Episodes of mass coral bleaching have been reported in recent decades and have raised concerns about the future of coral reefs on a warming planet. Despite the efforts to enhance and coordinate coral reef monitoring within and across countries, our knowledge of the geographic extent of mass coral bleaching over the past few decades is incomplete. Existing databases, like ReefBase, are limited by the voluntary nature of contributions, geographical biases in data collection, and the variations in the spatial scale of bleaching reports. In this study, we have developed the first-ever gridded, global-scale historical coral bleaching database. First, we conducted a targeted search for bleaching reports not included in ReefBase by personally contacting scientists and divers conducting monitoring in under-reported locations and by extracting data from the literature. This search increased the number of observed bleaching reports by 79%, from 4146 to 7429. Second, we employed spatial interpolation techniques to develop annual 0.04° × 0.04° latitude-longitude global maps of the probability that bleaching occurred for 1985 through 2010. Initial results indicate that the area of coral reefs with a more likely than not (>50%) or likely (>66%) probability of bleaching was eight times higher in the second half of the assessed time period, after the 1997/1998 El Niño. The results also indicate that annual maximum Degree Heating Weeks, a measure of thermal stress, for coral reefs with a high probability of bleaching increased over time. The database will help the scientific community more accurately assess the change in the frequency of mass coral bleaching events, validate methods of predicting mass coral bleaching, and test whether coral reefs are adjusting to rising ocean temperatures.
Drawing on ethnographic case studies from Madagascar, this research shows that multiple marine conservation projects have institutionalized inequitable access to marine recourses along gendered lines. Despite discursive and institutional shifts toward more “collaborative” and “community-based” conservation programing, there is a deficiency of women’s nominal as well as effective participation in community management organizations. This research shows that conservation organizations’ focus on proximate drivers of marine resource use, or a politics of picking the “low-hanging fruit,” over ultimate drivers such as global commodity chains, places disproportionate emphasis on marine spatial enclosures and restricting specific, and gendered, harvest methods. To address gender bias concerning access to and control over natural resources, we must go beyond the rhetoric of “community involvement” to address gendered inequalities in conservation decision making, and whose interests are served by conservation projects.
The ingestion of microplastic fragments, spheres, and fibers by marine mollusks, crustaceans, and fish, including a number of commercially important species, appears to be a widespread and pervasive phenomenon. Evidence is also growing for direct impacts of microplastic ingestion on physiology, reproductive success and survival of exposed marine organisms, and transfer through food webs, although the ecological implications are not yet known. Concerns also remain over the capacity for microplastics to act as vectors for harmful chemical pollutants, including plastic additives and persistent organic pollutants, although their contribution must be evaluated alongside other known sources. The potential for humans, as top predators, to consume microplastics as contaminants in seafood is very real, and its implications for health need to be considered. An urgent need also exists to extend the geographical scope of studies of microplastic contamination in seafood species to currently underrepresented areas, and to finalize and adopt standardized methods and quality-assurance protocols for the isolation, identification, and quantification of microplastic contaminants from biological tissues. Such developments would enable more robust investigation of spatial and temporal trends, thereby contributing further evidence as a sound basis for regulatory controls. Despite the existence of considerable uncertainties and unknowns, there is already a compelling case for urgent actions to identify, control, and, where possible, eliminate key sources of both primary and secondary microplastics before they reach the marine environment.
Fisheries provide nutrition and livelihoods for coastal populations, but many fisheries are fully or over-exploited and we lack an approach for analysing which factors affect management tool performance. We conducted a literature review of 390 studies to assess how fisheries characteristics affected management tool performance across both small-scale and large-scale fisheries. We defined success as increased or maintained abundance or biomass, reductions in fishing mortality or improvements in population status. Because the literature only covered a narrow set of biological factors, we also conducted an expert elicitation to create a typology of broader fishery characteristics, enabling conditions and design considerations that affect performance. The literature suggested that the most commonly used management tool in a region was often the most successful, although the scale of success varied. Management tools were more often deemed successful when used in combination, particularly pairings of tools that controlled fishing mortality or effort with spatial management. Examples of successful combinations were the use of catch limits with quotas and limited entry, and marine protected areas with effort restrictions. The most common factors associated with inadequate biological performance were ‘structural’ issues, including poor design or implementation. The expert-derived typologies revealed strong local leadership, high community involvement and governance capacity as common factors of success across management tool categories (i.e. input, output and technical measures), but the degree of importance varied. Our results are designed to inform selection of appropriate management tools based on empirical data and experience to increase the likelihood of successful fisheries management.
The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the United States Microbead Free Waters Act are credited for being ambitious in their goals for protecting the marine environment from microplastics pollution. As a result, the microplastic pollution of marine environments and the incidence of microplastic ingestion by fish is rapidly receiving an increase in overdue attention. This commentary summarizes recent discoveries regarding the potential negative effects of micro- and nanoplastic ingestion by fish. Analysis shows that the occurrence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of fish is ephemeral, with low accumulation potential in the gastrointestinal tract, although translocation to the liver may occur. Nevertheless, the total load of micro- and nanoplastics that will pass through the gastrointestinal tract of a fish in its lifetime is likely high and will keep increasing in the future. This may pose a risk because there is evidence that micro- and nanoplastic ingestion can interfere with fish health. Observed effects of microplastics ingestion include (but are not necessarily limited to) intestinal blockage, physical damage, histopathological alterations in the intestines, change in behavior, change in lipid metabolism, and transfer to the liver.
