Genetic diversity confers adaptive capacity to populations under changing conditions but its role in mediating impacts of climate change remains unresolved for most ecosystems. This lack of knowledge is particularly acute for foundation species, where impacts may cascade throughout entire ecosystems. We combined population genetics with eco-physiological and ecological field experiments to explore relationships among latitudinal patterns in genetic diversity, physiology and resilience of a kelp ecosystem to climate stress. A subsequent ‘natural experiment’ illustrated the possible influence of latitudinal patterns of genetic diversity on ecosystem vulnerability to an extreme climatic perturbation (marine heatwave). There were strong relationships between physiological versatility, ecological resilience and genetic diversity of kelp forests across latitudes, and genetic diversity consistently outperformed other explanatory variables in contributing to the response of kelp forests to the marine heatwave. Population performance and vulnerability to a severe climatic event were thus strongly related to latitudinal patterns in genetic diversity, with the heatwave extirpating forests with low genetic diversity. Where foundation species control ecological structure and function, impacts of climatic stress can cascade through the ecosystem and, consequently, genetic diversity could contribute to ecosystem vulnerability to climate change.
Coastal vulnerability is a spatial concept that identifies people and places that are susceptible to disturbances resulting from coastal hazards. Hazards in the coastal environment, such as coastal storms and erosion, pose significant threats to coastal physical, economic, and social systems. The theory of vulnerability has been an evolving idea over the past hundred years. In recent decades, improved technology and high-profile disaster events, has caused an increase in publications in the coastal hazards field. Modern approaches to understanding coastal vulnerability examine the complex systems that determine the spatial distribution of hazards, risks, and exposure. Consensus among today’s researchers shows that coastal vulnerability is geographically dependent and requires place based investigations. This review examines over 200 coastal vulnerability related works. Through this extensive literature review, this research describes the evolution of vulnerability concepts, and the modern definition of vulnerability with the goal of providing a well-informed body of knowledge to be used in the advancement of resilience and increased sustainability in coastal areas.
Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef (GBR) continues to suffer from repeated impacts of cyclones, coral bleaching, and outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), losing much of its coral cover in the process. This raises the question of the ecosystem’s systemic resilience and its ability to rebound after large-scale population loss. Here, we reveal that around 100 reefs of the GBR, or around 3%, have the ideal properties to facilitate recovery of disturbed areas, thereby imparting a level of systemic resilience and aiding its continued recovery. These reefs (1) are highly connected by ocean currents to the wider reef network, (2) have a relatively low risk of exposure to disturbances so that they are likely to provide replenishment when other reefs are depleted, and (3) have an ability to promote recovery of desirable species but are unlikely to either experience or spread COTS outbreaks. The great replenishment potential of these ‘robust source reefs’, which may supply 47% of the ecosystem in a single dispersal event, emerges from the interaction between oceanographic conditions and geographic location, a process that is likely to be repeated in other reef systems. Such natural resilience of reef systems will become increasingly important as the frequency of disturbances accelerates under climate change.
Better mitigation of anthropogenic stressors on marine ecosystems is urgently needed to address increasing biodiversity losses worldwide. We explore opportunities for stressor mitigation using whole-of-systems modelling of ecological resilience, accounting for complex interactions between stressors, their timing and duration, background environmental conditions and biological processes. We then search for ecological windows, times when stressors minimally impact ecological resilience, defined here as risk, recovery and resistance. We show for 28 globally distributed seagrass meadows that stressor scheduling that exploits ecological windows for dredging campaigns can achieve up to a fourfold reduction in recovery time and 35% reduction in extinction risk. Although the timing and length of windows vary among sites to some degree, global trends indicate favourable windows in autumn and winter. Our results demonstrate that resilience is dynamic with respect to space, time and stressors, varying most strongly with: (i) the life history of the seagrass genus and (ii) the duration and timing of the impacting stress.
Bivalve aquaculture has become increasingly important for marine protein production and is an alternative to exploiting natural resources. Its further and sustainable development should follow an ecosystem approach, to maintain both biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The identification of critical thresholds to development remains difficult. The present work aims at combining the calculation of the system’s ecological carrying capacity (ECC) with the ecosystem view of resilience for a bay system exposed to bivalve (scallop) aquaculture. Using a trophic food-web model, a stepwise further expansion of culture activities was simulated, and the impact on the system was evaluated twofold: First, a recently developed approach to estimating ECC was used, and second, a resilience indicator was calculated, which is based on the distribution of consumption flows within the trophic network (sensu Arreguín-Sanchez in Ecol Model 272: 27–276, 2014). Results suggest that a culture expansion beyond present-day scale would (a) cause a shift in community composition towards a system dominated by secondary consumers, (b) lead to the loss of system compartments, affecting ecosystem functioning, and (c) result in a decrease in resilience, emphasizing the need to regulate aquaculture activities. The applicability and potential of this presented method in the context of an ecosystem-based approach to aquaculture is discussed. This work aims at adding to the ongoing discussion on sustainable bivalve aquaculture and is expected to help guide aquaculture management.
