Systematic, effective monitoring of animal population parameters underpins successful conservation strategy and wildlife management, but it is often neglected in many regions, including much of the Mediterranean Sea. Nonetheless, a series of systematic multispecies aerial surveys was carried out in the seas around Italy to gather important baseline information on cetacean occurrence, distribution and abundance. The monitored areas included the Pelagos Sanctuary, the Tyrrhenian Sea, portions of the Seas of Corsica and Sardinia, the Ionian Seas as well as the Gulf of Taranto. Overall, approximately 48,000 km were flown in either spring, summer and winter between 2009–2014, covering an area of 444,621 km2. The most commonly observed species were the striped dolphin and the fin whale, with 975 and 83 recorded sightings, respectively. Other sighted cetacean species were the common bottlenose dolphin, the Risso's dolphin, the sperm whale, the pilot whale and the Cuvier's beaked whale. Uncorrected model- and design-based estimates of density and abundance for striped dolphins and fin whales were produced, resulting in a best estimate (model-based) of around 95,000 striped dolphins (CV=11.6%; 95% CI=92,900–120,300) occurring in the Pelagos Sanctuary, Central Tyrrhenian and Western Seas of Corsica and Sardinia combined area in summer 2010. Estimates were also obtained for each individual study region and year. An initial attempt to estimate perception bias for striped dolphins is also provided. The preferred summer 2010 uncorrected best estimate (design-based) for the same areas for fin whales was around 665 (CV=33.1%; 95% CI=350–1,260). Estimates are also provided for the individual study regions and years. The results represent baseline data to develop efficient, long-term, systematic monitoring programmes, essential to evaluate trends, as required by a number of national and international frameworks, and stress the need to ensure that surveys are undertaken regularly and at a sufficient spatial scale. The management implications of the results are discussed also in light of a possible decline of fin whales abundance over the period from the mid-1990s to the present. Further work to understand changes in distribution and to allow for improved spatial models is emphasized.
- Globally, coral reef monitoring programmes conducted by volunteer-based organizations or local communities have the potential to collect large quantities of marine data at low cost. However, many scientists remain sceptical about the ability of these programmes to detect changes in marine systems when compared with professional techniques. A limited number of studies have assessed the efficacy and validity of volunteer-based monitoring, and even fewer have assessed community-based methods. This study in Cambodia investigated the ability of surveyors of different levels of experience to conduct underwater surveys using a simple coral reef methodology. Surveyors were assigned to four experience categories and conducted a series of six 20 × 5 m belt transects using five benthic indicator species. Results show decreased variation in marine community assessments with increasing experience, indicating that experience, rather than cultural background, influences survey ability. This suggests that locally based programmes can fill gaps in knowledge with suitable ongoing training and assessment.
Ensuring sustainability of livelihoods for communities residing in coastal environments of the Global South has gained considerable attention across policy making, practice and research fields. Livelihood enhancement programs commonly strategize around developing people's resilience by diversification of income and subsistence activities, but are criticised for inadequate appreciation of local contexts. This in part results from the application of theoretical approaches in practice which are informed disproportionately by dominant science-based narratives and utilised by actors in higher level political arenas. This leads to the prioritization of objectives that do not necessarily reflect local livelihood conditions. There is an urgent need to address the multiple challenges that limit the possibility for sustainable livelihoods in spatially and temporally dynamic environments. This paper presents an analysis of the policy landscape in which intervention strategies for sustainable coastal livelihoods emerge. It examines how livelihood improvement approaches take shape in the context of conservation, rural development, and regional resource governance. Drawing from analyses of broader regional policies and an extensive literature review, a conceptual framework is presented. It details various influences that can flow up or down multi-scaled governance structures to affect policy and management - from agenda-setting narratives of policy makers to the dynamic and changeable nature of livelihoods. Case studies from the Arafura and Timor Seas region are introduced to illustrate some of these trends. The discussion highlights challenges encountered in the pursuit of sustainability for coastal and marine-based livelihoods, and suggests directions for more effective long term policy, management and strategic interventions.
This article presents a case study of the ecosystem-based management model embedded within British Columbia’s Marine Plan Partnership for the Pacific North Coast and the Great Bear Initiative. These are two distinct, yet linked, examples of resource management and economic development that use ecosystem-based management in a way that incorporates indigenous perspectives and aspirations. The model potentially provides a framework that other countries, including Aotearoa (New Zealand), could examine and adapt to their own contexts using new governance structures and working with indigenous perspectives that include traditional ecological knowledge and aspirations. The case study is presented from a Māori perspective that represents both an insider (indigenous) and outsider (non-First Nations) view.
