In Canada, reports of marine harmful algal blooms (HABs) have increased over the past few decades. HABs are caused by the growth of certain phytoplankton that produce phycotoxins or otherwise cause harm. Phycotoxins are problematic to human health, and their cumulative effects are stressors to marine ecosystems by causing the mortality of marine fish, birds and mammals, including species designated at risk. Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (caused by saxitoxin group toxins produced by Alexandrium spp.) has been problematic for years on both the east and west Canadian coasts. Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (caused by domoic acid produced by Pseudo-nitzschia spp.) was identified for the first time worldwide following consumption of blue mussels from eastern Canada in 1987. Domoic acid has since also been found on the west coast. Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (caused by okadaic acid group toxins produced by Dinophysis spp. and Prorocentrum spp.) was first recognized as a hazard in eastern Canadian waters in 1990, and these phycotoxins have since been found on both the east and west Canadian coasts. Other phycotoxins that may cause harm to human health in Canada include pectenotoxins, yessotoxins, azaspiracids, and cyclic imine group toxins (spirolide toxins, pinnatoxins, and gymnodimines). Multiple harmful algal species have been associated with fish-killing blooms on both east and west Canadian coasts. The range of exotic toxic/harmful algae is expanding in Canadian waters due in part to introductions from ships’ ballast water and climate change. The detection of domoic acid and the discovery of several toxigenic diatoms and dinoflagellates in the Canadian Arctic is of increasing concern because of the limited knowledge of HABs in this region. Canada’s experience in dealing with toxic events resulted in research and monitoring programs designed to understand HABs and to assist the fishing and aquaculture industries. In spite of decreases in research and phytoplankton monitoring efforts, consumers of molluscan shellfish are still protected by phycotoxin monitoring, which is conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Novel phycotoxins and toxic algae will continue to be discovered. Continued vigilance and the maintenance of an effective capacity to manage developing problems via strategic research programs is essential. This document reviews Canadian marine HABs and phycotoxins up to late 2018, and provides a foundation for any future research in this area.
In studies of habitat-forming species, those that are not spatially dominant are often considered “non-primary” habitat and may be overlooked. This is despite the fact that minority habitat formers can provide critical complexity, food, and other services that underpin ecosystem biodiversity. Octocorals and anemones are found in marine and estuarine habitats across all climate zones. Despite their potentially important ecological roles, to date there have been few studies of their specific threats and stressors or attempts at their restoration. Here we review studies of the ecology of octocorals and anemones with a focus on threats and restoration. We identify many threats including habitat damage, collection and trade, disease, predation, pollution, and the most wide-spread – climate change. While evidence suggests that some octocorals and anemone populations may be more resilient to disturbances than stony corals because they often recruit and grow quickly, resilience is not guaranteed. Instead, resilience or susceptibility within this large group is likely to be site and species specific. We find that the loss of octocorals and anemones has been difficult to quantify as most species have no hard structures that remain following a mortality event. Only through long-term monitoring efforts have researchers been able to document change in these populations. Due to the increasing extent and severity of human impacts in marine ecosystems, restoration of habitat forming species is becoming increasingly necessary after disturbance events. To illustrate the challenges ahead for octocoral and anemone restoration, we present two examples of ongoing restoration efforts assessed against the International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration. Restoration planning and implementation progress are documented for the Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum and the temperate Australian cauliflower soft coral, Dendronephthya australis. This review and the detailed case studies demonstrate that while some octocorals and anemones can provide resilient habitat within reef systems, a greater research focus on their ecology, threats, and restoration potential is urgently required.
Two severe heat waves triggered coral bleaching and mass mortality in the Maldives in 1998 and 2016. Analysis of live coral cover data from 1997 to 2019 in shallow (5 m depth) reefs of the Maldives showed that the 1998 heat wave caused more than 90% of coral mortality leaving only 6.8 ± 0.3% of survived corals in all the shallow reefs investigated. No significant difference in coral mortality was observed among atolls with different levels of human pressure. Maldivian reefs needed 16 years to recover to the pre-bleaching hard coral cover values. The 2016 heat wave affected all reefs investigated, but reefs in atolls with higher human pressure showed greater coral mortality than reefs in atolls with lower human pressure. Additionally, exposed (ocean) reefs showed lower coral mortality than those in sheltered (lagoon) reefs. The reduced coral mortality in 2016 as compared to 1998 may provide some support to the Adaptive Bleaching Hypothesis (ABH) in shallow Maldivian reefs, but intensity and duration of the two heat waves were different. Analysis of coral cover data collected along depth profiles on the ocean sides of atolls, from 10 to 50 m, allowed the comparison of coral mortality at different depths to discuss the Deep Refuge Hypothesis (DRH). In the upper mesophotic zone (i.e., between 30 and 50 m), coral mortality after bleaching was negligible. However, live coral cover did not exceed 15%, a value lower than coral survival in shallow reefs. Low cover values of corals surviving in the mesophotic reefs suggest that their role as refuge or seed banks for the future recovery of some species in shallow-water reefs of the Maldives may be small. The repeatedly high coral mortality after bleaching events and the long recovery period, especially in sites with human pressure, suggest that the foreseen increased frequency of bleaching events would jeopardize the future of Maldivian reefs, and ask for reducing local pressures to improve their resilience.
