Mineral exploitation has spread from land to shallow coastal waters and is now planned for the offshore, deep seabed. Large seafloor areas are being approved for exploration for seafloor mineral deposits, creating an urgent need for regional environmental management plans. Networks of areas where mining and mining impacts are prohibited are key elements of these plans. We adapt marine reserve design principles to the distinctive biophysical environment of mid-ocean ridges, offer a framework for design and evaluation of these networks to support conservation of benthic ecosystems on mid-ocean ridges, and introduce projected climate-induced changes in the deep sea to the evaluation of reserve design. We enumerate a suite of metrics to measure network performance against conservation targets and network design criteria promulgated by the Convention on Biological Diversity. We apply these metrics to network scenarios on the northern and equatorial Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where contractors are exploring for seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits. A latitudinally distributed network of areas performs well at (i) capturing ecologically important areas and 30 to 50% of the spreading ridge areas, (ii) replicating representative areas, (iii) maintaining along-ridge population connectivity, and (iv) protecting areas potentially less affected by climate-related changes. Critically, the network design is adaptive, allowing for refinement based on new knowledge and the location of mining sites, provided that design principles and conservation targets are maintained. This framework can be applied along the global mid-ocean ridge system as a precautionary measure to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function from impacts of SMS mining.
Many small-scale fisheries are multi-species, and the catch composition can vary according to available habitats, fishing modes, and fisher groups. Here, we applied novel analyses for understanding the factors affecting differences in catch composition among fishers, which should be useful for planning regulatory measures and fishery development initiatives. Interviews with 235 artisanal fishers in Fiji were used to analyse how fishers' catch composition of 22 species of sea cucumbers varied across geographic scales (locations and villages within locations), genders, and fishing modes. Venn diagrams illustrated that gleaning and SCUBA diving were practiced to varying extents among locations and genders, whereas fishers used breath-hold diving more uniformly across the fishery. Segmented bubble plots revealed spatial variations in catch composition across the fishery. A PERMANOVA analysis found that species catch composition varied most across the two geographic scales and, secondarily, among fishing modes and between men and women. Gendered differences in catch composition were variable from one village to another, and so should not be generalized. SIMPER analyses showed that gleaners and SCUBA divers caught significantly different suites of sea cucumber species. Species threatened with extinction were among those typifying catches of SCUBA divers. Our novel graphical techniques are useful for visualizing fishing modes and catches across other fisheries. Artisanal fisheries may exhibit strong heterogeneity in catches at multiple spatial scales. Planning of regulatory measures that limit certain fishing modes or species should take into account the likely differential impacts on different fishing communities and genders.
Flatfishes (order Pleuonectiformes) are important to fisheries and contribute substantially to seafood production and people's livelihood. However, the sustainability of flatfish fisheries is being challenged by climate change, in addition to other non-climatic human stressors. There is an urgent need to expand our understanding of the vulnerability and risk of impacts of flatfishes and their fisheries to climate change, and identify possible options to moderate such impacts. In this paper, firstly, we explain the importance of ocean temperature and thermal characteristics of flatfishes in determining their biogeography. Secondly, we discuss the biological vulnerability of flatfishes in the world to climate change as indicated by quantitative indices estimated from a fuzzy logic algorithm. Thirdly, by presenting projections of future distribution and potential catches of exploited flatfishes from computer simulation models, we highlight specific regions and species that are expected to be most impacted by climate change. Finally, we discuss potential human interventions that could help reduce such impacts, including the potential for mariculture. This paper underscores the need for immediate actions to integrate climate change into flatfish conservation and fisheries management measures.
The people of Oceania have long relied on the ocean for sustenance, commerce, and cultural identity, which promulgated a sophisticated understanding of the marine environment and its conservation. Global declines in ocean health now require innovative solutions that can benefit from customary knowledge and practices, which in the past led to sustainable marine resource use. The resurgence of local stewardship, which incorporates customary practices and governance, has shown promise in many locations throughout the Pacific, although a complete return to past practices is not fully implementable owing to the loss of traditional knowledge, centralized governmental structures, economic development, and globalization. Hybrid systems that incorporate elements of customary and contemporary management can overcome some of these limitations to implementation of successful local management, and lead to greater food security, social cohesion, and the creation of an adaptive system that can potentially mitigate the effects of climate changeand other stressors.
