Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) numbers are beginning to recover across most of the western distinct population segment following catastrophic declines that began in the 1970s and ended around the turn of the century. This study makes use of contemporary vital rate estimates from a trend-site rookery in the eastern Gulf of Alaska (a sub-region of the western population) in a matrix population model to estimate the trend and strength of the recovery across this region between 2003 and 2013. The modeled population trend was projected into the future based on observed variation in vital rates and a prospective elasticity analysis was conducted to determine future trends and which vital rates pose the greatest threats to recovery. The modeled population grew at a mean rate of 3.5% per yr between 2003 and 2013 and was correlated with census count data from the local rookery and throughout the eastern Gulf of Alaska. If recent vital rate estimates continue with little change, the eastern Gulf of Alaska population could be fully recovered to pre-decline levels within 23 years. With density dependent growth, the population would need another 45 years to fully recover. Elasticity analysis showed that, as expected, population growth rate (λ) was most sensitive to changes in adult survival, less sensitive to changes in juvenile survival, and least sensitive to changes in fecundity. A population decline could be expected with only a 6% decrease in adult survival, whereas a 32% decrease in fecundity would be necessary to bring about a population decline. These results have important implications for population management and suggest current research priorities should be shifted to a greater emphasis on survival rates and causes of mortality.
Diatoms and other phytoplankton in coastal waters experience rapid pH changes in milieu due to high biological activities and/or upwelled CO2-rich waters. While CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) are employed by all diatoms tested to counter low CO2 availability in seawater, little is known how this mechanism responds to fast pH changes. In the present study, the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana was acclimated for 20 generations to low pH (7.81) at an elevated CO2 of 1000 μatm (HC) or to high pH (8.18) at ambient CO2 levels of 390 μatm (LC), then its physiological characteristics were investigated as cells were shifted from HC to LC or vice versa. The maximal electron transport rate (ETRmax) in the HC-acclimated cells was immediately reduced by decreased CO2 availability, showing much lower values compared to that of the LC-acclimated cells. However, the cells showed a high capacity to regain their photochemical performance regardless of the growth CO2 levels, with their ETRmax values recovering to initial levels in about 100 min. This result indicates that this diatom might modulate its CCMs quickly to maintain a steady state supply of CO2, which is required for sustaining photosynthesis. In addition, active uptake of CO2 could play a fundamental role during the induction of CCMs under CO2 limitation, since the cells maintained high ETR even when both intracellular and periplasmic carbonic anhydrases were inhibited. It is concluded that efficient regulation of the CCM is one of the key strategies for diatoms to survive in fast changing pH environment, e.g. for the tested species, which is a dominant species in coastal waters where highly fluctuating pH is observed.
Jellyfish outbreaks are increasingly viewed as a deterministic response to escalating levels of environmental degradation and climate extremes. However, a comprehensive understanding of the influence of deterministic drivers and stochastic environmental variations favouring population renewal processes has remained elusive. This study quantifies the deterministic and stochastic components of environmental change that lead to outbreaks of the jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca in the Mediterranen Sea. Using data of jellyfish abundance collected at 241 sites along the Catalan coast from 2007 to 2010 we: (1) tested hypotheses about the influence of time-varying and spatial predictors of jellyfish outbreaks; (2) evaluated the relative importance of stochastic vs. deterministic forcing of outbreaks through the environmental bootstrap method; and (3) quantified return times of extreme events. Outbreaks were common in May and June and less likely in other summer months, which resulted in a negative relationship between outbreaks and SST. Cross- and along-shore advection by geostrophic flow were important concentrating forces of jellyfish, but most outbreaks occurred in the proximity of two canyons in the northern part of the study area. This result supported the recent hypothesis that canyons can funnel P. noctiluca blooms towards shore during upwelling. This can be a general, yet unappreciated mechanism leading to outbreaks of holoplanktonic jellyfish species. The environmental bootstrap indicated that stochastic environmental fluctuations have negligible effects on return times of outbreaks. Our analysis emphasized the importance of deterministic processes leading to jellyfish outbreaks compared to the stochastic component of environmental variation. A better understanding of how environmental drivers affect demographic and population processes in jellyfish species will increase the ability to anticipate jellyfish outbreaks in the future.
