The oceans are deteriorating at a fast pace. Conservation measures, such as Marine Protected Areas, are being implemented to relieve areas from local stressors and allow populations to restore to natural levels. Successful networks of MPAs operate if the space among MPAs is smaller than the dispersal capacity of the species under protection. We studied connectivity patterns across populations in a series of MPAs in the common yellowhead Jawfish, Opistognathus aurifrons. Using the power of genome-wide variation, we estimated that the maximum effective dispersal is 8.3 km. We found that MPAs exchange migrants likely via intermediate unprotected habitats through stepping stone dispersal. At scales >50 km such connectivity is decreased, particularly across the Mona Passage. The MPA network studied would be unable to maintain connectivity of these small benthic fishes if habitat in between them is extirpated. Our study highlights the power of SNPs to derive effective dispersal distance and the ability of SNPs to make inferences from single individuals. Given that overall reef fish diversity is driven by species with life histories similar to that of the yellowhead jawfish, managers face a challenge to develop strategies that allow connectivity and avoid isolation of populations and their possible extinction.
The coastal and upslope terrains of West Maui have had a long history of impacts owing to more than a century of human activities. Resource extraction, agriculture, as well as residential and resort development have caused land-based pollution that impairs water quality and adversely impact the adjacent marine ecosystem. Today, West Maui’s coral reefs are chronically impacted by the effects of land-based pollution, mainly sedimentation and nutrients, with documented losses of 30 – 75% in coral cover over the last 20 years. Nonetheless, despite their current status and levels of environmental impact, these coral reef communities represent a key local resource and a counterpoint to the overall low coral reef development levels both island- and state-wide. This is of high relevance because the occurrence of coral-rich assemblages and accreted reef complexes statewide is sparse. Only limited segments along the coastlines of Maui, Hawai‘i, Lana‘i, Moloka‘i, and Kaho‘olawe, harbor mature, fringing coral reefs; and unfortunately, many of them are seriously threatened by terrestrial runoff.
This report describes the results of baseline assessment surveys of coral reef benthic structure, coral community demographics, and coral condition. These surveys are intended to provide benchmarks for continued monitoring efforts and provide a gauge for comparing and evaluating the effectiveness of management actions to reduce land-based sources of pollution in priority watersheds on West Maui. Within this context, 12 permanent, long-term monitoring sites were strategically established adjacent to the 7 primary stream drainages (Wahikuli, Honokōwai, Mahinahina, Kahana/Ka‘opala, Honokeana, Honokahua, and Honolua) within the five priority watersheds (Wahikuli, Honokōwai, Kahana, Honokahua, and Honolua). Herein, benthic cover and composition, coral demographics, and coral condition of the monitoring sites are described and contrasted in the “Benthic Characterization” and “Synthesis and Discussion” sections of this report.
The baseline assessments revealed that although some areas harbor prominent coral reef structures with high live coral cover and multispecies assemblages, others are characterized by sediment-impacted corals in impoverished and species-poor communities. Mean coral cover varied widely, from 49% at Wahikuli-shallow to 4.6% at Mahinahina-shallow. Similarly, coralline algal cover averaged 12.7% at Ka‘opala and Honokeana-north, but was altogether absent at the Mahinahina sites. Macroalgae was a minor component of the benthos across all study sites, representing only up to 2.3% at Mahinahina-south, while turf algae varied considerably, from 41% at Honokeana-north to 84% at the Honokahua site. Consequently, the Benthic Substrate Ratio (BSR) also varied considerably region wide, with the highest values (≥ 1), suggesting a healthier reef condition reported for the Wahikuli, Honokeana, and Honokōwai sites; and the lowest (≤ 0.5), suggesting impairment in structure and function, recorded at the Honolua and Honokahua sites. Adult colony densities were the highest at the Wahikuli (27 col/m2) but lowest at the Ka‘opala (7 col/m2 ) site. And, colony partial mortality peaked at the Ka‘opala (33%) and was the lowest at the Honokeana Bay (12%). Moreover, in-situ and derived estimates of water turbidity and sediment loading revealed that the Ka‘opala and Wahikuli stream sites ranked the highest for turbidity, whereas the Honokōwai and Ka‘opala sites ranked highest for sediment loading.