Processes regulating population connectivity are complex, ranging from extrinsic environmental factors to intrinsic individual based features, and are a major force shaping the persistence of fish species and population responses to harvesting and environmental change. Here we developed an integrated assessment of demographic and genetic connectivity of European flounder Platichthys flesus in the northeast Atlantic (from the Norwegian to the Portuguese coast) and Baltic Sea. Specifically, we used a Bayesian infinite mixture model to infer the most likely number of natal sources of individuals based on otolith near core chemical composition. Simultaneously, we characterised genetic connectivity via microsatellite DNA markers, and evaluated how the combined use of natural tags informed individual movement and long-term population exchange rates. Individual markers provided different insights on movement, with otolith chemistry delineating Norwegian and Baltic Sea sources, whilst genetic markers showed a latitudinal pattern which distinguished southern peripheral populations along the Iberian coast. Overall, the integrated use of natural tags resulted in outcomes that were not readily anticipated by individual movement or gene flow markers alone. Our ecological and evolutionary approach provided a synergistic view on connectivity, which will be paramount to align biological and management units and safeguard species’ biocomplexity.
Trophic models were constructed to assess the systemic structure, organisation and health of coral ecosystems in three marine protected areas (MPAs) along the Mexican tropical Pacific Coast. Likewise, the degree of resistance of the model-systems and the compartments most sensitive after perturbations were also evaluated. The biomass of the Rhodophyta group was the most abundant compartment in Isla Isabel National Park (IINP) and Islas Marietas National Park (IMNP), whilst the Phytoplankton group had the highest biomass in Sanctuary of Islands and Islets of Bahía Chamela (SIIBC). Based on the magnitudes of Total System Throughput (TST), Ascendency (A), Overhead (Ov), Capacity(C), Average Mutual Information (AMI), Finn’s Cycling Index (FCI) and the Total Biomass/Total System Throughput (TB/TST) ratio, IINP was more mature, organised, developed and healthy than IMNP and SIIBC. Phytoplankton, Detritus and Zooplankton contributed >60% of the total Ascendency, whereas Jacks and Octopus sp. accounted for the complexity of the three MPA model systems. The outcomes of the propagated impacts, using Mixed Trophic Impacts (MTI) and short-term Ecosim simulations (under three levels of mortality: 10%, 30% and 50%), showed that the Groupers (i.e., exploited fish), Omnivorous Fish, Rhodophyta, Large Epifauna and Phytoplankton produced the highest impacts on the remaining compartments of the three model systems. The average System Recovery Time (SRT) suggested that SIIBC was less resilient to disturbances compared with IINP and IMNP. Based on the outcomes, we suggest that the marine zones adjacent to IINP should be included in the Mexican Management Program to create a buffer zone for these coral ecosystems. Likewise, IMNP and SIIBC should be candidates for a putative monitoring programme to assess the trajectory of the systemic health of coral ecosystems. Finally, the trajectories of exploited species should be monitored because they constitute compartments that have relevant roles in the structure and trophic functioning of the three MPAs.
Marine and coastal ecosystems provide a wide variety of recreational opportunities that are highly valued by society. For the purposes of conducting a meta-analysis we build an extensive global dataset of marine recreational ecosystem service values from the literature. Using this database we developed a number of meta-regression specifications with the objective of evaluating the study specific effects of location, ecosystem, valuation methodology and statistical estimation methods on the reported value estimates. Furthermore, the paper investigates if cultural differences between studies are an important determinant that should be considered in international (meta-analytical) value transfer. This was achieved by including a number of cultural parameters from previous societal studies and surveys into our meta-regression models. We found that accounting for differences in cultural dimensions across recreation valuation studies had a significant influence on value estimates. While a multi-level modelling approach that controls for study effects, proved to be a better fit than a standard one level specification, we found that the absolute in-sample transfer errors associated with the standard OLS model were slightly less on average based on the differences between the actual and predicted values in our meta-database.
- Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and networks of MPAs are being implemented globally as a spatial management tool for achieving conservation objectives. There has been considerable progress in reaching the prescribed 10% protected area target for 2020, outlined in the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 11 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14.
- The application of MPA network design principles (e.g. Representative, ecological connectivity), which underpin ecological coherence, is still lacking or insufficient in many regions. Poor ecological coherence hinders the ecological performance of MPA networks, leading to dysfunction in the flow of ecosystem services and reduced ecosystem benefits, with potentially negative consequences for human well‐being.
- This paper presents four pivotal focus points for future progress that can bridge the gap between ecological and social systems. The aim is to shift the discourse of ‘ecological coherence’ further into the social sphere, and hence support the alignment of the process of designating ecologically coherent MPA networks with the ‘triple bottom line’ of economic development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion, as described in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to achieve social–ecological coherence in MPA network design.
