The coral reefs of Tanga, Tanzania were recognized as a national conservation priority in the early 1970s, but the lack of a management response led to damage by dynamite, beach seines, and high numbers of fishers until the mid 1990s. Subsequently, an Irish Aid funded IUCN Eastern Africa program operated from 1994 to mid 2007 to implement increased management aimed at reducing these impacts. The main effects of this management were to establish collaborative management areas, reduce dynamite and seine net fishing, and establish small community fisheries closures beginning in 1996. The ecology of the coral reefs was studied just prior to the initiation of this management in 1996, during, 2004, and a few years after the project ended in 2010. The perceptions of resource users towards management options were evaluated in 2010. The ecological studies indicated that the biomass of fish rose continuously during this period from 260 to 770 kg/ha but the small closures were no different from the non-closure areas. The benthic community studies indicate stability in the coral cover and community composition and an increase in coralline algae and topographic complexity over time. The lack of change in the coral community suggests resilience to various disturbances including fisheries management and the warm temperature anomaly of 1998. These results indicate that some aspects of the management program had been ecologically successful even after the donor program ended. Moreover, the increased compliance with seine net use and dynamite restrictions were the most likely factors causing this increase in fish biomass and not the closures. Resource users interviewed in 2010 were supportive of gear restrictions but there was considerable between-community disagreement over the value of specific restrictions. The social-ecological results suggest that increased compliance with gear restrictions is largely responsible for the improvements in reef ecology and is a high priority for future management programs.
Describing the drivers of species loss and of community change are important goals in both conservation and ecology. However, it is difficult to determine whether exploited species decline due to direct effects of harvesting or due to other environmental perturbations brought about by proximity to human populations. Here we quantify differences in species richness of coral reef fish communities along a human population gradient in Papua New Guinea to understand the relative impacts of fishing and environmental perturbation. Using data from published species lists we categorize the reef fishes as either fished or non-fished based on their body size and reports from the published literature. Species diversity for both fished and non-fished groups decreases as the size of the local human population increases, and this relationship is stronger in species that are fished. Additionally, comparison of modern and museum collections show that modern reef communities have proportionally fewer fished species relative to 19th century ones. Together these findings show that the reef fish communities of Papua New Guinea experience multiple anthropogenic stressors and that even at low human population levels targeted species experience population declines across both time and space.
Despite the considerable expansion in the number and extent of marine protected areas during the past century, coverage remains limited amid concerns that many marine protected areas are failing to meet their objectives. New estimates of global marine protected area, based on the database maintained by Sea Around Us, revealed a degree of progress towards protecting at least 10% of the global ocean by 2020. It is estimated that > 6,000 marine protected areas, covering c. 3.27% (12 million km2) of the oceans, had been designated by the end of 2013. However, protection is generally weak, with c. one-sixth (1.9 million km2) of the combined area designated as no-take areas (i.e. fishing and other extractive activities are prohibited). Additional large tracts of ocean will need to be protected to reach the 10% target, and we investigate hypothetical scenarios for such expansion. Such scenarios offer a one-dimensional measure of progress as they do not address aspects of other global targets, such as Aichi Target 11, which will help to ensure that marine protected areas meet their objectives and achieve conservation outcomes.
Millennials are the largest generation in the United States. By 2020, one in three adults will be a Millennial (born from 1981 to 1997). This generation has already shown itself to be capable of immense innovation and disruption of the status quo. While a significant amount of research has been conducted on Millennials, there is little insight on conservation, and even less for the ocean. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation partnered with Edge Research to conduct new research on American Millennials’ attitudes towards oceans, ocean conservation, and pathways for engaging this next generation of ocean leaders. Please access the full report or executive summary to learn more.
Benzophenone-3 (BP-3; oxybenzone) is an ingredient in sunscreen lotions and personal-care products that protects against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments—produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges. We examined the effects of oxybenzone on the larval form (planula) of the coral Stylophora pistillata, as well as its toxicity in vitro to coral cells from this and six other coral species. Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the light. Whether in darkness or light, oxybenzone transformed planulae from a motile state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing oxybenzone concentrations. Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor; it induced ossification of the planula, encasing the entire planula in its own skeleton. The LC50 of planulae exposed to oxybenzone in the light for an 8- and 24-h exposure was 3.1 mg/L and 139 µg/L, respectively. The LC50s for oxybenzone in darkness for the same time points were 16.8 mg/L and 779 µg/L. Deformity EC20 levels (24 h) of planulae exposed to oxybenzone were 6.5 µg/L in the light and 10 µg/L in darkness. Coral cell LC50s (4 h, in the light) for 7 different coral species ranges from 8 to 340 µg/L, whereas LC20s (4 h, in the light) for the same species ranges from 0.062 to 8 µg/L. Coral reef contamination of oxybenzone in the U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from 75 µg/L to 1.4 mg/L, whereas Hawaiian sites were contaminated between 0.8 and 19.2 µg/L. Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.
Fusion is an important life history strategy for clonal organisms to increase access to shared resources, to compete for space, and to recover from disturbance. For reef building corals, fragmentation and colony fusion are key components of resilience to disturbance. Observations of small fragments spreading tissue and fusing over artificial substrates prompted experiments aimed at further characterizing Atlantic and Pacific corals under various conditions. Small (∼1–3 cm2) fragments from the same colony spaced regularly over ceramic tiles resulted in spreading at rapid rates (e.g., tens of square centimeters per month) followed by isogenic fusion. Using this strategy, we demonstrate growth, in terms of area encrusted and covered by living tissue, of Orbicella faveolata, Pseudodiploria clivosa, and Porites lobata as high as 63, 48, and 23 cm2 per month respectively. We found a relationship between starting and ending size of fragments, with larger fragments growing at a faster rate. Porites lobata showed significant tank effects on rates of tissue spreading indicating sensitivity to biotic and abiotic factors. The tendency of small coral fragments to encrust and fuse over a variety of surfaces can be exploited for a variety of applications such as coral cultivation, assays for coral growth, and reef restoration.
Marine ecosystem management has traditionally been divided between fisheries management and biodiversity conservation approaches, and the merging of these disparate agendas has proven difficult. Here, we offer a pathway that can unite fishers, scientists, resource managers and conservationists towards a single vision for some areas of the ocean where small investments in management can offer disproportionately large benefits to fisheries and biodiversity conservation. Specifically, we provide a series of evidenced-based arguments that support an urgent need to recognize fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) as a focal point for fisheries management and conservation on a global scale, with a particular emphasis placed on the protection of multispecies FSA sites. We illustrate that these sites serve as productivity hotspots – small areas of the ocean that are dictated by the interactions between physical forces and geomorphology, attract multiple species to reproduce in large numbers and support food web dynamics, ecosystem health and robust fisheries. FSAs are comparable in vulnerability, importance and magnificence to breeding aggregations of seabirds, sea turtles and whales yet they receive insufficient attention and are declining worldwide. Numerous case-studies confirm that protected aggregations do recover to benefit fisheries through increases in fish biomass, catch rates and larval recruitment at fished sites. The small size and spatio-temporal predictability of FSAs allow monitoring, assessment and enforcement to be scaled down while benefits of protection scale up to entire populations. Fishers intuitively understand the linkages between protecting FSAs and healthy fisheries and thus tend to support their protection.