Chronic and episodic terrestrial sediment stress has resulted in coral reef community demise, clearly illustrated at the Honolua, Honokahua, and Ka‘opala sites, where coral benthic cover and colony abundances ranked the lowest and levels of turf algae ranked among the highest. Left unattended, land-based pollution impacts will continue to negatively affect the coral reef communities of West Maui. And, under the current turbidity and sediment loading conditions, the coral-rich habitats in the Wahikuli and Honōkowai Watersheds are probably at greatest risk, given they harbor the most prominent and well-developed reefs in the region, characterized by the highest coral cover, colony densities, and structural complexity.
Maritime spatial planning (MSP) is envisaged as a tool to apply an ecosystem-based approach to the marine and coastal realms, aiming at ensuring that the collective pressure of human activities is kept within acceptable limits. Cumulative impacts (CI) assessment can support science-based MSP, in order to understand the existing and potential impacts of human uses on the marine environment. A CI assessment includes several sources of uncertainty that can hinder the correct interpretation of its results if not explicitly incorporated in the decision-making process. This study proposes a three-level methodology to perform a general uncertainty analysis integrated with the CI assessment for MSP, applied to the Adriatic and Ionian Region (AIR). We describe the nature and level of uncertainty with the help of expert judgement and elicitation to include all of the possible sources of uncertainty related to the CI model with assumptions and gaps related to the case-based MSP process in the AIR. Next, we use the results to tailor the global uncertainty analysis to spatially describe the uncertainty distribution and variations of the CI scores dependent on the CI model factors. The results show the variability of the uncertainty in the AIR, with only limited portions robustly identified as the most or the least impacted areas under multiple model factors hypothesis. The results are discussed for the level and type of reliable information and insights they provide to decision-making. The most significant uncertainty factors are identified to facilitate the adaptive MSP process and to establish research priorities to fill knowledge gaps for subsequent planning cycles. The method aims to depict the potential CI effects, as well as the extent and spatial variation of the data and scientific uncertainty; therefore, this method constitutes a suitable tool to inform the potential establishment of the precautionary principle in MSP.
Marine ecosystems evolve under many interconnected and area-specific pressures. To fulfil society's intensifying and diversifying needs while ensuring ecologically sustainable development, more effective marine spatial planning and broader-scope management of marine resources is necessary. Integrated ecological–economic fisheries models (IEEFMs) of marine systems are needed to evaluate impacts and sustainability of potential management actions and understand, and anticipate ecological, economic and social dynamics at a range of scales from local to national and regional. To make these models most effective, it is important to determine how model characteristics and methods of communicating results influence the model implementation, the nature of the advice that can be provided and the impact on decisions taken by managers. This article presents a global review and comparative evaluation of 35 IEEFMs applied to marine fisheries and marine ecosystem resources to identify the characteristics that determine their usefulness, effectiveness and implementation. The focus is on fully integrated models that allow for feedbacks between ecological and human processes although not all the models reviewed achieve that. Modellers must invest more time to make models user friendly and to participate in management fora where models and model results can be explained and discussed. Such involvement is beneficial to all parties, leading to improvement of mo-dels and more effective implementation of advice, but demands substantial resources which must be built into the governance process. It takes time to develop effective processes for using IEEFMs requiring a long-term commitment to integrating multidisciplinary modelling advice into management decision-making.
There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. Despite the large and growing quantity of published ecosystem services research, there remains a substantial gap between this research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. We provide illustrative examples of these gaps between research and practice and describe how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using Benefit Relevant Indicators (BRIs) and choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. We use examples primarily from the United States, including cases that illustrate varying degrees of success in closing these gaps. We include a discussion of the challenges and opportunities researchers face in adapting their work to meet the needs of practitioners.
We analyze scientific literature that report tools to spatially model ecosystem services (ES). In the 65 articles reviewed, the most used model starting in 2001 was SWAT and starting in 2009 the most commonly used was InVEST. Eighty percent of the scientific articles have been published from 2010 to 2015 suggesting that spatial modeling of ES is an emergent research field. Only 4 of the 9 tools encountered in our review are backed by papers, the others only offer grey literature. The spatial modeling of ES is mainly done in the U.S.A. and China, and the most frequently evaluated ES are related to hydrological services (water provision and quality treatment), climate regulation and soil formation. Most of the studies are done along hydrological basins, at different spatial scales and based upon different map resolution ranging from 20 to 900 m. With concern, we observe the lack of validation of the spatial models and the tools’ lack of integrated validation modules. As long as the tools used to spatially model ecosystem services continue to be used as black boxes, the models they generate will suffer from a high degree of uncertainty and will not be reliable for decision making purposes.
