Global climate change is driving the redistribution of marine species and thereby potentially restructuring endemic communities. Understanding how localised conservation measures such as protection from additional human pressures can confer resilience to ecosystems is therefore an important area of research. Here, we examine the resilience of a no-take marine reserve (NTR) to the establishment of urchin barrens habitat. The barrens habitat is created through overgrazing of kelp by an invading urchin species that is expanding its range within a hotspot of rapid climate change. In our study region, a multi-year monitoring program provides a unique time-series of benthic imagery collected by an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) within an NTR and nearby reference areas. We use a Bayesian hierarchical spatio-temporal modelling approach to estimate whether the NTR is associated with reduced formation of urchin barrens, and thereby enhances local resilience. Our approach controls for the important environmental covariates of depth and habitat complexity (quantified as rugosity derived from multibeam sonar mapping), as well as spatial and temporal dependence. We find evidence for the NTR conferring resilience with a strong reserve effect that suggests improved resistance to the establishment of barrens. However, we find a concerning and consistent trajectory of increasing barrens cover in both the reference areas and the NTR, with the odds of barrens increasing by approximately 32% per year. Thus, whereas the reserve is demonstrating resilience to the initial establishment of barrens, there is currently no evidence of recovery once barrens are established. We also find that depth and rugosity covariates derived from multibeam mapping provide useful predictors for barrens occurrence. These results have important management implications as they demonstrate: (i) the importance of monitoring programs to inform adaptive management; (ii) that NTRs provide a potential local conservation management tool under climate change impacts, and (iii) that technologies such as AUVs and multibeam mapping can be harnessed to inform regional decision-making. Continuation of the current monitoring program is required to assess whether the NTR can provide long term protection from a phase shift that replaces kelp with urchin barrens.
Two severe heat waves triggered coral bleaching and mass mortality in the Maldives in 1998 and 2016. Analysis of live coral cover data from 1997 to 2019 in shallow (5 m depth) reefs of the Maldives showed that the 1998 heat wave caused more than 90% of coral mortality leaving only 6.8 ± 0.3% of survived corals in all the shallow reefs investigated. No significant difference in coral mortality was observed among atolls with different levels of human pressure. Maldivian reefs needed 16 years to recover to the pre-bleaching hard coral cover values. The 2016 heat wave affected all reefs investigated, but reefs in atolls with higher human pressure showed greater coral mortality than reefs in atolls with lower human pressure. Additionally, exposed (ocean) reefs showed lower coral mortality than those in sheltered (lagoon) reefs. The reduced coral mortality in 2016 as compared to 1998 may provide some support to the Adaptive Bleaching Hypothesis (ABH) in shallow Maldivian reefs, but intensity and duration of the two heat waves were different. Analysis of coral cover data collected along depth profiles on the ocean sides of atolls, from 10 to 50 m, allowed the comparison of coral mortality at different depths to discuss the Deep Refuge Hypothesis (DRH). In the upper mesophotic zone (i.e., between 30 and 50 m), coral mortality after bleaching was negligible. However, live coral cover did not exceed 15%, a value lower than coral survival in shallow reefs. Low cover values of corals surviving in the mesophotic reefs suggest that their role as refuge or seed banks for the future recovery of some species in shallow-water reefs of the Maldives may be small. The repeatedly high coral mortality after bleaching events and the long recovery period, especially in sites with human pressure, suggest that the foreseen increased frequency of bleaching events would jeopardize the future of Maldivian reefs, and ask for reducing local pressures to improve their resilience.
Marine fish stocks and the ecosystems they inhabit are in decline in many parts of our ocean, including in some European waters, because of overfishing and the ecosystem effect of fishing in general. Simultaneously, climate change is disrupting the physics, chemistry and ecology of the ocean, with significant consequences on the life it holds. While the positive effects of mitigating climate change on the ocean and marine life are currently being documented, papers that examine how ending overfishing could increase ocean resilience to climate change are less common. The goal of this paper is to review the current literature and conduct an analysis that demonstrate that ending overfishing and reducing other negative ecosystem effects of fishing would make fish stocks and marine ecosystems more resilient to climate change. Our findings suggest that fish and fish stocks are no different from other living organisms and are more likely to survive external pressures when healthy.