South Africa has a vibrant plastics manufacturing industry, but recycling is limited and insufficient with a notable proportion of the unmanaged waste entering the environment. South Africa is a developing country with microplastics research in its inception. Very little is known about freshwater microplastics, and studies on South African marine microplastics are limited but actively being pursued. In a water-scarce country, protection of freshwater resources remains a priority, but in the face of other socioeconomic issues (poverty, unemployment, and HIV/AIDS), it receives insufficiently effective attention. The full impact and risks of microplastics pollution in water is yet to be discovered. The risks may be enhanced in a developing country where many communities remain largely dependent on the land and natural waters. With South Africa being a water-scarce country, the quality of its aquatic resources is at an even greater risk with an assumed increasing background of microplastics, emphasizing the need for further research. A South African Water Research Commission–funded project is being undertaken to derive research priorities, but there is an immediate need for improved recycling and waste management.
Microplastics pollution has been documented in the global environment, including at sea, in freshwater and in atmospheric fallout. Ingestion of microplastics by multiple kinds of organisms has been reported and has received increasing attention, because microplastics not only act as a source of toxic chemicals but also a sink for toxic chemicals. To better understand the great concerns about microplastics and associated toxic chemicals potential exposed to the organisms ingesting the debris, we should know more about the occurrence, fate, and risks of microplastics in the environment. What we should do depends on this better understanding.
Shellfish aquaculture in the Salish Sea (encompassing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, and the Georgia Strait) is a major source of clams, oysters, and mussels in the United States and Canada. Plastic gear is necessary for the viability of many of these operations. During the past few years, shellfish farm permits issued in Washington State have been challenged on various bases that have included allegations that the plastic gear is releasing microplastics, commonly defined as particles less than 5 mm in diameter. Published survey data on sources of marine plastic debris demonstrate the very limited contribution of aquaculture gear. Both permits and industry codes of practice provide procedures to minimize loss of gear to the marine environment. Plastic gear is also designed specifically to maintain its integrity and not degrade in the marine environment. Plastic degradation is greatest on beaches with high UV exposure, whereas aquaculture gear is mostly underwater and/or covered by biofoulants. Available data for microplastics in water, sediment, and biota of the Salish Sea do not suggest significant release of microplastics from shellfish aquaculture operations.
Microplastics' (particles size ≤5 mm) sources and fate in marine bottom and beach sediments of the brackish are strongly polluted Baltic Sea have been investigated. Microplastics were extracted using sodium chloride (1.2 g cm-3). Their qualitative identification was conducted using micro-Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (μFT-IR). Concentration of microplastics varied from 25 particles kg-1 d.w. at the open sea beach to 53 particles kg-1 d.w. at beaches of strongly urbanized bay. In bottom sediments, microplastics concentration was visibly lower compared to beach sediments (0-27 particles kg-1 d.w.) and decreased from the shore to the open, deep-sea regions. The most frequent microplastics dimensions ranged from 0.1 to 2.0 mm, and transparent fibers were predominant. Polyester, which is a popular fabrics component, was the most common type of microplastic in both marine bottom (50%) and beach sediments (27%). Additionally, poly(vinyl acetate) used in shipbuilding as well as poly(ethylene-propylene) used for packaging were numerous in marine bottom (25% of all polymers) and beach sediments (18% of all polymers). Polymer density seems to be an important factor influencing microplastics circulation. Low density plastic debris probably recirculates between beach sediments and seawater in a greater extent than higher density debris. Therefore, their deposition is potentially limited and physical degradation is favored. Consequently, low density microplastics concentration may be underestimated using current methods due to too small size of the debris. This influences also the findings of qualitative research of microplastics which provide the basis for conclusions about the sources of microplastics in the marine environment.
Identifying the right stakeholders to engage with is fundamental to ensuring conservation information and initiatives diffuse through target populations. Yet this process can be challenging, particularly as practitioners and policy makers grapple with different conservation objectives and a diverse landscape of relevant stakeholders. Here we draw on social network theory and methods to develop guidelines for selecting ‘key players’ better positioned to successfully implement four distinct conservation objectives: (1) rapid diffusion of conservation information, (2) diffusion between disconnected groups, (3) rapid diffusion of complex knowledge or initiatives, or (4) widespread diffusion of conservation information or complex initiatives over a longer time period. Using complete network data among coastal fishers from six villages in Kenya, we apply this approach to select key players for each type of conservation objective. We then draw on key informant interviews from seven resource management and conservation organizations working along the Kenyan coast to investigate whether the socioeconomic attributes of the key players we identified match the ones typically selected to facilitate conservation diffusion (i.e., ‘current players’). Our findings show clear discrepancies between current players and key players, highlighting missed opportunities for progressing more effective conservation diffusion. We conclude with specific criteria for selecting key stakeholders to facilitate each distinct conservation objective, thereby helping to mitigate the problem of stakeholder identification in ways that avoid blueprint approaches. These guidelines can also be applied in other research and intervention areas, such as community development studies, participatory research, and community intervention.