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In data-limited situations, stakeholder advice can help shore-up your conservation solutions

In areas without robust surveys of species distributions, proxies are often used to estimate where marine flora and fauna reside. The authors tested a number of environmental proxies to see how well they could be used to predict both the distribution and abundance of species, using the Solitary Islands Marine Park in south-eastern Australia as a case study. Merging the outputs from both species- and habitat-oriented models with stakeholder advice is likely the best bet for planning conservation actions in data-limited situations.

Recreational uses might predict who's against desalination plants, and why

The authors of this study sought to find “if perceived threats to the local marine environment and marine activities influenced the degree of support for the desalination facility” in the small, coastal town of Carlsbad, California, USA. 1500 questionnaires were mailed out to random residents of the town in 2015, with a 25% response rate. “The questionnaire included closed questions about the importance of the marine ecosystem, concerns about impacts of the plant on marine areas in California and in Carlsbad, the importance of mitigation measures to reduce impacts on marine areas, and trust in organizations to implement mitigation measures”, in addition to demographic data and how often respondents engaged in marine activities.

Drones can monitor beach litter 40x faster than people

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), colloquially known as drones, could offer a much faster and efficient monitoring process. The authors present a methodology for using drones to take pictures of beaches, and then using machine learning techniques to automatically count and categorize litter in these photos. Ideally, this methodology would take just one trained individual a few minutes to sample an entire beach.

Even in the remote South Pacific, fish are eating plastic – and so are the people who eat those fish

Plastics are universally associated with pollutants. Chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates are commonly bonded to plastics during manufacturing. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) often adsorb onto plastics from surrounding waters when they are released into the ocean. Fish have been shown to ingest plastic and integrate these adsorbed pollutants into their tissues. Since fish are commonly served for human consumption, there are potential risks to human health and development from eating contaminated fish.

Marine ecosystems will soon start to feel the effects of climate change

The effects of climate change can be perceived when the signal of human-altered climate is louder than the noise of natural climatic variations. The point at which the signal outweighs the noise is called the time of emergence (TOE). If the signal of climate-change is predicted to be statistically greater than the noise in, for example, 20 years, you would say the TOE is 20 years. In this example, in 20 years from now, one would be expected to legitimately notice an altered climate. Using climate models under a high-emission scenario, the authors predicted the TOE for perceivable changes in temperature and precipitation for a variety of both marine and terrestrial habitats, and major population centers.

MSP for the anthropocene

Marine protected areas (MPAs) designate a static spatial zone for protection from some, or all, human activities. With climate change, species are likely to shift in response to warming oceans, quite possibly outside the boundaries of the MPAs that were meant to offer protection. In addition, the designation of an area as a partially-protected MPA may spur unintended human impacts. So how do you plan for climate change and human uses when species migrate? Ecological niche models may offer a solution.

Research can help build trust between MPA managers and community members

In a study of residents living adjacent to the Ningaloo Marine Park in Western Australia, researchers found that scientific research conducted in the park had helped to build trust with regard to management of the MPA. The study also found that trust could be further enhanced through a targeted science communication and engagement strategy that targets different ‘personality types’ throughout the region.

Using AIS data from ships for MSP

Automatic identification systems (AIS) are mandated by the International Maritime Organization to be operational on many types of ships; generally speaking, any cargo ship of 300 gross tonnes or more, and fishing vessels over 15 feet long. AIS broadcasts a ship’s identity, position, speed, and other variables as frequently as every other second, and at most every six minutes. Between VHF radio and satellite networks, ships can be monitored in real-time. Several websites offer real-time AIS data for free, making it an easy addition to a marine spatial planning process.

Protection and restoration are needed to reverse damage caused by mobile fishing gear

Surveys of an area once home to numerous horse mussel beds showed that damage from mobile fishing gear depleted the abundance of the species from well over 100 mussels per square meter to just four mussels per square meter in 2010. After banning all mobile fishing gear for seven years, the ecosystem had not recovered. Horse mussels act as a keystone species, so without a critical number of mussels in the habitat, other species are unable to come back. Restoration efforts are needed alongside spatial protection to fix the damage caused.

How Venice and Miami are adapting to sea-level rise

The authors describe governance approaches to sea-level rise (SLR) adopted by the large, coastal cities of Venice, Italy, and Miami, Florida, USA – offering advice on how each city could learn from the other. The authors, who work in these cities on the issue of SLR, were able to bring their own observations into this analysis alongside archival research and interviews with government officials, NGOs, and scientists.