Aquaculture is among the fastest growing industries in the world and the fastest in the food production sector. However, not all aquaculture organisms are produced for human consumption. Indeed, an important fraction of aquaculture products target a wide variety of applications, from pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical, ornamental and nutraceutical applications, as well as biofuel production, conservation efforts and academic purposes, among others. Despite the increasing importance of aquaculture for non‐food purposes, a comprehensive review covering the state of the art of this topic, its latest developments and future trends is missing. Here, we review what marine organisms are produced for non‐food purposes, as well as why and how they are produced. Instead of providing a thorough methodological review, production protocols are briefly summarized and an updated guide to the most relevant literature is provided. We overview current developments driving the aquaculture of non‐food organisms, underpin their most significant applications and highlight future prospects for non‐food aquaculture.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a tool for managing and improving marine environments. The field is dominated by natural scientists and has not been commonly associated with planning. This research analyzes the MSP literature to explore how planners can contribute to MSP research and practice. We organize the literature into eight themes, focusing on how planners may be able to contribute to MSP research and practice: ocean zoning, defining boundaries, planning in dynamic environments, stakeholder involvement, information needs, integrating ocean and land-use management, managing multiple and conflicting uses, and transboundary institutional structures. We conclude that planners have a lot to contribute in these eight areas.
Ocean acidification (OA) and nutrient enrichment threaten the persistence of near shore ecosystems, yet little is known about their combined effects on marine organisms. Here, we show that a threefold increase in nitrogen concentrations, simulating enrichment due to coastal eutrophication or consumer excretions, offset the direct negative effects of near-future OA on calcification and photophysiology of the reef-building crustose coralline alga, Porolithon onkodes. Projected near-future pCO2 levels (approx. 850 µatm) decreased calcification by 30% relative to ambient conditions. Conversely, nitrogen enrichment (nitrate + nitrite and ammonium) increased calcification by 90–130% in ambient and high pCO2 treatments, respectively. pCO2 and nitrogen enrichment interactively affected instantaneous photophysiology, with highest relative electron transport rates under high pCO2 and high nitrogen. Nitrogen enrichment alone increased concentrations of the photosynthetic pigments chlorophyll a, phycocyanin and phycoerythrin by approximately 80–450%, regardless of pCO2. These results demonstrate that nutrient enrichment can mediate direct organismal responses to OA. In natural systems, however, such direct benefits may be counteracted by simultaneous increases in negative indirect effects, such as heightened competition. Experiments exploring the effects of multiple stressors are increasingly becoming important for improving our ability to understand the ramifications of local and global change stressors in near shore ecosystems.
The conservation community is increasingly focusing on the monitoring and evaluation of management, governance, ecological, and social considerations as part of a broader move toward adaptive management and evidence‐based conservation. Evidence is any information that can be used to come to a conclusion and support a judgment or, in this case, to make decisions that will improve conservation policies, actions, and outcomes. Perceptions are one type of information that is often dismissed as anecdotal by those arguing for evidence‐based conservation. In this paper, I clarify the contributions of research on perceptions of conservation to improving adaptive and evidence‐based conservation. Studies of the perceptions of local people can provide important insights into observations, understandings and interpretations of the social impacts, and ecological outcomes of conservation; the legitimacy of conservation governance; and the social acceptability of environmental management. Perceptions of these factors contribute to positive or negative local evaluations of conservation initiatives. It is positive perceptions, not just objective scientific evidence of effectiveness, that ultimately ensure the support of local constituents thus enabling the long‐term success of conservation. Research on perceptions can inform courses of action to improve conservation and governance at scales ranging from individual initiatives to national and international policies. Better incorporation of evidence from across the social and natural sciences and integration of a plurality of methods into monitoring and evaluation will provide a more complete picture on which to base conservation decisions and environmental management.
Scientists are increasingly required to demonstrate the real world tangible impacts arising from their research. Despite significant advances in scholarship dedicated to understanding and improving the relationships between science, policy and practice, much of the existing literature remains high level, theoretical, and not immediately accessible to early career researchers (ECRs) who work outside of the policy sciences. In this paper, we draw on the literature and our own experiences working in the environmental sciences to provide an accessible resource for ECRs seeking to achieve policy impact in their chosen field. First, we describe key concepts in public policy to provide sufficient background for the non-expert. Next, we articulate a number of practical steps and tools that can help ECRs to identify and enhance the policy relevance of their research, better understand the policy world in practice and identify a range of pathways to achieving impact. Finally, we draw on our personal experiences to highlight some of the key individual characteristics and values that are needed to operate more effectively at the interface of science, policy and practice. Our hope is that the information and tools provided here can help to empower ECRs to create their own pathways to impact that best suit their individual goals, circumstances, interests and strengths.
