The Guide combines theory and practical guidance to help coral reef managers harness the immense power of community stewardship as a central element of coral reef conservation and sustainable use programs. Leading experts from around the world share their decades of experience in designing and implementing coral reef stewardship programs in Australia, Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
Tropical coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically important ecosystems on earth. Nevertheless, we found dramatic changes in coral communities on the reef slopes of Curaçao and Bonaire since 1973. Cover and abundance declined for virtually all coral species. The data show a shift from communities dominated by framework building species (e.g., Orbicella spp.) to communities consisting of small opportunistic, phenotypically plastic, species, including few remaining structural colonies. Madracis mirabilis, Porites astreoides, Diploria strigosa, and Agaricia lamarcki are at present modest winners in the coral assemblage, although overall cover declined also for these species. Increased frequency and intensity of events inducing coral mortality and ongoing reduction in suitable hard substratum, provided by the remnants of large colony building species, could reduce the chance of these species to remain winners in the longer run. The observed loss in coral cover and the shift from larger structural to smaller opportunistic species reduced reef carbonate production by 67% and therewith, in combination with a trend toward smaller coral colonies, reef complexity. Alarmingly, reefs at upper-mesophotic depths (30–40 m) did not escape the general degradation of the coral community. The negative effects are larger around densely populated areas where local stressors are adding to degradation caused, for instance, by region wide mass bleaching. Without proper conservation and management this already dramatic degradation will continue and turn more and more coral species into losers.
Over the past decades numerous studies have reported declines in stony corals and, in many cases, phase shifts to fleshy macroalgae. However, long-term studies documenting changes in other benthic reef organisms are scarce. Here, we studied changes in cover of corals, algal turfs, benthic cyanobacterial mats, macroalgae, sponges and crustose coralline algae at four reef sites of the Caribbean islands of Curaçao and Bonaire over a time span of 40 yr. Permanent 9 m2quadrats at 10, 20, 30 and 40 m depth were photographed at 3- to 6-yr intervals from 1973 to 2013. The temporal and spatial dynamics in the six dominant benthic groups were assessed based on image point-analysis. Our results show consistent patterns of benthic community change with a decrease in the cover of calcifying organisms across all sites and depths from 32.6 (1973) to 9.2% (2013) for corals and from 6.4 to 1% for crustose coralline algae. Initially, coral cover was replaced by algal turfs increasing from 24.5 (1973) to 38% around the early 1990s. Fleshy macroalgae, still absent in 1973, also proliferated covering 12% of the substratum approximately 20 yr later. However, these new dominants largely declined in abundance from 2002 to 2013 (11 and 2%, respectively), marking the rise of benthic cyanobacterial mats. Cyanobacterial mats became the most dominant benthic component increasing from a mere 7.1 (2002) to 22.2% (2013). The observed increase was paralleled by a small but significant increase in sponge cover (0.5 to 2.3%). Strikingly, this pattern of degradation and phase change occurred over the reef slope down to mesophotic depths of 40 m. These findings suggest that reefs dominated by algae may be less stable than previously thought and that the next phase may be the dominance of slimy cyanobacterial mats with some sponges.
Aquaculture is developing rapidly at a global scale and sustainable practices are an essential part of meeting the protein requirements of the ballooning human population. Locating aquaculture offshore is one strategy that may help address some issues related to nearshore development. However, offshore production is nascent and distinctions between the types of aquatic farming may not be fully understood by the public–important for collaboration, research, and development. Here we evaluate and report, to our knowledge, the first multinational quantification of the relative sentiments and opinions of the public around distinct forms of aquaculture. Using thousands of newspaper headlines (Ntotal = 1,596) from developed (no. countries = 26) and developing (42) nations, ranging over periods of 1984 to 2015, we found an expanding positive trend of general ‘aquaculture’ coverage, while ‘marine’ and ‘offshore’ appeared more negative. Overall, developing regions published proportionally more positive than negative headlines than developed countries. As case studies, government collected public comments (Ntotal = 1,585) from the United States of America (USA) and New Zealand mirrored the media sentiments; offshore perception being particularly negative in the USA. We also found public sentiment may be influenced by local environmental disasters not directly related to aquaculture (e.g., oil spills). Both countries voiced concern over environmental impacts, but the concerns tended to be more generalized, rather than targeted issues. Two factors that could be inhibiting informed discussion and decisions about offshore aquaculture are lack of applicable knowledge and actual local development issues. Better communication and investigation of the real versus perceived impacts of aquaculture could aid in clarifying the debate about aquaculture, and help support future sustainable growth.
