Locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) are often recommended as a strategy to achieve conservation and fisheries management, though few studies have evaluated their performance against these objectives. We assessed the effectiveness of eight periodically harvested closures (PHCs), the most common form of management within Fijian LMMAs, focusing on two outcomes: protection of resource units and biodiversity conservation. Of the eight PHCs, only one provided biodiversity benefits, whereas three were moderately successful in protecting resource units (targeted fish biomass). Protection of resource units was more likely when PHCs were harvested less frequently, less recently, and when total fish biomass in open areas was lower. Our findings further suggest that monitoring, enforcement, and clearly defined boundaries are critical, less frequent harvesting regimes are advised, and culturally appropriate management incentives are needed. Although PHCs have some potential to protect resource units, they are not recommended as a single strategy for broad-scale biodiversity conservation.
Despite broad recognition of the value of social sciences and increasingly vocal calls for better engagement with the human element of conservation, the conservation social sciences remain misunderstood and underutilized in practice. The conservation social sciences can provide unique and important contributions to society's understanding of the relationships between humans and nature and to improving conservation practice and outcomes. There are 4 barriers—ideological, institutional, knowledge, and capacity—to meaningful integration of the social sciences into conservation. We provide practical guidance on overcoming these barriers to mainstream the social sciences in conservation science, practice, and policy. Broadly, we recommend fostering knowledge on the scope and contributions of the social sciences to conservation, including social scientists from the inception of interdisciplinary research projects, incorporating social science research and insights during all stages of conservation planning and implementation, building social science capacity at all scales in conservation organizations and agencies, and promoting engagement with the social sciences in and through global conservation policy-influencing organizations. Conservation social scientists, too, need to be willing to engage with natural science knowledge and to communicate insights and recommendations clearly. We urge the conservation community to move beyond superficial engagement with the conservation social sciences. A more inclusive and integrative conservation science—one that includes the natural and social sciences—will enable more ecologically effective and socially just conservation. Better collaboration among social scientists, natural scientists, practitioners, and policy makers will facilitate a renewed and more robust conservation. Mainstreaming the conservation social sciences will facilitate the uptake of the full range of insights and contributions from these fields into conservation policy and practice.
It has long been claimed that a better understanding of human or social dimensions of environmental issues will improve conservation. The social sciences are one important means through which researchers and practitioners can attain that better understanding. Yet, a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences impedes the conservation community's effective engagement with the human dimensions. This paper examines the scope and purpose of eighteen subfields of classic, interdisciplinary and applied conservation social sciences and articulates ten distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to understanding and improving conservation. In brief, the conservation social sciences can be valuable to conservation for descriptive, diagnostic, disruptive, reflexive, generative, innovative, or instrumental reasons. This review and supporting materials provides a succinct yet comprehensive reference for conservation scientists and practitioners. We contend that the social sciences can help facilitate conservation policies, actions and outcomes that are more legitimate, salient, robust and effective.
Citizen science can increase the scope of research in the marine environment; however, it suffers from necessitating specialized training and simplified methodologies that reduce research output. This paper presents a simplified, novel survey methodology for citizen scientists, which combines GoPro imagery and structure from motion to construct an ortho-corrected 3D model of habitats for analysis. Results using a coral reef habitat were compared to surveys conducted with traditional snorkelling methods for benthic cover, holothurian counts, and coral health. Results were comparable between the two methods, and structure from motion allows the results to be analysed off-site for any chosen visual analysis. The GoPro method outlined in this study is thus an effective tool for citizen science in the marine environment, especially for comparing changes in coral cover or volume over time.
Coral reef habitat structural complexity influences key ecological processes, ecosystem biodiversity, and resilience. Measuring structural complexity underwater is not trivial and researchers have been searching for accurate and cost-effective methods that can be applied across spatial extents for over 50 years. This study integrated a set of existing multi-view, image-processing algorithms, to accurately compute metrics of structural complexity (e.g., ratio of surface to planar area) underwater solely from images. This framework resulted in accurate, high-speed 3D habitat reconstructions at scales ranging from small corals to reef-scapes (10s km2). Structural complexity was accurately quantified from both contemporary and historical image datasets across three spatial scales: (i) branching coral colony (Acropora spp.); (ii) reef area (400 m2); and (iii) reef transect (2 km). At small scales, our method delivered models with <1 mm error over 90% of the surface area, while the accuracy at transect scale was 85.3% ± 6% (CI). Advantages are: no need for an a priori requirement for image size or resolution, no invasive techniques, cost-effectiveness, and utilization of existing imagery taken from off-the-shelf cameras (both monocular or stereo). This remote sensing method can be integrated to reef monitoring and improve our knowledge of key aspects of coral reef dynamics, from reef accretion to habitat provisioning and productivity, by measuring and up-scaling estimates of structural complexity.
The limited availability of fisheries socio-economic data often reflects insufficient technical capacity for planning and implementing data collection programs, including survey design, data processing, and analysis. To address this, a handbook was developed to provide a practical kit of tested and standardized tools for conducting sample surveys for collection of the most pertinent data for a socio-economic assessment of fisheries and harmonizing data collection. Conceptually, the sampling scheme proposed was straightforward and, if correctly applied, it guarantees sound and robust statistical fisheries data. The main focus of this handbook was placed on livelihoods; employment; general profitability of the activity and demographic patterns. In the socio-economic assessment of fisheries remuneration is one of the key indicators and is also the most challenging to estimate: a socio-economic survey that provides estimates of remuneration that are close to the reality is a successful survey.