A large data set from the Eastern Mediterranean was analyzed to explore the relationship between seawater column variables and benthic community status. Our results showed a strong quantitative link between the seawater column variables (Chlorophyll a and Eutrophication Index) and various indicators describing benthic diversity and community composition. The percentage of benthic opportunistic species increased significantly in the stations with high trophic status of the seawater column and so did the strength of the coupling between values of seawater column and benthic indicators. The Eutrophication Index threshold level of 0.85, separating the “Bad and Poor” from “Moderate to High” conditions could serve as an acceptable critical value above which there is a readily observable change in benthic community composition.
For centuries, the mechanisms surrounding spatially complex animal migrations have intrigued scientists and the public. We present a new methodology using ocean heat content (OHC), a habitat metric that is normally a fundamental part of hurricane intensity forecasting, to estimate movements and migration of satellite-tagged marine fishes. Previous satellite-tagging research of fishes using archival depth, temperature and light data for geolocations have been too coarse to resolve detailed ocean habitat utilization. We combined tag data with OHC estimated from ocean circulation and transport models in an optimization framework that substantially improved geolocation accuracy over SST-based tracks. The OHC-based movement track provided the first quantitative evidence that many of the tagged highly migratory fishes displayed affinities for ocean fronts and eddies. The OHC method provides a new quantitative tool for studying dynamic use of ocean habitats, migration processes and responses to environmental changes by fishes, and further, improves ocean animal tracking and extends satellite-based animal tracking data for other potential physical, ecological, and fisheries applications.
The recently declared Australian Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR) Network covers a total of 3.1 million km2 of continental shelf, slope, and abyssal habitat. Managing and conserving the biodiversity values within this network requires knowledge of the physical and biological assets that lie within its boundaries. Unfortunately very little is known about the habitats and biological assemblages of the continental shelf within the network, where diversity is richest and anthropogenic pressures are greatest. Effective management of the CMR estate into the future requires this knowledge gap to be filled efficiently and quantitatively. The challenge is particularly great for the shelf as multibeam echosounder (MBES) mapping, a key tool for identifying and quantifying habitat distribution, is time consuming in shallow depths, so full coverage mapping of the CMR shelf assets is unrealistic in the medium-term. Here we report on the results of a study undertaken in the Flinders Commonwealth Marine Reserve (southeast Australia) designed to test the benefits of two approaches to characterising shelf habitats: (i) MBES mapping of a continuous (~30 km2) area selected on the basis of its potential to include a range of seabed habitats that are potentially representative of the wider area, versus; (ii) a novel approach that uses targeted mapping of a greater number of smaller, but spatially balanced, locations using a Generalized Random Tessellation Stratified sample design. We present the first quantitative estimates of habitat type and sessile biological communities on the shelf of the Flinders reserve, the former based on three MBES analysis techniques. We contrast the quality of information that both survey approaches offer in combination with the three MBES analysis methods. The GRTS approach enables design based estimates of habitat types and sessile communities and also identifies potential biodiversity hotspots in the northwest corner of the reserve’s IUCN zone IV, and in locations close to shelf incising canyon heads. Design based estimates of habitats, however, vary substantially depending on the MBES analysis technique, highlighting the challenging nature of the reserve’s low profile reefs, and improvements that are needed when acquiring MBES data for small GRTS locations. We conclude that the two survey approaches are complementary and both have their place in a successful and flexible monitoring strategy; the emphasis on one method over the other should be considered on a case by case basis, taking into account the survey objectives and limitations imposed by the type of vessel, time available, size and location of the region where knowledge is required.
