Large Marine Ecosystems such as the Canary Current system off West Africa sustains high abundance of small pelagic prey, which attracts marine predators. Seabirds are top predators often used as biodiversity surrogates and sentinel species of the marine ecosystem health, thus frequently informing marine conservation planning. This study presents the first data on the spatial (GPS-loggers) and trophic (stable isotope analysis) ecology of a tropical seabird—the endangered Cape Verde shearwater Calonectris edwardsii–during both the incubation and the chick-rearing periods of two consecutive years. This information was related with marine environmental predictors (species distribution models), existent areas of conservation concern for seabirds (i.e. marine Important Bird Areas; marine IBAs) and threats to the marine environment in the West African areas heavily used by the shearwaters. There was an apparent inter-annual consistency on the spatial, foraging and trophic ecology of Cape Verde shearwater, but a strong alteration on the foraging strategies of adult breeders among breeding phases (i.e. from incubation to chick-rearing). During incubation, birds mostly targeted a discrete region off West Africa, known by its enhanced productivity profile and thus also highly exploited by international industrial fishery fleets. When chick-rearing, adults exploited the comparatively less productive tropical environment within the islands of Cape Verde, at relatively close distance from their breeding colony. The species enlarged its trophic niche and increased the trophic level of their prey from incubation to chick-rearing, likely to provision their chicks with a more diversified and better quality diet. There was a high overlap between the Cape Verde shearwaters foraging areas with those of European shearwater species that overwinter in this area and known areas of megafauna bycatch off West Africa, but very little overlap with existing Marine Important Bird Areas. Further investigation on the potential nefarious effects of fisheries on seabird communities exploiting the Canary Current system off West Africa is needed. Such negative effects could be alleviated or even dissipated if the ‘fisheries-conservation hotspots’ identified for the region, would be legislated as Marine Protected Areas.
Artificial reefs continue to be added as habitat throughout the world, yet questions remain about how reef design affects fish diversity and abundance. In the present study, the effects of reef density were assessed for fish communities and sizes of economically valuable Lutjanus campechanus 13 km off Port Mansfield, Texas, at a reef composed of more than 4000 concrete culverts. The study spanned from May to June in 2013 and 2014, and sites sampled included natural reefs, bare areas, and varying culvert patch density categories, ranging from 1–190 culverts. Abundances of adults and species evenness of juvenile populations differed between the years. Fish communities did not significantly differ among density categories; however, highest species richness and total abundances were observed at intermediate culvert densities and at natural reefs. Whereas the abundance of L. campechanus did not differ among density categories, mean total lengths of L. campechanus were greatest at the lower density. Our findings suggest that reefs should be deployed with intermediate patch density of 71–120 culverts in a 30-m radius to yield the highest fish abundances.
Live coral is harvested throughout the Indo-West Pacific to make lime, used in the consumption of the world’s fourth-most consumed drug, betel nut. Coral harvesting is an environmental concern; however, because lime-making is one of the few sources of income in some areas of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the practice is unlikely to stop. To better manage coral harvest, we used standard fishery-yield methods to generate sustainable-harvest guidelines for corymbose Acropora species found on the reef flat and crest at Lababia, PNG. We constructed a yield curve (weight-specific net annual-dry-weight production) by: 1) describing the allometric relationship between colony size and dry weight, and using that relationship to estimate the dry weight of Acropora colonies in situ; 2) estimating annual growth of Acropora colonies by estimating in situ, and describing the relationship between, colony dry weight at the beginning and end of one year; and 3) conducting belt-transect surveys to describe weight-frequencies and ultimately to predict annual weight change per square meter for each weight class. Reef habitat covers a total 2,467,550 m2 at Lababia and produces an estimated 248,397 kg/y (dry weight) of corymbose Acropora, of which 203,897 kg is produced on the reef flat/crest. We conservatively estimate that 30,706.6 kg of whole, dry, corymbose, Acropora can be sustainably harvested from the reef flat/crest habitat each year provided each culled colony weighs at least 1805 g when dry (or is at least 46 cm along its major axis). Artisanal lime-makers convert 24.8% of whole-colony weight into marketable lime, thus we estimate 7615.2 g of lime can be sustainably produced annually from corymbose Acropora. This value incorporates several safety margins, and should lead to proper management of live coral harvest. Importantly, the guideline recognizes village rights to exploit its marine resources, is consistent with village needs for income, and balances an equally strong village desire to conserve its marine resources for future generations.