2017 could become a landmark year for efforts to put the world’s oceans on a pathway towards sustainability. Complemented by numerous regional and national initiatives, the UN Ocean Conference in June and the EU-hosted Our Ocean Conference in October are important opportunities for the international community to establish a firm foundation for future action and to agree on tangible measures to reverse the cycle of declining ocean health. While there is no lack in global ambition, the global community should now agree on concrete steps to develop coherent regional and international implementation frameworks for achieving oceans sustainability. To advance these efforts, this policy brief offers three key recommendations.
The Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) population in Prince William Sound, Alaska crashed in 1993 and has yet to recover, affecting food web dynamics in the Sound and impacting Alaskan communities. To help researchers design and implement the most effective monitoring, management, and recovery programs, a Bayesian assessment of Prince William Sound herring was developed by reformulating the current model used by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Bayesian model estimated pre-fishery spawning biomass of herring age-3 and older in 2013 to be a median of 19,410 mt (95% credibility interval 12,150–31,740 mt), with a 54% probability that biomass in 2013 was below the management limit used to regulate fisheries in Prince William Sound. The main advantages of the Bayesian model are that it can more objectively weight different datasets and provide estimates of uncertainty for model parameters and outputs, unlike the weighted sum-of-squares used in the original model. In addition, the revised model could be used to manage herring stocks with a decision rule that considers both stock status and the uncertainty in stock status.
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes are proliferating but are challenged by insufficient attention to spatial and temporal inter-dependencies, interactions between different ecosystems and their services, and the need for multi-level governance. To address these challenges, this paper develops a place-based approach to the development and implementation of PES schemes that incorporates multi-level governance, bundling or layering of services across multiple scales, and shared values for ecosystem services. The approach is evaluated and illustrated using case study research to develop an explicitly place-based PES scheme, the Peatland Code, owned and managed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s UK Peatland Programme and designed to pay for restoration of peatland habitats. Buyers preferred bundled schemes with premium pricing of a primary service, contrasting with sellers’ preferences for quantifying and marketing services separately in a layered scheme. There was limited awareness among key business sectors of dependencies on ecosystem services, or the risks and opportunities arising from their management. Companies with financial links to peatlands or a strong environmental sustainability focus were interested in the scheme, particularly in relation to climate regulation, water quality, biodiversity and flood risk mitigation benefits. Visitors were most interested in donating to projects that benefited wildlife and were willing to donate around £2 on-site during a visit. Sellers agreed a deliberated fair price per tonne of CO2equivalent from £11.18 to £15.65 across four sites in Scotland, with this range primarily driven by spatial variation in habitat degradation. In the Peak District, perceived declines in sheep and grouse productivity arising from ditch blocking led to substantially higher prices, but in other regions ditch blocking was viewed more positively. The Peatland Code was developed in close collaboration with stakeholders at catchment, landscape and national scales, enabling multi-level governance of the management and delivery of ecosystem services across these scales. Place-based PES schemes can mitigate negative trade-offs between ecosystem services, more effectively include cultural ecosystem services and engage with and empower diverse stakeholders in scheme design and governance.
The Western Indian Ocean region ranks as one of the world’s richest and most biodiverse ocean areas. Coral reefs, mangroves, salt marshes, seagrass beds, as well as pelagic and deep-sea habitats generate high biodiversity and productive waters which in turn support economies and livelihoods. The importance of the ocean to the people of the region cannot be overstated: over a quarter of the population, some 60 million people, lives within 100km of the shoreline. The region is now at a crossroads as leaders face crucial decisions. This report details the values of the ocean assets, the growing threats they face and the priority actions needed to provide a more certain and sustainable future for its people.
Melanesia is a major part of the Pacific and its people have relied on the ocean for millennia but as human impacts build, locally and globally, can the ocean sustain this growing region? This report finds that Melanesia’s ocean economy is one of the main economic drivers in the region and describes the major role the ocean plays in providing food, livelihoods and well-being. As multiple pressures combine to threaten the ocean assets that deliver so much for the region, the report outlines clear steps for Melanesia to urgently translate commitments into scaled-up action to achieve a sustainable and inclusive blue economy and a healthy future.
On Caribbean reefs, the excavating sponge Cliona tenuis opportunistically colonized dead skeletons of the elkhorn coral Acropora palmata after its massive die-off in the 1980s. Further C. tenuis population increase occurred by colonization of other coral species, causing coral tissue death through undermining of live tissue and lateral growth. To follow up on a previous (2001) characterization of the abundance and size structure of C. tenuis at Islas del Rosario (Colombia), these factors were again estimated in 2014, along with its substratum utilization. The fate of sponge individuals colonizing massive coral colonies marked in 2001–2004 was also followed. By 2014 C. tenuis was still disproportionally occupying dead A. palmata branches, but its abundance and density, and the cover of other benthic elements, had not significantly changed over the 13-year period, suggesting that a stasis has been reached. Cliona tenuis was thus initially favored in the 1980s, but substratum monopolization did not occur. From 2001 to 2014, small individuals increased in number and very large ones decreased, suggesting not only that new recruitment is occurring, but also that larger sponges are shrinking or fragmenting. Marked sponges continued killing corals over the first few years, but over longer times they retreated or died, allowing corals to resume upward growth. However, it could not be ascertained whether the sponge retreat was age-related or the result of some environmental effect. The apparent preference for recently dead clean coral by larvae of C. tenuis and its current dynamics of recruitment, growth, fragmentation and mortality have stabilized its space occupation at Islas del Rosario.