Modelling approaches have the potential to significantly contribute to the spatial management of the deep-sea ecosystem in a cost effective manner. However, we currently have little understanding of the accuracy of such models, developed using limited data, of varying resolution. The aim of this study was to investigate the performance of predictive models constructed using non-simulated (real world) data of different resolution. Predicted distribution maps for three deep-sea habitats were constructed using MaxEnt modelling methods using high resolution multibeam bathymetric data and associated terrain derived variables as predictors. Model performance was evaluated using repeated 75/25 training/test data partitions using AUC and threshold-dependent assessment methods. The overall extent and distribution of each habitat, and the percentage contained within an existing MPA network were quantified and compared to results from low resolution GEBCO models. Predicted spatial extent for scleractinian coral reef and Syringammina fragilissima aggregations decreased with an increase in model resolution, whereas Pheronema carpenteri total suitable area increased. Distinct differences in predicted habitat distribution were observed for all three habitats. Estimates of habitat extent contained within the MPA network all increased when modelled at fine scale. High resolution models performed better than low resolution models according to threshold-dependent evaluation. We recommend the use of high resolution multibeam bathymetry data over low resolution bathymetry data for use in modelling approaches. We do not recommend the use of predictive models to produce absolute values of habitat extent, but likely areas of suitable habitat. Assessments of MPA network effectiveness based on calculations of percentage area protection (policy driven conservation targets) from low resolution models are likely to be fit for purpose.
A combination of fisheries dependent and independent data was used to assess the vulnerability of the oceanic whitetip shark to pelagic longline fisheries. The Brazilian tuna longline fleet, operating in the equatorial and southwestern Atlantic, is used as a case study. Fisheries dependent data include information from logbooks (from 1999 to 2011) and on-board observers (2004 to 2010), totaling 65,277 pelagic longline sets. Fisheries independent data were obtained from 8 oceanic whitetip sharks tagged with pop-up satellite archival tags in the area where longline fleet operated. Deployment periods varied from 60 to 178 days between 2010 and 2012. Tagging and pop-up sites were relatively close to each other, although individuals tended to travel long distances before returning to the tagging area. Some degree of site fidelity was observed. High utilization hotspots of tagged sharks fell inside the area under strongest fishing pressure. Despite the small sample size, a positive correlation between tag recorded information and catch data was detected. All sharks exhibited a strong preference for the warm and shallow waters of the mixed layer, spending on average more than 70% of the time above the thermocline and 95% above 120 m. Results indicate that the removal of shallow hooks on longline gear might be an efficient mitigation measure to reduce the bycatch of this pelagic shark species. The work also highlights the potential of tagging experiments to provide essential information for the development of spatio-temporal management measures.
Rockfish Conservation areas (rCas) were implemented in 2000 to 2003 along the West Coast of the united states to reduce fishing mortality on rockfish (Sebastes spp.) and other groundfish species that had recently been declared overfished. in 2012, we initiated a study to compare recent catch rates, species compositions and length frequencies of fishes inside and outside the rCas with data collected in central California between 1995 and 1998. at all sites surveyed, total catch rates from the new surveys (2012–14) were significantly higher than catch rates from before rCa implementation (1995–98).The majority of the differences were due to the increased relative abundance of yellowtail rockfish (Sebastes flavidus), although other species, including the overfished canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger), also increased. differences in the size composition of species between the two time periods reflected both the increased survival of older fishes and higher recruitment success in the past decade.
The goal of our paper is to characterize challenges and offer potential solutions for structuring collaborative research that benefits conservation, based on our collective experience as foreign and local scientists conducting collaborative research in small island states. Specifically, we draw upon presentations by the authors and discussions amongst an international audience of marine scientists at a symposium of the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3) around the question: “What does on-the-ground best practice look like for effectively co-producing cross-border marine research in small island states?” Our discussion builds on broad guidance of the UN's SAMOA Pathway (General Assembly resolution 69/15), an output of SIDS Conference 2014, and takes into account international statements on cross-border research integrity5. The IMCC3 symposium was predominantly attended by foreign scientists collaborating in small island states, so we primarily offer experience-based advice for applied researchers in this community. We do, however, include key information and actionable recommendations (see Table 1) for local research communities in small island states, and for funders. Recommendations are made in the following areas, identified through thematic analysis of symposium discussions: (1) aligning priorities; (2) building long-term relationships; (3) enhancing local capacity; and (4) sharing research products.