The concept of Blue Economy (BE) is recognized as central for sustainable development that incorporates socio-economic benefits and ecological conservation. However, in Africa, much of the emphasis on BE is placed on economic gains; as a result, traditional livelihoods and small-scale local operations are outcompeted by international corporations and government initiatives, with little or no regard for social inclusion and environmental sustainability. We argue that successful BE initiatives in Africa accentuate the involvement of local communities and promote sustenance of the natural ecosystem. We define success in terms of the sustainability balance among ecological, social and economic aspects. Drawing on extensive expert experiences, observational data and literature review of case studies across the African continent, we highlight two critical findings. First, large scale BE initiatives prioritize economic gains at the expense of environmental degradation and the exclusion of local communities. Second, using the full spectrum sustainability (FSS) evaluation, we show that successful BE interventions considered ecological, economic, socio-cultural and institutional objectives. Drawing on these case studies, we propose the adoption of a collaborative framework which amalgamates the top-down and bottom-up approaches to BE management. Achieving the goal of successful blue growth in Africa is now even more challenged by the implications of COVID-19 on the BE sectors. Reimagining and rebuilding a resilient BE in Africa post-coronavirus will require a strong political commitment to promoting a balance between economic, social and environmental benefits in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Coral reefs are under threat and innovative management strategies are urgently required. However, discoveries from innovative fields of coral reef research are rarely transposed in practical conservation actions. This is mainly due to the difficulties in knowledge exchange between scientists and conservation stakeholders. The ManaCo consortium (http://manaco.ird.nc/) is an international network federating conservation stakeholders and researchers in a common effort to preserve the coral reefs. The focus is on using modern tools to build a bridge between indigenous knowledge and scientific innovation. ManaCo aims to orientate research toward relevant conservation needs and to facilitate the transposition of research into concrete management strategies. This will allow to coordinate a collaborative response against coral reef decline. We invite anyone sharing the same interests in joining us.
A key component of successful coastal management efforts is an effective communication and engagement strategy focused on raising awareness of a region to different stakeholders to encourage more pro-environmental behaviors. Accordingly, in recent times there has been a proliferation of research focused on improving engagement and communication with different users of the coastal environment. Despite this effort, a paucity of evidence is available to guide better communication and engagement with visitors (i.e., tourists). Addressing this knowledge gap is critical given the adverse impacts of current global coastal tourism on ecosystem health, and projected future increases in coastal tourism. Using a case study of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area (WHA) in Australia, we contribute toward filling this gap by identifying visitors’ perception of the region and their self-reported and intended pro-environmental behaviors. We also identify the types of information they access and trust, and explore whether different message framings on the value of the WHA influence visitors’ intended pro-environmental behavior. We determine that although visitors to the Ningaloo Coast WHA are optimistic about the future sustainability of the region, they have low understanding of the rules and regulations in place to support its management. Further, we find that visitors consider tourism to be a serious threat to the future of the region. However, most participants in our study considered the quality of their own environmental behavior to be high, and thus not contributing to these threats, although this did differ by gender. Finally, we highlight that visitors to the Ningaloo Coast WHA, for the most part, obtain their knowledge of the region during their visit, primarily through local signage and visitors centers. We discuss the implications of these results, and highlight future considerations for coastal managers when developing visitor-focused communication and engagement strategies.
In marine research, image data sets from the same area but collected at different times allow seafloor fauna communities to be monitored over time. However, ongoing technological developments have led to the use of different imaging systems and deployment strategies. Thus, instances of the same class exhibit slightly shifted visual features in images taken at slightly different locations or with different gear. These shifts are referred to as concept drift in the domains computational image analysis and machine learning as this phenomenon poses particular challenges for these fields. In this paper, we analyse four different data sets from an area in the Peru Basin and show how changes in imaging parameters affect the classification of 12 megafauna morphotypes with a 34-layer ResNet. Images were captured using the ocean floor observation system, a traditional sled-based system, or an autonomous underwater vehicle, which is used as an imaging platform capable of surveying larger regions. ResNet applied on separate individual data sets, i.e., without concept drift, showed that changing object distance was less important than the amount of training data. The results for the image data acquired with the ocean floor observation system showed higher performance values than data collected with the autonomous underwater vehicle. The results from this concept drift studies indicate that collecting image data from many dives with slightly different gear may result in training data well-suited for learning taxonomic classification tasks and that data volume can compensate for light concept drift.