Cold-water coral (CWC) habitats can form complex structures which provide refuge, nursery grounds and physical support for a diversity of other living organisms, but despite their ecological significance, CWCs are still vulnerable to human pressures such as fishing, pollution, ocean acidification and global warming
Providing coherent and representative conservation of vulnerable marine ecosystems including CWCs is one of the aims of the Marine Protected Areas networks being implemented across European seas and oceans under the EC Habitats Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the OSPAR Convention. In order to adequately represent ecosystem diversity these initiatives require a standardised habitat classification that organises the variety of biological assemblages and provides consistent and functional criteria to map them across European Seas (Howell 2010). One such classification system, EUNIS, enables a broad level classification of the deep sea based on abiotic and geomorphological features. More detailed lower biotope-related levels are currently under-developed, particularly with regards deep-water habitats (>200 m depth).
This paper proposes a hierarchical CWC biotope classification scheme that could be incorporated by existing classification schemes such as EUNIS. The scheme was developed within the EU FP7 project CoralFISH to capture the variability of CWC habitats identified using a wealth of seafloor imagery datasets from across European seas and oceans. Depending on the resolution of the imagery being interpreted, this hierarchical scheme allows data to be recorded from broad CWC biotope categories down to detailed taxonomy-based levels, thereby providing a flexible yet valuable information level for management. The CWC biotope classification scheme identifies 81 biotopes and highlights the limitations of the classification framework and guidance provided by EUNIS, the EC Habitats Directive, OSPAR and FAO; with limited categories for identifying and classifying these CWC habitats.
Notwithstanding a complex array of international, national, and local policies designed to protect biodiversity and manage human activities, the condition of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been deteriorating. This trend indicates that policy settings are inadequate or the right policies have been prescribed but not effectively implemented. This study aimed to determine which policies influenced on-ground management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and Marine Park, how they were implemented, and the challenges encountered by practitioners in applying policies. The research required content analysis of policy instruments relevant to various jurisdictional levels, and surveys and interviews with 19 key informants across jurisdictions and agencies. This study found that policy intent is not automatically translated into practice: international agreements are interpreted and reinterpreted along the policy pathway to on-ground management and, consequently, the aspirations of these agreements can be frustrated and their effectiveness diluted. Due to limits of jurisdictional responsibility, practitioners within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are constrained in influencing key factors that impact on their capacity to address threats and manage outcomes. The major policy gap affecting management outcomes was the absence of a mechanism with which to manage cumulative impacts responsible for deterioration of key ecosystem processes and biodiversity. These findings highlight that effective policy implementation is a challenging task, limited by gaps between intentions and outcomes, inconsistencies, and conflicting agendas. An improved understanding of the policy implementation process and the policy-practitioner relationship is essential to enhancing links between policy and on-ground management.
Although the (perceived) biodiversity of a natural environment can influence people's actual, or predicted, restorative experiences, little is known about the generality of these effects or the importance of other aspects such as wildlife behaviour. The current research used an experimental approach (with photographs and videos of coastal scenes) to investigate these issues among a large heterogeneous UK sample (n=1,478). On average, coastal settings with higher perceived biodiversity were rated as offering greater restorative potential and were associated with higher willingness-to-visit. Men, and people with lower overall ratings, tended to be more sensitive to biodiversity levels, and older respondents believed coastal settings in general offered more restorative potential. Locations where a species was exhibiting High vs. Low fascination behaviours (e.g. murmurating vs. sleeping) were also rated more positively, highlighting the importance of wildlife behaviour on psychological outcomes, in addition to biodiversity. Implications for conservation and communication are discussed.