This paper highlights a disjunction between the basic motivation of conservation planners, policy-makers, and managers, which is to make a positive difference for biodiversity, and many of our day-to-day activities, which are tangential (at best) to the goal of avoiding biodiversity loss. At the core of this problem is the use of conservation measures (inputs, outputs, and outcomes) that do not explicitly address conservation impact, and thus risk undermining its achievement. These measures are used to formulate policy targets and operational objectives, gauge progress towards them, and identify priorities for action. In particular, the pervasive use of representation of biodiversity features as a sole basis for identifying priorities, and the considerable global effort directed towards increasing protected-area extent and assessing protected-area management effectiveness, exemplify that much conservation decision-making is founded more on belief systems than evidence. Measures such as the extent or representativeness of protected areas risk misdirecting conservation actions towards areas of low impact and misleading decision-makers and the public about conservation progress. To promote more effective, evidence-informed decision-making, analytical evidence can and should be used to test and refine decision-makers' implicit models of the world, focusing on predicting conservation impact - the future difference made by our future actions - to increase our effectiveness and accountability.
Ireland is working to double the economic contribution of its €2.2bn marine sector by 2030 by focusing on expanding offshore energy, shipping, commercial fishing, and tourism sectors. This growth will be sensitive to environmental considerations, with a stated goal of achieving healthy ecosystems ‘that provide monetary and non-monetary goods and services’. Such a goal may prove challenging if short-term economic priorities threaten long-term ecosystem functions and resilience. This study determines the intrinsic value of the marine realm via attitudinal data of stakeholders by employing a grounded theory approach utilizing Q-methodology. Stakeholders were sorted into three categorical factors (Nature Collaborators, Sustainability Seekers, and Nature Technicians), each representing a significantly distinct ecological thought. It is evident within the scope of this study that stakeholders value and understand intrinsic value, despite it not being adequately represented in policy decisions to date. This research seeks to demonstrate how stakeholder engagement and Q-methodology can be utilized to address current policy shortcomings in the EU and Irish context, specifically when attempting to modernize policy approaches to be holistic and integrated.
In Israel, the ever-increasing interest in mining and dumping of marine sand in the shallow waters of the Mediterranean (up to depth of 30 m) on the one hand, and the growing concern for the marine environment on the other, have led to the formulation of various policy tools intended for the rational management of this resource. However, the comprehensiveness and sustainability of this policy, and its adherence to international obligations and customs, remains unclear.
This paper provides a structured overview of the management policy governing the extraction and dumping of marine sand in the Israeli Mediterranean shallow waters, and the way environmental values are being taken into account in the regulatory process. It then examines the way in which two main international policies—UNCLOS (not yet ratified by Israel) and the protocol on ICZM (ratified by Israel), which provide principles and standards for the management of environmental risks associated with marine mining activities in the Mediterranean Sea—are transposed into local legal procedures and regulatory requirements.
The study reveals that the Israeli marine sand regulatory framework embraced most of the environmental principles and guidelines laid down in the main international conventions. However, several essential issues still need to be addressed. At present, the use of marine sand is usually managed with one key activity in mind, without an all-encompassing policy and monitoring program. As a result, the impact of cumulative effect of extracting and dumping activities (the “big picture”) is overlooked. The study recommends to formulate a sound policy that can be adjusted for social/economic developments as they occur, and can facilitate the response to a wide range of future scenarios while adhering to a sustainability agenda. This policy should be based on up-to-date and standardized data gathered through a national monitoring program and stored in an accessible database. The analysis method and results can form a basis for discussion with other experts working in the field, and may be useful for future management decisions and for other coastal regions in the world.
