The distribution and the structure of benthic assemblages vary with latitude. However, few studies have described benthic communities along large latitudinal gradients, and patterns of variation are not fully understood. Taiwan, lying between 21.90°N and 25.30°N, is located at the center of the Philippine-Japan arc and lies at the northern margin of coral reef development. A wide range of habitats is distributed along this latitudinal gradient, from extensive fringing coral reefs at the southern coast to non-reefal communities at the north. In this study, we examined the structure of benthic communities around Taiwan, by comparing its assemblages in four regions, analyzing the effects of the latitudinal gradient, and highlighting regional characteristics. A total of 25 sites, 125 transects, and 2,625 photographs were used to analyze the benthic communities. Scleractinian corals present an obvious gradient of increasing diversity from north to south, whereas macro-algae diversity is higher on the north-eastern coast. At the country scale, Taiwanese coral communities were dominated by turf algae (49%). At the regional scale, we observed an important heterogeneity that may be caused by local disturbances and habitat degradation that smooths out regional differences. In this context, our observations highlight the importance of managing local stressors responsible for reef degradation. Overall, this study provides an important baseline upon which future changes in benthic assemblages around Taiwan can be assessed.
Marine protected area (MPA) designs are likely to require iterative refinement as new knowledge is gained. In particular, there is an increasing need to consider the effects of climate change, especially the ability of ecosystems to resist and/or recover from climate-related disturbances, within the MPA planning process. However, there has been limited research addressing the incorporation of climate change resilience into MPA design. This study used Marxan conservation planning software with fine-scale shallow water (<20 m) bathymetry and habitat maps, models of major benthic communities for deeper water, and comprehensive human use information from Ningaloo Marine Park in Western Australia to identify climate change resilience features to integrate into the incremental refinement of the marine park. The study assessed the representation of benthic habitats within the current marine park zones, identified priority areas of high resilience for inclusion within no-take zones and examined if any iterative refinements to the current no-take zones are necessary. Of the 65 habitat classes, 16 did not meet representation targets within the current no-take zones, most of which were in deeper offshore waters. These deeper areas also demonstrated the highest resilience values and, as such, Marxan outputs suggested minor increases to the current no-take zones in the deeper offshore areas. This work demonstrates that inclusion of fine-scale climate change resilience features within the design process for MPAs is feasible, and can be applied to future marine spatial planning practices globally.
Knowledge products comprise assessments of authoritative information supported by standards, governance, quality control, data, tools, and capacity building mechanisms. Considerable resources are dedicated to developing and maintaining knowledge products for biodiversity conservation, and they are widely used to inform policy and advise decision makers and practitioners. However, the financial cost of delivering this information is largely undocumented. We evaluated the costs and funding sources for developing and maintaining four global biodiversity and conservation knowledge products: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, Protected Planet, and the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas. These are secondary data sets, built on primary data collected by extensive networks of expert contributors worldwide. We estimate that US$160 million (range: US$116–204 million), plus 293 person-years of volunteer time (range: 278–308 person-years) valued at US$ 14 million (range US$12–16 million), were invested in these four knowledge products between 1979 and 2013. More than half of this financing was provided through philanthropy, and nearly three-quarters was spent on personnel costs. The estimated annual cost of maintaining data and platforms for three of these knowledge products (excluding the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems for which annual costs were not possible to estimate for 2013) is US$6.5 million in total (range: US$6.2–6.7 million). We estimated that an additional US$114 million will be needed to reach pre-defined baselines of data coverage for all the four knowledge products, and that once achieved, annual maintenance costs will be approximately US$12 million. These costs are much lower than those to maintain many other, similarly important, global knowledge products. Ensuring that biodiversity and conservation knowledge products are sufficiently up to date, comprehensive and accurate is fundamental to inform decision-making for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Thus, the development and implementation of plans for sustainable long-term financing for them is critical.
The abundance of the eastern Taiwan Strait (ETS) population of the Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) has been estimated to be less than 100 individuals. It is categorized as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Thus, immediate measures of conservation should be taken to protect it from extinction. Currently, the Taiwanese government plans to designate its habitat as a Major Wildlife Habitat (MWH), a type of marine protected area (MPA) for conservation of wildlife species. Although the designation allows continuing the current exploitation, however, it may cause conflicts among multiple stakeholders with competing interests. The study is to explore the attitude and opinions among the stakeholders in order to better manage the MPA. This study employs a semi-structured interview and a questionnaire survey of local fishers. Results from interviews indicated that the subsistence of fishers remains a major problem. It was found that stakeholders have different perceptions of the fishers’ attitude towards conservation and also thought that the fishery-related law enforcement could be difficult. Quantitative survey showed that fishers are generally positive towards the conservation of the Chinese white dolphin but are less willing to participate in the planning process. Most fishers considered temporary fishing closure as feasible for conservation. The results of this study provide recommendations for future efforts towards the goal of better conservation for this endangered species.
Upwelling regions are highly productive habitats targeted by wide-ranging marine predators and industrial fisheries. In this study, we track the migratory movements of eight seabird species from across the Atlantic; quantify overlap with the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) and determine the habitat characteristics that drive this association. Our results indicate the CCLME is a biodiversity hotspot for migratory seabirds; all tracked species and more than 70% of individuals used this upwelling region. Relative species richness peaked in areas where sea surface temperature averaged between 15 and 20°C, and correlated positively with chlorophyll a, revealing the optimum conditions driving bottom-up trophic effects for seabirds. Marine vertebrates are not confined by international boundaries, making conservation challenging. However, by linking diversity to ocean productivity, our research reveals the significance of the CCLME for seabird populations from across the Atlantic, making it a priority for conservation action.
Successful conservation needs to be informed by social science because it is closely linked to socio-economic processes and human behaviour. Limited knowledge about ecosystems' interactions with these processes currently undermines conservation efforts. This review provides a comprehensive synthesis of social science concerning the world's largest multinationally-coordinated conservation infrastructure: the European Ecological Network - ‘Natura 2000’. Based on a review of 149 publications, we analyse and discuss the main findings and outline key social-science research gaps with regard to the Natura 2000 network. The review shows that human dimension of the Natura 2000 network is complex and varies among EU Member States. In general, low level and quality of public participation in implementation of the Natura 2000 network and its management, negative public perceptions of the network, lack of flexibility of responsible authorities and insufficient consideration of the local context pose the greatest challenges to the network's functioning. Important but hitherto little studied research topics include: evaluation of participation; effects of education on potential to raise public awareness; effects of potential financing mechanisms for compensating private land-owners; economic studies on cost-effectiveness; and benefits from conservation and ecosystem services. These knowledge gaps will need to be filled for the Natura 2000 network to reach its goals.