The yearly influx of Sargassum onto the beaches of northwest Florida is considered a nuisance to some and a necessity to others. In Pensacola Beach, the Santa Rosa Island Authority rakes the wrack with mechanical beach cleaners to improve the aesthetic quality for beachgoers. The purpose of this study was three-fold: to evaluate the local faunal use of Sargassum wrack, to gauge public perception of Sargassum on the beach, and to test whether public perception of the beauty of the beach, the necessity of raking, and the likelihood of visiting could be influenced by a simple educational sign. A two-part methodology consisted of 1) systematic observation of faunal use, and 2) interviews of 200 beachgoers via a detailed pre-post/post only public use survey. Results showed that 11 of the 22 species of shorebirds documented, including two uncommon migrants, were observed using Sargassum wrack to forage, rest, and hide. Public survey results demonstrated that although beachgoers generally considered themselves to be “ecofriendly”, their perceptions of Sargassum wrack can be positively influenced through environmental education such as informative signage on the beach. In conclusion, Sargassum wrack provides valuable additional habitat to shorebirds and other critters, and that leaving the beach wrack to naturally become part of the ecosystem would not deter most beachgoers (70%) from visiting Pensacola Beach. This research contributes valuable information to coastal managers and other stakeholders for improved ecosystem protection and management.
Climate change and ocean acidification are altering marine ecosystems and, from a human perspective, creating both winners and losers. Human responses to these changes are complex, but may result in reduced government investments in regulation, resource management, monitoring and enforcement. Moreover, a lack of peoples’ experience of climate change may drive some towards attributing the symptoms of climate change to more familiar causes such as management failure. Taken together, we anticipate that management could become weaker and less effective as climate change continues. Using diverse case studies, including the decline of coral reefs, coastal defences from flooding, shifting fish stocks and the emergence of new shipping opportunities in the Arctic, we argue that human interests are better served by increased investments in resource management. But greater government investment in management does not simply mean more of “business-as-usual.” Management needs to become more flexible, better at anticipating and responding to surprise, and able to facilitate change where it is desirable. A range of technological, economic, communication and governance solutions exists to help transform management. While not all have been tested, judicious application of the most appropriate solutions should help humanity adapt to novel circumstances and seek opportunity where possible.
For many marine migratory fish, comparatively little is known about the movement of individuals rather than the population. Yet, such individual-based movement data is vitally important to understand variability in migratory strategies and fidelity to foraging locations. A case in point is the economically important European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.) that inhabits coastal waters during the summer months before migrating offshore to spawn and overwinter. Beyond this broad generalisation we have very limited information on the movements of individuals at coastal foraging grounds. We used acoustic telemetry to track the summer movements and seasonal migrations of individual sea bass in a large tidally and estuarine influenced coastal environment. We found that the vast majority of tagged sea bass displayed long-term residency (mean, 167 days) and inter-annual fidelity (93% return rate) to specific areas. We describe individual fish home ranges of 3 km or less, and while fish clearly had core resident areas, there was movement of fish between closely located receivers. The combination of inter-annual fidelity to localised foraging areas makes sea bass very susceptible to local depletion; however, the designation of protected areas for sea bass may go a long way to ensuring the sustainability of this species.
The net export of adults (spillover) is an important though contentious benefit of marine protected areas (MPAs). Controversy over spillover often exists because it is difficult to discern empirically. In addition, of those studies that have provided empirical evidence, nearly all are from shallow reef ecosystems. Here we examined 2 deepwater MPAs in the main Hawaiian Islands, established to benefit a complex of species called the ‘Deep 7.’ To study these fishes, we used baited cameras and commercial fishery data. Relative abundance, fish size, and species richness observed using camera data declined with distance from MPAs, signifying that species had begun to spill over the MPA boundaries into fishing grounds. Further, temporal analyses of these spatial trends indicated that they did not always exist but developed in the fifth and sixth years of sampling. Changes in fish size over time supported these results, with asymptotes in fish size seen inside and increases seen outside MPAs in the fifth and sixth years of sampling. Displaced fishing effort may have also caused initial declines in Etelis coruscans size and catch data that increased in later years. Further, low sample sizes and public announcements prior to sampling in Year 8 may have contributed to the decline in E. carbunculus sizes inside, and spatial trends outside, an MPA that were no longer significant in Year 8. Identifying the ability and time span for an MPA to begin to benefit a fishery and how quickly fishing may remove those benefits is crucial to resolving debates regarding the use of MPAs in fisheries management.
Most of the marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Philippines are small-sized and community-based, and their contribution to the conservation efforts have been usually overlooked.
This paper will present the results of the biological assessment study conducted in three community-based MPAs in Southern Iloilo, Philippines. Each MPA has a 2-ha no-take zone and this size is way below the recommended optimal size of 10–100 km2. Results show that fish biomass showed an overall increase of about 1–5 times. This is attributed to both an increase in abundance and in fish size. Fish in this survey conducted in 2013 were about 2.3–3.3 times the size of fish in the 2007 baseline data. Macroepifaunal abundance increased 2 to 8 times across the three MPA sites. However, live hard coral cover showed a parallel ∼40% decrease across all sites, which can be attributed to several factors.