In various scientific disciplines resilience has become a key concept for theoretical frameworks and more practical goals. The growing interest resulted in multiple definitions of resilience. This paper highlights how and why resilience has become a meaningful concept guiding multiple disciplines to understand and govern social–ecological systems. Moreover, the concept of resilience can be operationalized in complex social–ecological systems that are inherent to change and unpredictable outcomes.
A major goal of ecosystem-based fisheries management is to prevent fishery-induced shifts in community states. This requires an understanding of ecological resilience: the ability of an ecosystem to return to the same state following a perturbation, which can strongly depend on species interactions across trophic levels. We use a structured model of a temperate rocky reef to explore how multi-trophic level fisheries impact ecological resilience. Increasing fishing mortality of prey (urchins) has a minor effect on equilibrium biomass of kelp, urchins, and spiny lobster predators, but increases resilience by reducing the range of predator harvest rates at which alternative stable states are possible. Size-structured predation on urchins acts as the feedback maintaining each state. Our results demonstrate that the resilience of ecosystems strongly depends on the interactive effects of predator and prey harvest in multi-trophic level fisheries, which are common in marine ecosystems but are unaccounted for by traditional management.
- On a global scale, most of the coastal zones in the world are undergoing rapid and accelerating changes. This coastal syndrome combines two major trends: one linked to the growth of coastal populations, habitat, transport and industrial infrastructures (assets); the other linked to the influence of climate change and its effects in terms of sea-level rise, increased frequency of extreme weather events, acidification and increase in ocean surface temperature, both affecting the health of coastal ecosystems. This situation is also reflected in the increase in coastal engineering solutions, which have significant impacts on coastal hydrodynamics and natural ecosystems.
- This extremely dynamic context calls for an evolution in conservation and spatial planning strategies in order to better anticipate changes that may affect not only the sustainability of both the distribution and health of natural ecosystems, but also the relevance of conservation efforts. Marine and coastal protected areas help preserve ecological services, and reduce the risks faced by coastal communities. Therefore, it can be argued that the effectiveness of these conservation units will depend on the ability, (i) to take into account their territorial context, and also (ii) to base the management decisions on a prospective and sufficiently anticipated (future-oriented) approach. MPA management must be proactive to cope with such rapid changes.
- The Nexus approach, promoted by the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management - coastal ecosystem group (CEM/CEG), places marine and coastal spatial planning as a key integrative element linking conservation, adaptation to climate change and coastal risk reduction, and as a part of no-regret adaptation strategies. This paper highlights the main factors that characterize current coastal dynamics, and then briefly presents three future-oriented pilot operations, implemented in Western Africa at different scales. These operations illustrate how MPAs must become structuring elements for the organization and development of coastal territories if they are to contribute to the resilience of coastal systems and to ensure their own long-term sustainability.
Self-organized spatial patterns occur in many terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems. Theoretical models and observational studies suggest self-organization, the formation of patterns due to ecological interactions, is critical for enhanced ecosystem resilience. However, experimental tests of this cross-ecosystem theory are lacking. In this study, we experimentally test the hypothesis that self-organized pattern formation improves the persistence of mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) on intertidal flats. In natural beds, mussels generate self-organized patterns at two different spatial scales: regularly spaced clusters of mussels at centimeter scale driven by behavioral aggregation and large-scale, regularly spaced bands at meter scale driven by ecological feedback mechanisms. To test for the relative importance of these two spatial scales of self-organization on mussel bed persistence, we conducted field manipulations in which we factorially constructed small-scale and/or large-scale patterns. Our results revealed that both forms of self-organization enhanced the persistence of the constructed mussel beds in comparison to nonorganized beds. Small-scale, behaviorally driven cluster patterns were found to be crucial for persistence, and thus resistance to wave disturbance, whereas large-scale, self-organized patterns facilitated reformation of small-scale patterns if mussels were dislodged. This study provides experimental evidence that self-organization can be paramount to enhancing ecosystem persistence. We conclude that ecosystems with self-organized spatial patterns are likely to benefit greatly from conservation and restoration actions that use the emergent effects of self-organization to increase ecosystem resistance to disturbance.
The coastal seagrass meadows in the Townsville region of the Great Barrier Reef are crucial seagrass foraging habitat for endangered dugong populations. Deteriorating coastal water quality and in situ light levels reduce the extent of these meadows, particularly in years with significant terrestrial runoff from the nearby Burdekin River catchment. However, uncertainty surrounds the impact of variable seagrass abundance on dugong carrying capacity. Here, I demonstrate that a power-law relationship with exponent value of − 1 (R2 ~ 0.87) links mortality data with predicted changes in annual above ground seagrass biomass. This relationship indicates that the dugong carrying capacity of the region is tightly coupled to the biomass of seagrass available for metabolism. Thus, mortality rates increase precipitously following large flood events with a response lag of < 12-months. The management implications of this result are discussed in terms of climate scenarios that indicate an increased future likelihood of extreme flood events.