems. Most countries are expected to make active use of AR functions, even if the objective of deployment might be different for each case. Consequently, AR research will most likely expand and evolve to span multiple purposes in the future.
During the past decade, global environmental policy discussions have encouraged countries to engage in an ecosystem approach to managing the oceans. An ecosystem approach involves the integrated management of species, other natural services, and the multiple uses of the coast. Improving ecosystem based management efforts requires a better understanding of how it is included within national level policies that influence marine resource management. Chile has committed to implement international recommendations to include ecosystem based management. This study operationalizes an approach to assess the extent to which ecosystem based management is being implemented at national scales through the synthesis of agenda setting documents and national level policy/regulatory responses. The study specifically searches for ecosystem based management principles, as defined by the Convention of Biological Diversity in State of the Nation presidential speeches, national sectorial policies, national decrees and national programs issued between 1990 and 2014 (n = 1335 documents). Results show that although national level policies in Chile increasingly share common grounds with ecosystem based management principles, the overall approach is poorly mainstreamed into agenda setting speeches and reports. Working with existing institutional settings and institutional capacity are key features to maintain trajectories for the implementation of ecosystem based management in national policies. The approach presented complements research on marine policy implementation by effectively informing how national level policies can be analyzed under the lens of ecosystem based management.
Increasingly, marine renewable energy developments are viewed as an opportunity to meet climate change obligations, with the added benefit of powering the economy and the creation of jobs. Technical, economic and engineering challenges co-exist with governance challenges in the development of large-scale marine renewable energy projects. This paper addresses the question, if the prerequisites for sustainable project development are evident in selected case studies. It also asks what lessons can be learned from current practice in the context of energy governance at the local level. The authors argue that these lessons can be central enablers to support decision makers in future programmes, to better understand how to build the enabling conditions for programme implementation towards renewable energy at higher spatial scales of governance, importantly the national level. The study builds on a multiple stakeholder approach involving interviews and group discussions with key individuals from industry, government and civil society in emerging pilot programmes along the East Coast of the United States (U.S.). New policy windows were opening at the time of the analysis and ambitious development was underway by a range of actors who are driving progress in the sector and positioning the area to become a major provider of blue energy.
Fisheries represent a fundamental resource linking social and ecological systems. Yet, unsustainable fishing regimes prevail across many tropical regions as a result of growing consumer demand and market expansion. Using the extensive reef-fish trade between Chuuk and Guam (Micronesia) as a case study, we examined 12 years of commercial reef-fish export data to capture both inter-annual and intra-annual trends. Reef-fish exports from Chuuk increased steadily between 2003 and 2010 fueled by increasing demand on Guam, but declined sharply from 2010 to 2014 as export costs grew and profit margins were reduced. Intra-annual examinations furthered that low winds and new moon periods were the strongest drivers of daily exports during the initial years of the study, but the governmental disbursement of food-stamp allowances on Guam became the strongest driver in later years when profit margins were lower. Seasonal cycles were also influential, as exports within each year peaked during the Catholic lent season. In sum, the Chuuk-Guam reef-fish trade industry became increasingly dependent on opportunistic demand from Guam, while environmental regimes evolved to become secondary drivers of export volume. The ability to meet foreign demand may suggest a sustainable fishery in Chuuk, however, mounting evidence suggests that consistent supply to international markets masks growing, unsustainable harvesting regimes. Dwindling profits may lead to instability in Guam’s fresh reef-fish trade industry, and also suggested uncertain futures for Chuuk fishers, Guam retailers, and a society dependent on healthy protein. We last compared the sequential expansion of Guam’s reef-fish acquisition footprint across the Indo-Pacific with expansions reported for the Hong Kong live reef food fish trade industry, highlighting the growing impacts of population centers on small-scale coral-reef fisheries as markets globalize.
The freshwater–marine transition that characterizes an estuarine system can provide multiple entry options for invading species, yet the relative importance of this gradient in determining the functional contribution of invading species has received little attention. The ecological consequences of species invasion are routinely evaluated within a freshwater versus marine context, even though many invasive species can inhabit a wide range of salinities. We investigate the functional consequences of different sizes of Corbicula fluminea—an invasive species able to adapt to a wide range of temperatures and salinity—across the freshwater–marine transition in the presence versus absence of warming. Specifically, we characterize how C. fluminea affect fluid and particle transport, important processes in mediating nutrient cycling (NH4-N, NO3-N, PO4-P). Results showed that sediment particle reworking (bioturbation) tends to be influenced by size and to a lesser extent, temperature and salinity; nutrient concentrations are influenced by different interactions between all variables (salinity, temperature, and size class). Our findings demonstrate the highly context-dependent nature of the ecosystem consequences of invasion and highlight the potential for species to simultaneously occupy multiple components of an ecosystem. Recognizing of this aspect of invasibility is fundamental to management and conservation efforts, particularly as freshwater and marine systems tend to be compartmentalized rather than be treated as a contiguous unit. We conclude that more comprehensive appreciation of the distribution of invasive species across adjacent habitats and different seasons is urgently needed to allow the true extent of biological introductions, and their ecological consequences, to be fully realized.