Environmental sensitivity analysis provides a framework for systematically and objectively determining the potential for significant environmental impacts. The higher the natural or acquired sensitivity of the receiving environment, the less capable it is to cope with human-induced change. Given that sensitivity is context- and spatially-specific, Geographic Information Systems have been applied to develop an operational Webtool to analyse it. The Webtool enables a rapid and replicable spatial examination of environmental sensitivities and potential for land-use conflicts that supports Strategic Environmental Assessment and, ultimately, informed planning and decision-making. The novelty is on the provision of an online geoprocessing Widget that enables creation of context-specific maps. Pilot testing the Webtool in land-use and renewable energy planning through stakeholder engagement has validated its applicability. Stakeholders confirmed that it enables replicating and, in some cases, improving in-house SEA mapping processes while saving time and effort. However, its full reliance on publicly available spatial datasets renders completeness and resolution issues. The Webtool provides a critical starting-point for sectoral planning discussions and for developing plan/programme alternatives that avoid or minimise potentially incompatible or unsustainable zonings, while promoting consistency and transparency in impact assessment.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is the leading tool for managing human activities at sea. It is designed to assist in decision making for marine resource access and use by considering the actions of those using the resources, interactions between these groups, and their cumulative impact on the natural environment. Being informed by ecosystem based management, MSP recognises that socio-natural systems are complex and that stakeholder and public input are key components of well-informed decision making. Therefore, MSP is rooted in the principles of good governance, including those of participation and transparency. This paper considers MSP processes in Scotland's inshore waters in the context of these good governance principles. The focus is on the institutional arrangements that allow stakeholders and the public to contribute to planning Scotland's seas and coasts. Whilst acknowledging the significant challenges faced by planners, and the work conducted so far, this research suggests that improvements could be made in how – and when – engagement takes place. It appears that at an early stage of introducing MSP in Scotland powerful stakeholders shaped the images, values and principles that guide it, and that including a broader range of actors early on might positively affect the legitimacy and acceptance of MSP in its later stages. The current institutional arrangements do not appear to allow for this. Ultimately, MSP in Scotland is in danger of institutionalising – and thus legitimising – existing power relations between marine resource users, and it does little to level the playing field.
Mangrove forests grow in intertidal zones in tropical and subtropical regions and have suffered a dramatic decline globally over the past few decades. Remote sensing data, collected at various spatial resolutions, provide an effective way to map the spatial distribution of mangrove forests over time. However, the spectral signatures of mangrove forests are significantly affected by tide levels. Therefore, mangrove forests may not be accurately mapped with remote sensing data collected during a single-tidal event, especially if not acquired at low tide. This research reports how a decision-tree −based procedure was developed to map mangrove forests using multi-tidal Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) data and a Digital Elevation Model (DEM). Three indices, including the Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI), the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and NDVIL·NDMIH (the multiplication of NDVIL by NDMIH, L: low tide level, H: high tide level) were used in this algorithm to differentiate mangrove forests from other land-cover and land-use types in Fangchenggang City, China. Additionally, the recent Landsat 8 OLI (Operational Land Imager) data were selected to validate the results and compare if the methodology is reliable. The results demonstrate that short-term multi-tidal remotely-sensed data better represent the unique nearshore coastal wetland habitats of mangrove forests than single-tidal data. Furthermore, multi-tidal remotely-sensed data has led to improved accuracies using two classification approaches: i.e. decision trees and the maximum likelihood classification (MLC). Since mangrove forests are typically found at low elevations, the inclusion of elevation data in the two classification procedures was tested. Given the decision-tree method does not assume strict data distribution parameters, it was able to optimize the application of multi-tidal and elevation data, resulting in higher classification accuracies of mangrove forests. When using multi-source data of differing types and distributions to map mangrove forests, a decision-tree method appears to be superior to traditional statistical classifiers.
Adaptation of environmental policies to often unexpected crises is an important function of sustainable governance arrangements. However the relationship between environmental change and policy is complicated. Much research has focused on understanding institutional dynamics or the role of specific participants in the policy process. This paper draws attention to interest groups and the mechanism through which they influence policy change. Existing research offers conflicting evidence in regards to the different ways in which interest groups may affect change. This paper provides an in-depth study of the 2013 European Union Common Fisheries Policy reform − a policy change characterized by active interest group participation. It traces the activity of interest group coalitions to understand how they achieved influence under a changing policy context. The study involves interviews with interest group representatives, policy experts and decision-makers, document analysis of interest group statements and EU legislative documents. Findings identify the important role of coalition-building and informational lobbying for environmental interest group success in exploiting favorable sociopolitical conditions and influencing reform outcomes. An insight on interest group influence and its conditions contributes to our understanding of the complex dynamics of the environmental policy process as well as its implications for policy adaptation to environmental change.