This paper examines how the Harper Government of Canada (2006-2015) shut down both debate about threats and research into environmental risk, a strategy that Canadian scientists characterized as the “death of evidence.” Based on interviews with scientists who research risks to the marine environment, we explore the shifting relationship between science and the Canadian government by tracing the change in the mode of risk calculation supported by the Harper administration and the impact of this change. Five themes emerged from the interviews: erosion of science research capacity, resulting limitations in understanding risk, declining influence on policy and regulation, redirection of public science funds to support the private sector, and the need to broaden the science knowledge base. The Canadian death of evidence controversy represents a challenge to science and technology studies (STS) scholars who wish to maintain a critical and reflexive perspective on the scientific enterprise without supporting attacks on evidence. While subsequent Canadian governments may simply return science to an unreflexively privileged knowledge status, we view this as equally damaging to broad risk calculation and democratic science. We suggest instead that a broader gathering of matters of concern will always be essential to risk assessment.
Increasing temperatures under climate change are thought to affect individual physiology of fish and other ectotherms through increases in metabolic demands, leading to changes in species performance with concomitant effects on species ecology. Although intuitively appealing, the driving mechanism behind thermal performance is contested: thermal performance (e.g., growth) appears correlated with metabolic scope (i.e., oxygen availability for activity) for a number of species, but a substantial number of datasets do not support oxygen limitation of long-term performance. Whether or not oxygen limitations via the metabolic scope, or a lack thereof, have major ecological consequences remains a highly contested question. Here, we propose a general size and trait-based model of energy and oxygen budgets to determine the relative influence of metabolic rates, oxygen limitation, and environmental conditions on ecotherm performance. We show that oxygen limitation is not necessary to explain performance variation with temperature. Oxygen can drastically limit performance and fitness, especially at temperature extremes, but changes in thermal performance are primarily driven by the interplay between changing metabolic rates and species ecology. Furthermore, our model reveals that fitness trends with temperature can oppose trends in growth, suggesting a potential explanation for the paradox that species often occur at lower temperatures than their growth-optimum. Our model provides a mechanistic underpinning that can provide general and realistic predictions about temperature impacts on the performance of fish and other ectotherms, and function as a null model for contrasting temperature impacts on species with different metabolic and ecological traits.
Shipping is key to global trade, but is also a dominant source of anthropogenic noise in the ocean. Chronic noise from ships can affect acoustic quality of important whale habitats. Noise from ships has been identified as one of three main stressors–in addition to contaminants, and lack of Chinook salmon prey–in the recovery of the endangered southern resident killer whale (SRKW) population. Managers recognize existing noise levels as a threat to the acoustical integrity of SRKW critical habitat. There is an urgent need to identify practical ways to reduce ocean noise given projected increases in shipping in the SRKW's summertime critical habitat in the Salish Sea. We reviewed the literature to provide a qualitative description of mitigation approaches. We use an existing ship source level dataset to quantify how some mitigation approaches could readily reduce noise levels by 3–10 dB.
There is increasing interest in the use of serious games in STEM education. Interactive simulations and serious games can be used by students to explore systems where it would be impractical or unethical to perform real world studies or experiments. Simulations also have the capacity to reveal the internal workings of systems where these details are hidden in the real world. However, there is still much to be investigated about the best methods for using these games in the classroom so as to derive the maximum educational benefit. We report on an experiment to compare two different methods of using a serious game for teaching a complex concept in marine ecology, in a university setting: expert demonstration versus exploration-based learning. We created an online game based upon a mathematical simulation of fishery management, modelling how fish populations grow and shrink in the presence of stock removal through fishing. The player takes on the role of a fishery manager, who must set annual catch quotas, making these as high as possible to maximise profit, without exceeding sustainable limits and causing the stock to collapse. There are two versions of the game. The “white-box” or “teaching” game gives the player full information about all model parameters and actual levels of stock in the ocean, something which is impossible to measure in reality. The “black-box” or “testing” game displays only the limited information that is available to fishery managers in the real world, and is used to test the player's understanding of how to use that information to solve the problem of estimating the optimal catch quota.
Our study addresses the question of whether students are likely to learn better by freely exploring the teaching game themselves, or by viewing a demonstration of the game being played expertly by the lecturer. We conducted an experiment with two groups of students, one using free, self-directed exploration and the other viewing an expert demonstration. Both groups were then assessed using the black box testing game, and completed a questionnaire. Our results show a statistically significant benefit for expert demonstration over free exploration. Qualitative analysis of the responses to the questionnaire demonstrates that students saw benefits to both teaching approaches, and many would have preferred a combination of expert demonstration with exploration of the game. The research was carried out among a mix of undergraduate and taught postgraduate science students. Future research challenges include extending the current study to larger cohorts and exploring the potential effectiveness of serious games and interactive simulation-based teaching methods in a range of STEM subjects in both university and school settings.