Bycatch poses a significant threat to marine megafauna, such as elasmobranchs. India has one of the highest elasmobranch landings globally, through both targeted catch and bycatch. As elasmobranchs contribute to food and livelihood security, there is a need for holistic approaches to bycatch mitigation. We adopt an interdisciplinary approach to critically assess a range of hypothetical measures for reducing elasmobranch capture in a trawler fishery on India’s west coast, using a risk-based mitigation hierarchy framework. Data were collected through landing surveys, interviews and a literature review, to assess the following potential management options for their technical effectiveness and socio-economic feasibility: (1) spatio-temporal closures; (2) net restrictions; (3) bycatch reduction devices (BRDs); and (4) live onboard release. Our study provides the first evidence-based and nuanced understanding of elasmobranch bycatch management for this fishery, and suggestions for future conservation and research efforts. Onboard release may be viable for species like guitarfish, with moderate chances of survival, and was the favored option among interview respondents due to minimal impact on earnings. While closures, net restrictions and BRDs may reduce elasmobranch capture, implementation will be challenging under present circumstances due to the potentially high impact on fisher income. Interventions for live release can therefore be used as a step toward ameliorating bycatch, while initiating longer-term engagement with the fishing community. Participatory monitoring can help address critical knowledge gaps in elasmobranch ecology. Spatio-temporal closures and gear restriction measures may then be developed through a bottom-up approach in the long term. Overall, the framework facilitated a holistic assessment of bycatch management to guide decision-making. Scaling-up and integrating such case studies across different species, fisheries and sites would support the formulation of a meaningful management plan for elasmobranch fisheries in India.
Marine fish stocks and the ecosystems they inhabit are in decline in many parts of our ocean, including in some European waters, because of overfishing and the ecosystem effect of fishing in general. Simultaneously, climate change is disrupting the physics, chemistry and ecology of the ocean, with significant consequences on the life it holds. While the positive effects of mitigating climate change on the ocean and marine life are currently being documented, papers that examine how ending overfishing could increase ocean resilience to climate change are less common. The goal of this paper is to review the current literature and conduct an analysis that demonstrate that ending overfishing and reducing other negative ecosystem effects of fishing would make fish stocks and marine ecosystems more resilient to climate change. Our findings suggest that fish and fish stocks are no different from other living organisms and are more likely to survive external pressures when healthy.
Assessing cumulative effects are a vital task for strategic environmental assessments (SEA) but lack of consistent methodology has hampered the development and implementation of useful tools. We present a model for GIS and multivariate analysis to assess the effects on a valued ecosystem type at a regional scale based on the sum of impacts of local projects. We demonstrate application of the model by assessing how hydropower developments would generate cumulative impacts on river gorges for a county in northern Norway. We use principal component analyses (PCA) of spatially-explicit variables from the region to describe the diversity of river gorge ecology with a mathematical low-dimensional bioclimatic space. We then calculate cumulative effects of hydropower development as the proportions of subspaces of the multidimensional bioclimatic PCA that are affected by either existing infrastructure or planned and possible hydropower developments. The results showed that adding development of all potential sites for small-scale hydropower would have substantial impacts on over half of all bioclimatic segments where gorges were registered and more than 70% of all segments with forested river gorges. By demonstrating these possible cumulative effects we can illustrate the need for caution in hydropower planning to avoid reducing river gorge representativeness and diversity. The method can be applied for other types of development projects and other valued ecosystems, provided the assessed ecosystems and development installations can be mapped or modelled over a sufficiently large area.
Mitigating plastic pollution requires strong international cooperation because significant volumes of plastic waste are transported across jurisdictions both as waste exports and drifting ocean plastics (OP). Here we estimate which nations are (1) sources for overseas OP reaching Australian waters and (2) destinations receiving OP from Australian sources. We then provide actionable recommendations for mitigating plastic pollution in Australian waters and beyond. We estimated that the vast majority of overseas OP reaching Australia is from Indonesia, and that most of the Australian-sourced OP reaching overseas territories is entering New Zealand. Key actions for mitigating the OP issue in Australia include better governance, upgraded enforcement, and increased investments to reduce fossil fuel-based plastic production and to drastically improve both domestic and international waste management infrastructure and operations.