Sufficiently rigorous monitoring and evaluation can assess the effectiveness of management actions to conserve natural resources. However, costs of monitoring can be high in relation to program budgets, so it is critical to design monitoring efforts to ensure a high return on investment. To assess the relative contribution of different monitoring strategies to yield information for management decisions, we examine the evolution of a multi-year monitoring program across several MPAs in West Papua, Indonesia. Three monitoring strategies were implemented: external expert, science practitioner, and community monitoring staff. We place the monitoring objectives in a decision science framework, with six explicit fundamental objectives for monitoring to evaluate performance of marine protected areas. We examine each strategy in light of the six objectives to evaluate: 1) power to detect change, 2) extent of local capacity development, and 3) cost effectiveness. Over time, costs were reduced and scientific value increased through clear communication of science objectives, outcome-driven experimental design, adequately resourced monitoring programs, and a long-term view that anticipates phasing out outside consultants and transitioning monitoring responsibilities fully to locally-based staff. Investments to develop capacity of staff living locally to perform data management, analysis, interpretation, and science communication proved the most cost-effective approach in the long-term. With many globally important ecosystems in developing countries, developing local scientific capacity for the full cycle of monitoring is key to informed decision-making and ensuring long-term sustainability of efforts to conserve biodiversity.
Anthropogenic particles (APs), including microplastics, are ingested by a wide variety of marine organisms. Exposure of Clupeiformes (e.g. herrings, anchovies, sardines) is poorly studied despite their economic and ecological importance. This study aims to describe the morphology of the filtration apparatus of three wild-caught Clupeiformes (Sardina pilchardus, Clupea harengus and Engraulis encrasicolus) and to relate the results to ingested APs. Consequently, the species with the more efficient filtration apparatus will be more likely to ingest APs. We hypothesized that sardines were the most exposed species. The filtration area and particle retention threshold were determined in the three species, with sardines displaying the highest filtration area and the closest gill rakers. Sardines ingested more fibers and smaller fragments, confirming that it is the most efficient filtering species. These two results lead to the conclusion that, among the three studied, the sardine is the species most exposed to APs.
Larval dispersal by ocean currents is a critical component of systematic marine protected area (MPA) design. However, there is a lack of quantitative methods to incorporate larval dispersal in support of increasingly diverse management objectives, including local population persistence under multiple types of threats (primarily focused on larval retention within and dispersal between protected locations) and benefits to unprotected populations and fisheries (primarily focused on larval export from protected locations to fishing grounds). Here, we present a flexible MPA design approach that can reconcile multiple such potentially conflicting management objectives by balancing various associated treatments of larval dispersal information. We demonstrate our approach based on alternative dispersal patterns, combinations of threats to populations, management objectives, and two different optimization strategies (site vs. network-based). Our outcomes highlight a consistently high effectiveness in selecting priority locations that are self-replenishing, inter-connected, and/or important larval sources. We find that the opportunity to balance these three dispersal attributes flexibly can help not only to prevent meta-population collapse, but also to ensure effective fisheries recovery, with average increases in the number of recruits at fishing grounds at least two times higher than achieved by standard habitat-based or ad-hoc MPA designs. Future applications of our MPA design approach should therefore be encouraged, specifically where management tools other than MPAs are not feasible.
Over the past 15 years, multiple areas in the North Atlantic have been closed to destructive fishing practices to protect vulnerable deep-water coral ecosystems, known to provide habitat for diverse associated fauna. Despite the growing number of conservation measures, long-term studies on the recovery of deep-water coral communities from fisheries impacts remain scarce. In the Gulf of Maine, the Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area (NECCCA)1 was established in 2002 to protect dense aggregations of the two numerically dominant octocoral species in the region, Primnoa resedaeformis and Paragorgia arborea. To evaluate the effectiveness of the conservation measures, we monitored shifts in abundance and size of these two coral species in the shallow section (400–700 m) of the NECCCA for 12 years after the fisheries closure. We also evaluated the appropriateness of the location of the deep boundaries of the NECCCA that were placed based on a precautionary approach with limited information on coral distribution at depths >500 m. Video transects were conducted with ROV “ROPOS” in 2001, 2006, 2010 and 2014. We found potential signs of recovery from fisheries impact at some of the shallow locations in 2014: higher coral abundance and the presence of some very large colonies as well as recruits compared to 2001 and 2006. However, spatial heterogeneity was pronounced and small colonies (<20 cm) indicative of successful recruitment were not found at all sites, underscoring the need for long-term protection measures to allow full recovery of impacted coral communities. At 700–1500 m different coral taxa were dominant than at the shallow locations and coral abundance peaked between 700 and1200 m. High abundance and diversity of corals at this depth range, 8–10 km southwest of the NECCCA, suggest that an extension of the southwest boundary should be considered. Comparably low coral abundance was found at depths of 1200–1500 m inside the NECCCA indicating an appropriate initial placement of the southeast boundary. These are the first long-term observations of protected deep-water octocoral communities which are needed for the effective management of deep-water coral conservation areas.