There is a growing global concern for the conservation of manta and devil rays (Mobulidae). Populations of mobulids are falling worldwide and fisheries are one of the main activities contributing to this decline. Mobulid landings have been reported in Peru for decades. However, detailed information regarding the description of mobulid captures is not available. This study provides an assessment of mobulid captures and fish-market landings by small-scale gillnet fisheries from three landing sites in northern Peru. Onboard and shore-based observations were used to monitor captures and landings respectively between January 2015 and February 2016. All mobulid species known to occur in Peru were recorded from landings, with immature Mobula japanica as the most frequent catch. No manta rays (Manta birostris) were reported as caught although one specimen was observed as landed. The mean nominal CPUE was 1.6 ± 2.8 mobulids[km.day]−1 while the average capture per set (fishing operation) was 2.0 ± 8.09 mobulids[set]−1. Smooth hammerhead shark (S. zygaena) and yellowfin tuna (T. albacares) were target species highly associated with mobulid captures. The majority of mobulid captures occurred in nearshore waters and over the continental shelf off Zorritos and San Jose. Mobulid capture showed a temporal trend, increasing between September 2015 and February 2016, with a peak in October 2015 (10.17 ± 0.23 mobulids[km.day]−1), reflected by landings that showed an additional peak in May. A generalized linear zero-inflated negative binomial two-part model (GLM ZINB) indicated that longitude and latitude explained both the zero-inflated binomial model, as well as the count negative binomial model, which also included season as a explanatory variable for differences in mobulid captures. The mean CPUE (mobulids[km.day]−1) and mean Variance values obtained from the fitted final model were 1.73 and 25.51, respectively. Results also suggest that high mobulid captures could reflect an opportunistic behaviour of fishermen who catch mobulids when target species are not as abundant. Considering the global conservation status of mobulids, (Manta and Mobula), and acknowledging that M. birostris was the only species not recorded captured in the study but is the only species legally protected in Peru, further studies are necessary to support the possible inclusion of Mobula species in national management plans.
Since 2006, governments have designated or announced 18 marine protected areas (MPAs) larger than 200 000 km2. Before then there was only one: Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, established in 1975. To explain this marked shift in state governance of marine biodiversity, this article points to the importance of a gradual strengthening over the past decade of a global norm that large MPAs, especially no-take reserves, are valuable for meeting conservation objectives and targets. As is true for most global environmental norms, the large MPA norm emerged primarily out of civil society, especially from groups framing large MPAs as an effective way to help stop ocean decline. Importantly, however, the article demonstrates that the adoption of this norm is uneven across states, and implementation of large MPAs varies widely as governmental and non-governmental forces interact – sometimes clashing, sometimes cooperating – with fishing, tourism and resource industries. For evidence, this article draws on fieldwork and 74 interviews across five large MPA cases: Papahānaumokouākea (2006) and the Pacific Remote Islands in the US (2009); the Coral Sea in Australia (2012); the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (2015); and the UK's Pitcairn reserve (2015). A comparative analysis of these cases reveals the influence of non-governmental groups (especially The Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Geographic Society) on the gradual strengthening of the large MPA norm; the importance of the large MPA norm for the formation of marine policy; and the significance of domestic political economies for shaping variable norm adoption and state implementation.
Mapping the spatial distributions of fish populations is an integral component of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). Particularly for red grouper (Epinephelus morio) and gag grouper (“gag”; Mycteroperca microlepis), two economically important species, the lack of mapping due to data limitations (i.e., inconsistent capture in research surveys) has left a critical gap in the science needed to assess how ecosystem processes and EBFM measures in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) impact their population dynamics. We combined multiple fisheries-dependent and fisheries-independent data sources to map the long-term spatial distributions of older juveniles and adults of red and gag groupers in the U.S. GOM, using spatio-temporal binomial generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs). Spatio-temporal binomial GLMMs rely on the idea that probability of encounter at a given site is more similar to probability of encounter at nearby sites than to probability of encounter at geographically remote locations; this tenet allows one to estimate a smoothed surface depicting how probability of encounter varies spatially. Our spatio-temporal binomial GLMMs do not integrate environmental covariates, yet they account for the effects of year and research survey. The distribution maps produced from the predictions of the spatio-temporal binomial GLMMs aligned with the current understanding of the long-term ontogenetic spatial distributions of red and gag groupers in the U.S. GOM. Red grouper was predicted to be encountered throughout the West Florida Shelf (WFS), primarily at depths ranging from 20 to 60 m. Both older juvenile and adult female gags were predicted to be encountered from Apalachicola, Florida, to the region northwest of Tampa, Florida, along the 20 m depth contour, especially in Apalachee Bay. The probability of encounter of adult female gag was also high in the Florida Middle Grounds and in deeper (>40 m) areas of the WFS. The probability of encounter of adult male gag was highest along the edge of the WFS, both inside recognized spawning grounds (including the Madison-Swanson marine protected area) and outside, i.e., below 27°N (including Pulley Ridge). The distribution maps produced are valuable for understanding the ecology of grouper species and can be used as a basis for further analyses. Our spatio-temporal binomial GLMM framework will serve many important EBFM projects, including the construction of reliable distribution maps in bulk for spatially explicit ecosystem models of the GOM, which will improve spatial distributions and species spatial overlaps in spatially explicit ecosystem models and, therefore, the trophic interactions predicted by these models.