Ocean ecosystems are suffering from plastic pollution. To prevent further damage, the 3Rs approach suggests reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. Current solutions include developing waste management systems, public awareness, and waste collection projects to reduce and recycle. However, reuse of reclaimed plastic is limited. This study is as part of an ocean-cleaning campaign. The manufacturing process to produce optimists using ocean plastic was evaluated and compared with conventional boat building as baseline. The environmental impact is higher than the baseline due to more material- and energy-intensive processes. However, adapting processes and integrating recycled materials is necessary for more sustainable and circular production systems.
Tourism on small tropical islands in the Global South is a balancing act between development to improve local livelihoods and the conservation of fragile coastal and coral ecosystems. The objective of our study is to develop a series of new spatial metrics to support sustainable development through assessing the direction and magnitude of tourism development support and conflict between groups. We surveyed 317 individuals out of an estimated total population of 3300 using public participation GIS (PPGIS) on Tioman Island, Malaysia. Here we present a first example of how nuances in conflict can be articulated spatially across different levels of attitude toward tourism development within and between different segments of the population. Our results suggest that treating a population as homogeneous risks missing place specific development conflicts between segments of the population and locations of agreement where development can be managed sustainably with the support of the community.
An uplifted atoll of Minami-Daito Island, Japan.
Major ions and stable isotopes (δ2H and δ18O) of groundwater at fifteen observation wells, surface water at eight representative lakes and one seawater site were measured to unravel the dominant processes controlling the chemistry of water, its spatial distribution and to identify the salinization mechanism caused by long-term sea-level rise.
New hydrological insights for the region
Rainfall is the main source for groundwater and lake water. Evaporation affects both the ion concentration and the stable isotopes of the lake water. Geochemical modeling suggests that freshwater-seawater mixing is the main process increasing concentrations of Na+, Cl−, Mg2+, and SO42−, whereas dissolution of calcite and dolomite increases concentrations of Ca2+, Mg2+, and HCO3− in groundwater. Fresh groundwater and lake water (i.e., Cl− < 500 mg/L) are largely distributed along a SW-NE direction, but they have been reduced since the 1970s. Sea-level rise causes an increase in the salinity of lake water by flowing through fractures being connected from lakes to the northern coast, then spreading to other lakes through the artificial channels built in the years.
Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) is rarely considered as a pathway for contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). Here, we investigated SGD as a source of CECs in Sydney Harbour, Australia. CEC detection frequencies based on presence/absence of a specific compound were >90% for caffeine, carbamazepine, and dioxins, and overall ranged from 25 to 100% in five studied embayments. SGD rates estimated from radium isotopes explained >80% of observed CEC inventories for one or more compounds (caffeine, carbamazepine, dioxins, sulfamethoxazole, fluoroquinolones and ibuprofen) in four out of the five embayments. Radium-derived residence times imply mixing is also an important process for driving coastal inventories of these persistent chemicals. Two compounds (ibuprofen and dioxins) were in concentrations deemed a high risk to the ecosystem. Overall, we demonstrate that SGD can act as a vector for CECs negatively impacting coastal water quality.
Fisheries can profoundly affect bycatch species with ‘slow’ life history traits. Managing bait type offers one tool to control species selectivity. Different species and sizes of marine predators have different prey, and hence bait, preferences. This preference is a function of a bait’s chemical, visual, acoustic and textural characteristics and size, and for seabirds the effect on hook sink rate is also important. We conducted a global meta-analysis of existing estimates of the relative risk of capture on different pelagic longline baits. We applied a Bayesian random effects meta-analytic regression modelling approach to estimate overall expected bait-specific catch rates. For blue shark and marine turtles, there were 34% (95% HDI: 4–59%) and 60% (95% HDI: 44–76%) significantly lower relative risks of capture on forage fish bait than squid bait, respectively. Overall estimates of bait-specific relative risk were not significantly different for seven other assessed taxa. The lack of a significant overall estimate of relative capture risk for pelagic shark species combined but significant effect for blue sharks suggests there is species-specific variability in bait-specific catch risk within this group. A qualitative literature review suggests that tunas and istiophorid billfishes may have higher catch rates on squid than fish bait, which conflicts with reducing marine turtle and blue shark catch rates. The findings from this synthesis of quantitative and qualitative evidence support identifying economically viable bycatch management measures with acceptable tradeoffs when multispecies conflicts are unavoidable, and highlight research priorities for global pelagic longline fisheries.