Mass coral bleaching has increased in intensity and frequency and has severely impacted shallow tropical reefs worldwide. Although extensive investigation has been conducted on the resistance and resilience of coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean, the unique reefs of the South Atlantic remain largely unassessed. Here we compiled primary and literature data for reefs from three biogeographical regions: Indo-Pacific, Caribbean and South Atlantic and performed comparative analyses to investigate whether the latter may be more resistant to bleaching. Our findings show that South Atlantic corals display critical features that make them less susceptible to mass coral bleaching: (i) deeper bathymetric distribution, as species have a mean maximum depth of occurrence of 70 m; (ii) higher tolerance to turbidity, as nearly 60% of species are found in turbid conditions; (iii) higher tolerance to nutrient enrichment, as nitrate concentration in the South Atlantic is naturally elevated; (iv) higher morphological resistance, as massive growth forms are dominant and comprise two thirds of species; and (v) more flexible symbiotic associations, as 75% of corals and 60% of symbiont phylotypes are generalists. Such features were associated with occurrence of fewer bleaching episodes with coral mortality in the South Atlantic, approximately 60% less than the Indo-Pacific and 50% less than the Caribbean. In addition, no mass coral mortality episodes associated with the three global mass bleaching events have been reported for the South Atlantic, which suffered considerably less bleaching. These results show that South Atlantic reefs display several remarkable features for withstanding thermal stress. Together with a historic experience of lower heat stress, our findings may explain why climate change impacts in this region have been less intense. Given the large extension and latitudinal distribution of South Atlantic coral reefs and communities, the region may be recognized as a major refugium and likely to resist climate change impacts more effectively than Indo-Pacific and Caribbean reefs.
Over the past decade, coastal communities and ecosystems in the Northeast United States have begun to face acute and chronic impacts of climate change. Extreme events such as Superstorm Sandy caused stakeholders in this region to examine what information is needed to implement adaptation and mitigation plans to prepare for the next major storm. The objective of this study was to determine research needs identified by stakeholders in the Northeast needed for decision-support and policy creation so that scientists can target future research efforts to fill gaps. Modeled after document analysis methods in Dilling et al. (2014), this study examines documents sourced from local and regional organizations in both the public and private sectors to determine gaps in information necessary for climate resilience planning. Stakeholders throughout the Northeast expressed a need for solution-based research, in particular natural and nature-based solutions such as wetlands. Additionally, there was a need to better understand the economic impacts of climate change on key industries in the region as well as cost-benefit analyses of different adaptation options. It was also determined that government organizations, such as Sea Grant, play a crucial role in supporting stakeholder needs assessments both in terms of funding and providing necessary expertise. This study provides a baseline of stakeholder-expressed research needs in the Northeast to start the conversation between communities and researchers interested in conducting useable science.
Securing economically and ecologically significant molluscs, as our oceans warm due to climate change, is a global priority. South eastern Australia receives warm water in a strengthening East Australia Current and so resident species are vulnerable to elevated temperature and marine heat waves. This study tested whether prior exposure to elevated temperature can enhance resilience of oysters to ocean warming. Two Australian species, the flat oyster, Ostrea angasi, and the Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea glomerata, were obtained as adults and “heat shocked” by exposure to a dose of warm water in the laboratory. Oysters were then transferred to elevated seawater temperature conditions where the thermal outfall from power generation was used as a proxy to investigate the impacts of ocean warming. Shell growth, condition index, lipid content and survival of flat oysters and condition of Sydney rock oysters were all significantly reduced by elevated seawater temperature in the field. Flat oysters grew faster than Sydney rock oysters at ambient temperature, but their growth and survival was more sensitive to elevated temperature. “Stress inoculation” by heat shock did little to ameliorate the negative effects of increased temperature, although the survival of heat-shocked flat oysters was greater than non-heat shocked oysters. Further investigations are required to determine if early exposure to heat stress can enhance resilience of oysters to ocean warming.