The conservation goals of these MPAs have been attained. However, the results of biological assessments still need to be correlated with a study on the socioeconomic impact of the MPAs in the community to be able to arrive at good management decisions.
Fishing experience and skills are not commonly considered in recreational fishery studies. To analyse potential different biological/ecological impacts of three experience levels of spearfishers (novice, intermediate and experienced), access point surveys were conducted over a period of 10 months in São Miguel Island (Azores archipelago). Groups differed in terms of catch rate and composition, species size and vulnerability (i.e. intrinsic vulnerability index of fishes to fishing). Experienced spearfishers explored different areas along the island coast, fished deeper and farther off shore, were more selective regarding fish size and target species, reached higher catch weights and had catches with a higher mean index of vulnerability. Results suggest that catch composition and rate not only depend on fish community and ecosystem health, but also on the expertise of the fishers who operate in a given area. Consequently, scientific studies should consider fishers’ experience in the survey design and data analysis to not over- or underestimate their potential impact.
Microplastic pollution of marine environment is receiving increased publicity over the last few years. The present survey is, according to our knowledge, the survey with the largest sample size analyzed, to date. In total, 1337 specimens of fish were examined for the presence of plastic microlitter representing 28 species and 14 families. In addition, samples of seawater and sediment were also analyzed for the quantification of microplastic in the same region. Samples of water/sediment were collected from 18 locations along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. 94% of all collected plastic microlitter from the sea was in the size range between 0.1 and 2.5 mm, while the occurrence of other sizes was rare. The quantity of microplastic particles in surface water samples ranged from 16 339 to 520 213 per km2. Fish were collected from 10 locations from which 8 were either shared with or situated in the proximity of water/sediment sampling locations. A total of 1822 microplastic particles were extracted from stomach and intestines of fish. Majority of ingested particles were represented by fibers (70%) and hard plastic (20.8%), while the share of other groups: nylon (2.7%), rubber (0.8%) and miscellaneous plastic (5.5%) were low. The blue color of plastic was the most dominant color. 34% of all examined fish had microplastic in the stomach. On average, fish which had microplastic contained 1.80 particles per stomach. 41% of all fish had microplastic in the intestines with an average of 1.81 particles per fish. 771 specimens contained microplastic in either stomach and/or intestines representing 58% of the total sample with an average of 2.36 particles per fish. Microplastic was found in all species/families that had sample size of at least 2 individuals. The number of particles present in either stomach or intestines ranged between 1 and 35. Ingested microplastic had an average diameter ±SD of 656 ± 803 μm, however particles as small as 9 μm were detected. The trophic level of fish species had no influence whatsoever on the amount of ingested microplastic. Pelagic fish ingested more microplastic than demersal species. In general, fish that ingested higher number of microplastic particles originated from the sites that also had a higher particle count in the seawater and sediment.
Microplastic (<5 mm) ingestion has been recorded in Galeus melastomus, the blackmouth catshark, around the Balearic Islands. In total 125 individuals were analyzed for microplastic ingestion. Results have shown that 16.80% of the specimens had ingested a mean value of 0.34 ± 0.07 microplastics/individual. Stomach fullness index ranged from 0.86 to 38.89% and regression analyses showed that fuller stomachs contained more microplastics. A higher quantity of filament type microplastics were identified compared to granular or hard plastic type. No significant differences were given between ingestion values of two locations over the continental shelf providing further evidence of the ubiquitous distribution of microplastics. The findings in this study reflect the availability of this man made contaminant to marine species in seafloor habitats. Based on results from this study, data on microplastic ingestion could be used to study trends in the amount and composition of litter ingested by marine animals in accordance with descriptor 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
This is the first survey to investigate the occurrence and extent of microplastic (MPs) contamination in sub surface waters collected near-shore and off-shore the coastal area of the Ross Sea (Antarctica). Moreover, a non-invasive method to analyze MPs, consisting in filtration after water sampling and analysis of the dried filter through Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) 2D Imaging, using an FPA detector, was proposed. The non-invasiveness of analytical set-up reduces potential bias and allows subsequent analysis of the filter sample for determination of other classes of contaminants. MPs ranged from 0.0032 to 1.18 particle per m3 of seawater, with a mean value of 0.17 ± 0.34 particle m−3, showing concentrations lower than those found in the oceans worldwide. MPs included fragments (mean 71.9 ± 21.6%), fibers (mean 12.7 ± 14.3%), and others (mean 15.4 ± 12.8%). The presence of different types of MPs was confirmed by FTIR spectroscopy, with predominant abundance of polyethylene and polypropylene. The potential environmental impact arising from scientific activities, such as marine activities for scientific purposes, and from the sewage treatment plant, was also evidenced.