Aquaculture is an increasingly important food-producing sector, providing protein for human consumption. However, marine aquaculture often struggles for space due to the crowded nature of human activities in many marine coastal areas, and because of limited attention from spatial planning managers. Here, we assess the need for coastal spatial planning, emphasising the establishment of suitable areas for the development of marine aquaculture, termed Allocated Zones for Aquaculture (AZAs), in which aquaculture has secured use and priority over other activities, and where potential adverse environmental impacts and negative interactions with other users are minimised or avoided. We review existing examples of marine aquaculture spatial development worldwide and discuss the proper use of site selection in relation to different legal and regulatory requirements. National or regional authorities in charge of coastal zone management should carry out spatial planning defining optimal sites for aquaculture to promote development of sustainable marine aquaculture and avoid conflict with other users, following a participatory approach and adhering to the principles of ecosystem-based management.
The thirteenth joint edition of the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook provides market projections for major agricultural commodities, biofuels and fish. The 2017 report contains a special feature on the prospects for, and challenges facing, Southeast Asia.
Over the ten-year Outlook period, agricultural markets are projected to remain weak, with growth in China weakening and biofuel policies having less impact on markets than in the past. Future growth in crop production will be attained mostly by increasing yields, and growth in meat and dairy production from both higher animal stocks and improved yields. Agricultural trade is expected to grow more slowly, but remain less sensitive to weak economic conditions than trade in other sectors. These demand, supply and trade pressures are all evident in Southeast Asia, where this report identifies scope to improve agricultural productivity sustainably. Real prices are expected to remain flat or decline for most commodities.
To be able to adequately assess potential environmental impacts of deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining, the establishment of a proper environmental baseline, incorporating both spatial and temporal variability, is essential. The aim of the present study was to evaluate both spatial and intra-annual variability in meiofauna (higher taxa) and nematode communities (families and genera, and Halalaimusspecies) within the license area of Global Sea mineral Resources (GSR) in the northeastern Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCFZ), and to determine the efficiency of the current sampling of meiofauna and nematode diversity. In October 2015, three polymetallic nodule-bearing sites, about 60–270 km apart, located at similar depths (ca. 4,500 m) were sampled, of which one site was sampled in April in that same year. Despite the relatively large geographical distances and the statistically significant, but small, differences in sedimentary characteristics between sites, meiofauna and nematode communities were largely similar in terms of abundance, composition and diversity. Between-site differences in community composition were mainly driven by a set of rare and less abundant taxa. Moreover, although surface primary productivity in April exceeded that in October, no significant changes were observed in sedimentary characteristics or in meiofauna and nematode communities. At all sites and in both periods, Nematoda were the prevailing meiofaunal phylum, which was in turn dominated by Monhysterid genera and Acantholaimus. Our findings support the earlier purported notion of a low degree of endemism for nematode genera and meiofauna taxa in the deep sea, and hint at the possibility of large distribution ranges for at least some Halalaimus species. Taxon richness estimators revealed that the current sampling design was able to characterize the majority of the meiofauna and nematode taxa present. To conclude, implications of the present findings for environmental management and future research needs are provided.
Growing international and national focus on quantitatively measuring and improving ocean health has increased the need for comprehensive, scientific, and repeated indicators to track progress towards achieving policy and societal goals. The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is one of the few indicators available for this purpose. Here we present results from five years of annual global assessment for 220 countries and territories, evaluating potential drivers and consequences of changes and presenting lessons learned about the challenges of using composite indicators to measure sustainability goals. Globally scores have shown little change, as would be expected. However, individual countries have seen notable increases or declines due in particular to improvements in the harvest and management of wild-caught fisheries, the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs), and decreases in natural product harvest. Rapid loss of sea ice and the consequent reduction of coastal protection from that sea ice was also responsible for declines in overall ocean health in many Arctic and sub-Arctic countries. The OHI performed reasonably well at predicting near-term future scores for many of the ten goals measured, but data gaps and limitations hindered these predictions for many other goals. Ultimately, all indicators face the substantial challenge of informing policy for progress toward broad goals and objectives with insufficient monitoring and assessment data. If countries and the global community hope to achieve and maintain healthy oceans, we will need to dedicate significant resources to measuring what we are trying to manage.