The soundscape features of the marine environment provide crucial information about ecosystem health for many species, and they are defined by the local biological, geophysical, and anthropogenic components. In this study, we investigated the soundscape at green turtle neritic foraging habitats in Fiji, South Pacific, with the aims of characterizing the contribution of each component and of comparing the levels of acoustic pressure among sites with different abundances of sea turtles. Four sites were selected at two islands, and one hydrophone was deployed at each site. Generalized additive models highlighted that sound pressure levels (SPLs) at low frequencies (125–250 Hz) were especially affected by wind conditions, while at higher frequencies (>250 Hz) SPLs were mostly influenced by fish and crustacean acoustic activity. Higher abundances of green turtles were found at sites with the highest levels of SPLs and the highest number of acoustic emissions by fishes and crustaceans but were not related to maximum seagrass and macroalgae coverage, or the highest number of fish. The selected coastal habitats have negligible anthropogenic noise, thus this study informs physiological and behavioral studies of the acoustic signatures that sea turtles might target and provides a baseline against which potential impact of soundscape changes on sea turtle spatial abundance and distribution can be evaluated.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (GBNPP) in Southeast Alaska is a system of glaciated fjords with a unique and recent history of deglaciation. As such, it can serve as a natural laboratory for studying patterns of distribution in marine communities with proximity to glacial influence. In order to examine the changes in fjord-based coral communities, underwater photo-quadrats were collected during multipurpose dives with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in March of 2016. Ten sites were chosen to represent the geochronological and oceanographic gradients present in GBNPP. Each site was surveyed vertically between 100 and 420 meters depth and photo-quadrats were extracted from the video strip transects for analysis. The ROV was equipped with onboard CTD which recorded environmental data (temperature and salinity), in order to confirm the uniformity of these characteristics at depth across the fjords. The percent cover and diversity of species were lowest near the glaciated heads of the fjords and highest in the Central Channel and at the mouths of the fjords. Diversity is highest where characteristics such as low sedimentation and increased tidal currents are predominant. The diverse communities at the mouths of the fjords and in the Central Channel were dominated by large colonies of the Red Tree Coral, Primnoa pacifica, as well as sponges, brachiopods, multiple species of cnidarians, echinoderms, molluscs and arthropods. The communities at the heads of the fjords were heavily dominated by pioneering species such as brachiopoda, hydrozoan turf, the encrusting stoloniferan coral Sarcodyction incrustans, and smaller colonies of P. pacifica. This research documents a gradient of species dominance from the Central Channel to the heads of the glaciated fjords, which is hypothesized to be driven by a combination of physical and biological factors such as glacial sedimentation, nutrient availability, larval dispersal, and competition.
Open Science is an umbrella term encompassing multiple concepts as open access to publications, open data, open education and citizen science that aim to make science more open and transparent. Citizen science, an important facet of Open Science, actively involves non-scientists in the research process, and can potentially be beneficial for multiple actors, such as scientists, citizens, policymakers and society in general. However, the reasons that motivate different segments of the public to participate in research are still understudied. Therefore, based on data gathered from a survey conducted in Czechia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the UK (N = 5,870), this study explores five types of incentives that can motivate individuals to become involved in life sciences research. The results demonstrate that men and younger individuals are more persuaded by extrinsic motives (external benefits or rewards), as compared with women and older people, who are driven by intrinsic motives (that originates from within an individual). This paper shows that specific strata of the population are differentially motivated to engage in research, thereby providing relevant knowledge for effectively designing public involvement activities that target various groups of the public in research projects.
Epizoic diatoms form an important part of micro-epibiota of marine vertebrates such as whales and sea turtles. The present study explores and compares the diversity and biogeography of diatom communities growing on the skin and shell of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from four different localities: Adriatic Sea (Croatia), Ionian Sea (Greece), South Africa and Florida Bay (USA) using both light and scanning electron microscopy. We observed almost 400 diatom taxa belonging to more than 100 genera. Diatom communities from Greece and Croatia showed the highest similarity and were statistically different from those recorded from South Africa and Florida. Part of this variation could be attributed to differences in sampling techniques; however, we believe that geography had an important role. In general, contrary to several previous observations from sea turtles, the presumably exclusively epizoic diatoms contributed less than common benthic taxa to the total diatom flora, which might have been related to the loggerhead feeding behavior. Moreover, skin samples differed from carapace samples in having a distinct diatom composition with a higher proportion of the putative true epizoonts. Our results indicate that epizoic diatom communities differ according to loggerhead geographical location and substrate (skin vs. carapace). The relative abundances of common benthic diatoms and putative exclusive epizoic taxa may inform about sea turtle habitat use or behavior though detailed comparisons among different host species have yet to be performed.