Biodiversity offsetting is used in diverse policy contexts to reduce, halt or reverse losses of biodiversity arising from development or other uses of the natural environment. Despite increasing interest in the concept of biodiversity offsetting, relatively little attention has been devoted to investigating its use in marine environments. This paper presents a systematic review of documents evidencing the application or inclusion of biodiversity offset principles in policy frameworks concerning the marine environment, and in marine development projects. Biodiversity offsetting policies applicable to marine environments were found to exist in six countries (US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Colombia) and have been actively considered in at least 27 others. Outside of these, a wide range of other approaches promoting uptake of biodiversity offsetting principles in a marine context were identified. These range from preliminary studies to identify potential compensatory habitat, to nascent biodiversity markets, and project-level application of corporate standards of no net loss. Evidence suggests that where offsetting policy is developed for specific marine application, the preferred approach is to pool financial contributions from developers into funds for strategic action for biodiversity benefit.
To promote the sequestration of blue carbon, resource managers rely on best-management practices that have historically included protecting and restoring vegetated coastal habitats (seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves), but are now beginning to incorporate catchment-level approaches. Drawing upon knowledge from a broad range of environmental variables that influence blue carbon sequestration, including warming, carbon dioxide levels, water depth, nutrients, runoff, bioturbation, physical disturbances, and tidal exchange, we discuss three potential management strategies that hold promise for optimizing coastal blue carbon sequestration: (1) reducing anthropogenic nutrient inputs, (2) reinstating top-down control of bioturbator populations, and (3) restoring hydrology. By means of case studies, we explore how these three strategies can minimize blue carbon losses and maximize gains. A key research priority is to more accurately quantify the impacts of these strategies on atmospheric greenhouse-gas emissions in different settings at landscape scales.
Scientists have the difficult task of clearly conveying the ecological consequences of forest and wetland loss to the public. To address this challenge, we scaled the atmospheric carbon emissions arising from mangrove deforestation down to the level of an individual consumer. This type of quantification represents the “land-use carbon footprint”, or the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated when natural ecosystems are converted to produce commodities. On the basis of measurements of ecosystem carbon stocks from 30 relatively undisturbed mangrove forests and 21 adjacent shrimp ponds or cattle pastures, we determined that mangrove conversion results in GHG emissions ranging between 1067 and 3003 megagrams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per hectare. There is a land-use carbon footprint of 1440 kg CO2e for every kilogram of beef and 1603 kg CO2e for every kilogram of shrimp produced on lands formerly occupied by mangroves. A typical steak and shrimp cocktail dinner would burden the atmosphere with 816 kg CO2e. This is approximately the same quantity of GHGs produced by driving a fuel-efficient automobile from Los Angeles to New York City. Failure to include deforestation in life-cycle assessments greatly underestimates the GHG emissions from food production.
Conservation success is contingent on assessing social as well as environmental factors so that cost-effective implementation of strategies and actions can be placed in a broad social-ecological context. Until now, the focus has been on how to include spatially-explicit social data in conservation planning, whereas the value of different kinds of social data has received limited attention. In a regional systematic conservation planning case study in Australia, we examined the spatial concurrence of a range of spatially-explicit social values and preferences collected using public participation GIS (PPGIS) methods with biological data. We then integrated the social data with the biological data in a series of spatial prioritization scenarios using Zonation software to determine the effect of the different types of social data on spatial prioritization vis-à-vis biological data alone. We found that the type of social data included in the analysis significantly affected spatial prioritization outcomes. The integration of social values and land-use preferences under different scenarios was highly variable and generated spatial prioritizations that were 1.2% to 51% different from those based on biological data alone. The inclusion of conservation-compatible values and preferences added relatively little new area to conservation priorities while in contrast, including non-compatible economic values and development preferences as costs significantly changed conservation priority areas. The multi-faceted conservation prioritization approach presented herein that combines spatially-explicit social data with biological data can assist conservation planners in identifying the type of social data to collect for more effective and feasible conservation actions.