With rapid changes taking place on coral reefs, managers and scientists are faced with prioritising interventions that might avoid undesirable losses in ecosystem health. The property of resilience captures how reefs react and respond to stressors and environmental changes. Therefore, in principle, management goals are more likely to be realised if resilience theory is used to inform decision making and help set realistic expectations for reef outcomes. Indeed, a new approach to reef management has been termed ‘resilience-based management’ (RBM). Yet, resilience concepts have often been criticised for being vague, difficult to operationalise, and beset by multiple definitions. Here, we evaluate how the advent of RBM has changed one aspect of reef management: assessment and monitoring. We compare the metrics used in conventional monitoring programs with those developed through resilience assessments and find that the latter have a stronger focus on ecological processes and exposure to environmental drivers. In contrast, monitoring tends to focus on metrics of reef state and has greater taxonomic resolution, which provides comprehensive information on the nature of changes but does not predict the future responses of reefs in part because it is difficult to extrapolate statistical trends of complex ecological systems. In addition, metrics measured by resilience studies are more diverse, owing in part to the reliance of state metrics as proxies of processes given the difficulty in quantifying key ecological processes directly. We conclude by describing practical ways of improving resilience assessments, and avenues for future research.
Historical tipping of vast quantities of colliery spoil at various foreshore locations in NE England has changed the morphology and sedimentology of large areas of the shoreline and nearshore sea bed, and has impacted adversely upon the ecology and amenity use of the area. Tipping started early in the 20th Century, well before statutory controls to regulate impacts of activities on the marine environment came into force in the UK in 1974, and ended with the closure of the last colliery in 2005. The spoil tipping acted as a form of artificial sediment recharge to the foreshore, akin to conventional beach recharge schemes that use sand or shingle to replenish foreshores for coastal defence and amenity purposes, but creating a legacy of contaminated beaches and prograding (advancing) shores. Since closure of the collieries, however, the foreshores have received no artificial supply of material, and the shoreline in all former tipping areas has since been in retreat due to natural erosion. This has caused problems where assets are present at the rear of the spoil beaches, requiring coastal defence structures for their protection. As well as collating and analysing historical maps, records, literature and data relating to colliery spoil tipping, the coastal changes that have occurred since its cessation have been assessed by reference to more recent maps, literature, aerial photographs and new and up-to-date beach profile transect survey data from contemporary coastal monitoring programmes. It is envisaged that where sea cliffs are protected by colliery spoil beaches, and hence currently are dormant, they could become re-activated by erosion and start to retreat at short term rates of several metres per year and longer-term rates of up to 0.3 m/year in the foreseeable future.
The growing number of artificial structures in estuarine, coastal and marine environments is causing “ocean sprawl”. Artificial structures do not only modify marine and coastal ecosystems at the sites of their placement, but may also produce larger-scale impacts through their alteration of ecological connectivity - the movement of organisms, materials and energy between habitat units within seascapes. Despite the growing awareness of the capacity of ocean sprawl to influence ecological connectivity, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how artificial structures modify ecological connectivity in near- and off-shore environments, and when and where their effects on connectivity are greatest. We review the mechanisms by which ocean sprawl may modify ecological connectivity, including trophic connectivity associated with the flow of nutrients and resources. We also review demonstrated, inferred and likely ecological impacts of such changes to connectivity, at scales from genes to ecosystems, and potential strategies of management for mitigating these effects. Ocean sprawl may alter connectivity by: (1) creating barriers to the movement of some organisms and resources - by adding physical barriers or by modifying and fragmenting habitats; (2) introducing new structural material that acts as a conduit for the movement of other organisms or resources across the landscape; and (3) altering trophic connectivity. Changes to connectivity may, in turn, influence the genetic structure and size of populations, the distribution of species, and community structure and ecological functioning. Two main approaches to the assessment of ecological connectivity have been taken: (1) measurement of structural connectivity - the configuration of the landscape and habitat patches and their dynamics; and (2) measurement of functional connectivity - the response of organisms or particles to the landscape. Our review reveals the paucity of studies directly addressing the effects of artificial structures on ecological connectivity in the marine environment, particularly at large spatial and temporal scales. With the ongoing development of estuarine and marine environments, there is a pressing need for additional studies that quantify the effects of ocean sprawl on ecological connectivity. Understanding the mechanisms by which structures modify connectivity is essential if marine spatial planning and ecoengineering are to be effectively utilised to minimise impacts.
Marine economies have become the hotspot, while coastal social and ecological problems are gaining increasing attention worldwide. Previous studies have focused on the economic, social, and ecological efficiency of single and dual systems in a composite system, thus ignoring the impact of other subsystems. Drawing on the theory of system, this study constructs a ring structure of a complex marine system and then selects a corresponding decision-making unit on the basis of labor and capital circulation in each subsystem to calculate the efficiency of the chain structure using a network Data Envelope Analysis (DEA) model. The results revealed that while social-ecological-economic efficiency increased, social-economic-ecological and ecological-social-economic efficiencies remained stable. By contrast, economic-social-ecological and ecological-economic-social efficiencies showed a downward trend, whereas economic-ecological-social efficiency demonstrated varying changes. The overall efficiency of the chain is highly similar to that in the first stage, although there are differences in numerical values. The study also demonstrates that the network DEA results based on the theory of system do not deny those of previous studies, but contribute to the accuracy of efficiency calculation. The differences between the overall efficiency and that in the first stage indicate that previous studies have underestimated socioeconomic and socioecological efficiencies but overestimated ecological efficiency.