Hurricanes pose an increasing threat to coastal environments as the intensity and severity of hurricanes are predicted to increase under the changing climate. Coastal wetlands are effective nature-based defenses of coastal cities against storms. However, the ecosystems themselves are also susceptible to the impacts of hurricanes, which are highly complex and not fully understood. Here we utilize multi-decadal satellite data archives (Landsat 1984–2014 and MODIS 2005–2015) and long-term coast-wide field-based environmental data (1978–2018) to investigate the impacts of hurricanes Katrina (2005), Gustav (2008), and Isaac (2012) on the coastal marshes in Louisiana, USA, where the hurricanes made landfall. While the hurricanes had immediate impacts on the marshes’ biomass and area at an ecosystem scale, general recovery was observed in the next one and two years. We also found that the most severe damage always occurred in the intermediate and brackish marshes of the Breton Sound basin, where the nitrogen concentration in the water was significantly higher compared to areas with less damage (P < 0.01). Because excess nutrient can reduce the marshes' root growth and degrade their root mat, we posit that the long-term nutrient enrichment in the area, which resulted from the diverted Mississippi River water, has increased the marshes’ susceptibility to hurricanes. The results highlight the resilience of coastal marsh ecosystems against hurricanes, but also underline the profound synergistic effects of climatic and anthropogenic factors on the sustainability of coastal ecosystems, which have important implications for coastal management under the current climate trend.
Species conservation, river rehabilitation, stock enhancement, environmental impact assessment and related planning tools require indicators to identify significant impacts but also mitigation success. Since river systems are shaped by disturbances from floods and droughts, typical riverine fish species should have evolved life history traits providing resilience against such disturbances. This study compiled and analyzed resilience traits of European lampreys and fish species to derive a novel sensitivity classification of species to mortality. We assembled life history traits like maximum length, migration type, mortality, fecundity, age at maturity, and generation time of 168 species and created a novel method to weigh and integrate all traits to generate a final sensitivity score from one (low sensitivity) to three (high sensitivity) for each species. Large-bodied, diadromous, rheophilic and lithophilic species such as sturgeons, sea trout, and Atlantic salmon usually appeared to have high sensitivity to additional adult fish mortality, whereas small-bodied, limnophilic and phytophilic species with fast generation cycles were of low sensitivity. The final scoring and classification of 168 European lampreys and fish species according to their sensitivity can be easily regionalized by selecting the most sensitive candidates according to the local species pool. This sensitivity classification has major implications for advancing impact assessment, allowing better targeting of species for conservation measures, benchmarking progress during rehabilitation and enhancing the objective evaluation of the success of restoration projects.
Globally increasing sea surface temperatures threaten coral reefs, both directly and through interactions with local stressors. More resilient reefs have a higher likelihood of returning to a coral-dominated state following a disturbance, such as a mass bleaching event. To advance practical approaches to reef resilience assessments and aid resilience-based management of coral reefs, we conducted a resilience assessment for Puerto Rico’s coral reefs, modified from methods used in other U.S. jurisdictions. We calculated relative resilience scores for 103 sites from an existing commonwealth-wide survey using eight resilience indicators—such as coral diversity, macroalgae percent cover, and herbivorous fish biomass—and assessed which indicators most drove resilience. We found that sites of very different relative resilience were generally highly spatially intermixed, underscoring the importance and necessity of decision making and management at fine scales. In combination with information on levels of two localized stressors (fishing pressure and pollution exposure), we used the resilience indicators to assess which of seven potential management actions could be used at each site to maintain or improve resilience. Fishery management was the management action that applied to the most sites. Furthermore, we combined sites’ resilience scores with projected ocean warming to assign sites to vulnerability categories. Island-wide or community-level managers can use the actions and vulnerability information as a starting point for resilience-based management of their reefs. This assessment differs from many previous ones because we tested how much information could be yielded by a “desktop” assessment using freely-available, existing data rather than from a customized, resilience-focused field survey. The available data still permitted analyses comparable to previous assessments, demonstrating that desktop resilience assessments can substitute for assessments with field components under some circumstances.
How real-world marine food webs absorb change, recover and adapt (that is, ecological resilience) to climate change remains problematic. Here we apply a novel approach to show how the complex changes in resilience of food webs can be understood with a small core set of self-organizing configurations that represent different simultaneously nested and multiple-species interactions. We identified a recent emergent pattern of an improving but possibly short-lived resilience of a highly observed Arctic marine food web (2004–2016), considered a harbinger of future Arctic change. The changes can be explained by continuing subsidiary inputs of Atlantic species that repair (self-organize) interactions within some configurations. Despite significant environmental perturbation, we found that the core ecological processes are maintained. We conclude that Arctic marine food webs can absorb and begin to adapt to ongoing climate change.