The influence of ‘no take’ Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on abundance and size of fishes varies considerably and the likely benefits are still debated. Meta-analyses reveal findings are biased towards studies in shallower depths suitable for diving surveys. Empirical comparisons in deeper waters, including among areas with differing spatial management, further contribute to understanding of MPA benefits and constraints. We compare length and abundance of commercially and recreationally targeted fishes (and bycatch) among management types within and adjacent to the Solitary Islands Marine Park (SIMP), Australia. Sampling was done on reefs between 25 and 40 m depth in ‘no-take’ and fished ‘partially protected’ areas within the marine park and fished areas outside the SIMP, using stereo- Baited Remote Underwater Videos (stereo-BRUVs) at eight, nine, thirteen and fourteen years after these ‘no take’ areas were established. Four species targeted by fishers: snapper Chrysophrys auratus, grey morwong Nemadactylus douglasi, pearl perch Glaucosoma scapulare, and venus-tuskfish Choerodon venustus, were more abundant and larger in ‘no take’ zones overall and showed an increase through time in ‘no take’ relative to both types of fished area. In contrast, there was no distinct pattern of four bycatch species increasing in abundance in ‘no-take’ areas. Abundances of fish in partially protected areas were similar to fished areas outside the MPA. This study adds empirical evidence to the assertion that ‘no take’ areas in particular, can contribute to both marine conservation and natural resource management.
This study proposes and discusses a multi-scale spatial planning method implemented simultaneously at local and national level to prioritize ecosystem management actions across landscapes and seascapes. Mismatches in scale between the occurrence of biodiversity patterns and ecological processes, and the size and nature of the human footprint, and the different levels and scope of governance, are a significant challenge in conservation planning. These scale mismatches are further confounded by data resolution disparities across and amongst the different scales. To address this challenge, we developed a multi-resolution scale-linked marine spatial planning method. We tested this approach in the development of a Conservation Plan for a significant portion of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone, adjacent to the east coast province of KwaZulu-Natal (the SeaPlan project). The study’s dataset integrated the geographic distribution of 390 biodiversity elements (species, habitats, and oceanographic processes) and 38 human activities. A multi-resolution system of planning unit layers (PUL), with individual PUs ranging in resolution from 0.2 to 10 km, was designed to arrange and analyse these data. Spatial priorities for conservation were selected incrementally at different scales, contributing conservation targets from the fine-, medium- and large-scale analyses, and from the coast to the offshore. Compared to a basic single-resolution scale-unlinked plan, our multi-resolution scale-linked method selects 6% less conservation area to achieve the same targets. Compared to a multi-resolution scale-unlinked plan, our method requires only an additional 5% area. Overall, this method reflects the multi-scale nature of marine social-ecological systems more realistically, is relatively simple and replicable, and serves to better connect fine-scale and large-scale spatial management policies. We discuss the impacts of this study on protected area expansion planning processes in South Africa. This study showcases a methodological advance that has the potential to impact marine spatial planning practices and policies.
Analysis of the biological traits (BTA) that control how organisms interact with their environment has been used to identify environmental drivers or impacts across large‐scales and to explain the importance of biodiversity loss. However, BTA could also be used within risk assessment frameworks or conservation planning by understanding the groups of traits that predict the sensitivity of observed habitats or communities to specific human activities. Deriving sensitivity from biological traits should extend sensitivity predictions to a variety of habitats, especially those in which it would be difficult to conduct experiments due to for example depth, risk to gear and human life and at scales larger than the normal scale of experiments. We used BTA on video transect data collected from a relatively pristine region of the seafloor to determine scales of natural spatial variability, the degree to which predictions of sensitivity are affected by underlying community compositions and the ability of the BTA to provide predictions that differ between three different stressors (extraction, sedimentation and suspended sediments). Three methods were used to assess sensitivity (weighted abundance, abundance of highly sensitive species and number of highly sensitive species). Regardless of method and spatial patterns occurring across the sampled area, BTA was able to distinguish differences in sensitivity at a site to different stressors. BTA also successfully separated differences in community composition from differences in sensitivity to stressors. Conversely, the three methods varied widely in their ability to detect simulated impacts. Differences between the methods reflected underlying processes, suggesting that use of multiple methods would be more informative for spatial planning and allocating conservation priorities than use of a single method. Our results suggest that BTA could be used as a first step in strategic prioritisation of protected areas and as an underlying layer for spatial planning.