The Coral Triangle (CT) region of the Indo-Pacific realm harbors an extraordinary number of species, with richness decreasing away from this biodiversity hotspot. Despite multiple competing hypotheses, the dynamics underlying this regional diversity pattern remain poorly understood. Here, we use a time-calibrated evolutionary tree of living reef coral species, their current geographic ranges, and model-based estimates of regional rates of speciation, extinction, and geographic range shifts to show that origination rates within the CT are lower than in surrounding regions, a result inconsistent with the long-standing center of origin hypothesis. Furthermore, endemism of coral species in the CT is low, and the CT endemics are older than relatives found outside this region. Overall, our model results suggest that the high diversity of reef corals in the CT is largely due to range expansions into this region of species that evolved elsewhere. These findings strongly support the notion that geographic range shifts play a critical role in generating species diversity gradients. They also show that preserving the processes that gave rise to the striking diversity of corals in the CT requires protecting not just reefs within the hotspot, but also those in the surrounding areas.
Anthropogenic activities have led to the biotic homogenization of many ecological communities, yet in coastal systems this phenomenon remains understudied. In particular, activities that locally affect marine habitat-forming foundation species may perturb habitat and promote species with generalist, opportunistic traits, in turn affecting spatial patterns of biodiversity. Here, we quantified fish diversity in seagrass communities across 89 sites spanning 6° latitude along the Pacific coast of Canada, to test the hypothesis that anthropogenic disturbances homogenize (i.e., lower beta-diversity) assemblages within coastal ecosystems. We test for patterns of biotic homogenization at sites within different anthropogenic disturbance categories (low, medium, high) at two spatial scales (within and across regions) using both abundance- and incidence-based beta-diversity metrics. Our models provide clear evidence that fish communities in high anthropogenic disturbance seagrass areas are homogenized relative to those in low disturbance areas. These results were consistent across within-region comparisons using abundance- and incidence-based measures of beta-diversity, and in across-region comparisons using incidence-based measures. Physical and biotic characteristics of seagrass meadows also influenced fish beta-diversity. Biotic habitat characteristics including seagrass biomass and shoot density were more differentiated amongst high disturbance sites, potentially indicative of a perturbed environment. Indicator species and trait analyses revealed fishes associated with low disturbance sites had characteristics including stenotopy, lower swimming ability, and egg guarding behaviour. Our study is the first to show biotic homogenization of fishes across seagrass meadows within areas of relatively high human impact. These results support the importance of targeting conservation efforts in low anthropogenic disturbance areas across land- and seascapes, as well as managing anthropogenic impacts in high activity areas.
For conservation science to effectively inform management, research must focus on creating the scientific knowledge required to solve conservation problems. We identified research questions that, if answered, would increase the effectiveness of conservation and natural resource management practice and policy in Oceania's small-island developing states. We asked conservation professionals from academia, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations across the region to propose such questions and then identify which were of high priority in an online survey. We compared the high-priority questions with research questions identified globally and for other regions. Of 270 questions proposed by respondents, 38 were considered high priority, including: What are the highest priority areas for conservation in the face of increasing resource demand and climate change? How should marine protected areas be networked to account for connectivity and climate change? What are the most effective fisheries management policies that contribute to sustainable coral reef fisheries? High-priority questions related to the particular challenges of undertaking conservation on small-island developing states and the need for a research agenda that is responsive to the sociocultural context of Oceania. Research priorities for Oceania relative to elsewhere were broadly similar but differed in specific issues relevant to particular conservation contexts. These differences emphasize the importance of involving local practitioners in the identification of research priorities. Priorities were reasonably well aligned among sectoral groups. Only a few questions were widely considered answered, which may indicate a smaller-than-expected knowledge-action gap. We believe these questions can be used to strengthen research collaborations between scientists and practitioners working to further conservation and natural resource management in this region.
The Arctic Ocean and its surrounding shelf seas are warming much faster than the global average, which potentially opens up new distribution areas for temperate-origin marine phytoplankton. Using over three decades of continuous satellite observations, we show that increased inflow and temperature of Atlantic waters in the Barents Sea resulted in a striking poleward shift in the distribution of blooms of Emiliania huxleyi, a marine calcifying phytoplankton species. This species’ blooms are typically associated with temperate waters and have expanded north to 76°N, five degrees further north of its first bloom occurrence in 1989. E. huxleyi's blooms keep pace with the changing climate of the Barents Sea, namely ocean warming and shifts in the position of the Polar Front, resulting in an exceptionally rapid range shift compared to what is generally detected in the marine realm. We propose that as the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean further atlantifies and ocean temperatures continue to rise, E. huxleyi and other temperate-origin phytoplankton, could well become resident bloom formers in the Arctic Ocean.