Enrichment of nutrients and metals in seawater associated with anthropogenic activities can threaten aquatic ecosystems. Consequently, nutrient and metal concentrations are parameters used to define water quality. The European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD) goes further than a contaminant-based approach and utilises indices to assess the Ecological Status (ES) of transitional water bodies (e.g. estuaries and lagoons). One assessment is based upon the abundance of opportunistic Ulva species, as an indication of eutrophication. The objective of this study was to characterise Ireland’s Ulva blooms through the use of WFD assessment, metal concentrations and taxonomic identity. Furthermore, the study assessed whether the ecological assessment is related to the metal composition in the Ulva. WFD algal bloom assessment revealed that the largest surveyed blooms had an estimated biomass of 2164 metric tonnes (w/w). DNA sequences identified biomass from all locations as Ulva rigida, with the exception of New Quay, which was Ulva rotundata. Some blooms contained significant amounts of As, Cu, Cr, Pb and Sn. The results showed that all metal concentrations had a negative relationship (except Se) with the Ecological Quality Ratio (EQR). However, only in the case of Mn were these differences significant (p = 0.038). Overall, the metal composition and concentrations found in Ulva were site dependent, and not clearly related to the ES. Nevertheless, sites with a moderate or poor ES had a higher variability in the metals levels than in estuaries with a high ES.
Ulva is the dominant genus in the green tide events and is considered to have efficient CO2concentrating mechanisms (CCMs). However, little is understood regarding the impacts of ocean acidification on the CCMs of Ulva and the consequences of thalli’s acclimation to ocean acidification in terms of responding to environmental factors. Here, we grew a cosmopolitan green alga, Ulva linza at ambient (LC) and elevated (HC) CO2 levels and investigated the alteration of CCMs in U. linza grown at HC and its responses to the changed seawater carbon chemistry and light intensity. The inhibitors experiment for photosynthetic inorganic carbon utilization demonstrated that acidic compartments, extracellular carbonic anhydrase (CA) and intracellular CA worked together in the thalli grown at LC and the acquisition of exogenous carbon source in the thalli could be attributed to the collaboration of acidic compartments and extracellular CA. Contrastingly, when U. linza was grown at HC, extracellular CA was completely inhibited, acidic compartments and intracellular CA were also down-regulated to different extents and thus the acquisition of exogenous carbon source solely relied on acidic compartments. The down-regulated CCMs in U. linza did not affect its responses to changes of seawater carbon chemistry but led to a decrease of net photosynthetic rate when thalli were exposed to increased light intensity. This decrease could be attributed to photodamage caused by the combination of the saved energy due to the down-regulated CCMs and high light intensity. Our findings suggest future ocean acidification might impose depressing effects on green tide events when combined with increased light exposure.
Herbivorous and detritivorous fishes interact closely with the epilithic algal matrix (EAM) on coral reefs. While sediment and organic detrital loads within the EAM might influence this interaction, the responses of functionally distinct fishes to changing sediment and organic loads have not been investigated. Aquarium based feeding trials were performed to assess how different sediment and organic loads affected feeding by the highly abundant surgeonfishes, Ctenochaetus striatus, a detritivore, and Acanthurus nigrofuscus, a herbivore. C. striatus were highly sensitive to even small increases in sediment loads (of just 75 g m-2), displaying a significant decline in feeding rates as sediment loads increased. Although C. striatus is a specialised detritivore, changing organic loads had no effect and suggests that selection of feeding surfaces is primarily mediated by total sediment loads rather than organic loads. By contrast, A. nigrofuscus displayed no changes to its feeding behaviour regardless of sediment or organic load. These findings highlight the complex, species-specific way that sediments may mediate key ecological processes on coral reefs.
The crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci (COTS) has contributed greatly to declines in coral cover on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and remains one of the major acute disturbances on Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Despite uncertainty about the underlying causes of outbreaks and the management responses that might address them, few studies have critically and directly compared competing hypotheses. This study uses qualitative modelling to compare hypotheses relating to outbreak initiation, explicitly considering the potential role of positive feedbacks, elevated nutrients, and removal of starfish predators by fishing. When nutrients and fishing are considered in isolation, the models indicate that a range of alternative hypotheses are capable of explaining outbreak initiation with similar levels of certainty. The models also suggest that outbreaks may be caused by multiple factors operating simultaneously, rather than by single proximal causes. As the complexity and realism of the models increased, the certainty of outcomes decreased, but key areas that require further research to improve the structure of the models were identified. Nutrient additions were likely to result in outbreaks only when COTS larvae alone benefitted from nutrients. Similarly, the effects of fishing on the decline of corals depended on the complexity of interactions among several categories of fishes. Our work suggests that management approaches which seek to be robust to model structure uncertainty should allow for multiple potential causes of outbreaks. Monitoring programs can provide tests of alternative potential causes of outbreaks if they specifically monitor all key taxa at reefs that are exposed to appropriate combinations of potential causal factors.
Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by certain marine microalgae that can accumulate in the foodweb, posing a health threat to human seafood consumers and wildlife in coastal regions worldwide. Evidence of climatic regulation of domoic acid in shellfish over the past 20 y in the Northern California Current regime is shown. The timing of elevated domoic acid is strongly related to warm phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Oceanic Niño Index, an indicator of El Niño events. Ocean conditions in the northeast Pacific that are associated with warm phases of these indices, including changes in prevailing currents and advection of anomalously warm water masses onto the continental shelf, are hypothesized to contribute to increases in this toxin. We present an applied domoic acid risk assessment model for the US West Coast based on combined climatic and local variables. Evidence of regional- to basin-scale controls on domoic acid has not previously been presented. Our findings have implications in coastal zones worldwide that are affected by this toxin and are particularly relevant given the increased frequency of anomalously warm ocean conditions.
Constructing activity budgets for marine animals when they are at sea and cannot be directly observed is challenging, but recent advances in bio-logging technology offer solutions to this problem. Accelerometers can potentially identify a wide range of behaviours for animals based on unique patterns of acceleration. However, when analysing data derived from accelerometers, there are many statistical techniques available which when applied to different data sets produce different classification accuracies. We investigated a selection of supervised machine learning methods for interpreting behavioural data from captive otariids (fur seals and sea lions). We conducted controlled experiments with 12 seals, where their behaviours were filmed while they were wearing 3-axis accelerometers. From video we identified 26 behaviours that could be grouped into one of four categories (foraging, resting, travelling and grooming) representing key behaviour states for wild seals. We used data from 10 seals to train four predictive classification models: stochastic gradient boosting (GBM), random forests, support vector machine using four different kernels and a baseline model: penalised logistic regression. We then took the best parameters from each model and cross-validated the results on the two seals unseen so far. We also investigated the influence of feature statistics (describing some characteristic of the seal), testing the models both with and without these. Cross-validation accuracies were lower than training accuracy, but the SVM with a polynomial kernel was still able to classify seal behaviour with high accuracy (>70%). Adding feature statistics improved accuracies across all models tested. Most categories of behaviour -resting, grooming and feeding—were all predicted with reasonable accuracy (52–81%) by the SVM while travelling was poorly categorised (31–41%). These results show that model selection is important when classifying behaviour and that by using animal characteristics we can strengthen the overall accuracy.