Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
March, 2014

Rebecca L. Lewisona, Larry B. Crowder, Bryan P. Wallace, Jeffrey E. Moore, Tara Cox, Ramunas Zydelis, Sara McDonald, Andrew DiMatteo, Daniel C. Dunn, Connie Y. Kot, Rhema Bjorkland, Shaleyla Kelez, Candan Soykan, Kelly R. Stewart, Michelle Sims, Andre Boustany, Andrew J. Read, Patrick Halpin, W. J. Nichols,
and Carl Safina

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
February, 2014

Gerald G. Singh, Jordan Tam, Thomas D. Sisk, Sarah C. Klain, Megan E. Mach, Rebecca G. Martone, and Kai M.A. Chan

Scientists are increasingly called upon to engage in policy formulation, but the literature on engagement is strong on speculation and weak on evidence. Using a survey administered at several broadly “ecological” conferences, we investigated: (1) the extent to which respondents engage in policy-related activities (including reporting scientific results, interpreting science for policy makers, integrating science into decision making, taking a position on a policy issue, and acting as a decision maker); (2) what factors best explain these types of engagement; and (3) whether respondents’ activity levels match their stated beliefs on such activities. Different factors explain different forms of participation. Past negative experience was identified as a barrier to taking part in policy, while self-perceived competence in navigating the science–policy interface was consistently important in explaining activity across all engagement types, highlighting the importance of training programs linking scientists to policy. Many respondents believed that scientists should interpret, integrate, and advocate, which contrasts with previous research and relatively low levels of self-reported participation in policy.

The Sea, Volume 16: Marine Ecosystem-Based Management
February, 2014

Jacob P. Kritzer, Christina C. Hicks, Bruce D. Mapstone, Fabian Pina-Amargós, and Peter F. Sale.

With marine ecosystems endangered by a warming climate and exploding human population growth, a critical transformation is taking place in the way the world’s ocean resources are managed. Marine Ecosystem-Based Management presents a state-of-the-art synopsis of the conservation approaches that are currently being translated from theory to action on a global scale. With contributions from an international team of experts, this volume synthesizes the scientific literature of holistic practices in ecosystem-based management (EBM), focusing on protecting the marine ecologies that humans and countless other organisms vitally depend upon. It is now widely recognized that any viable strategy for sustaining the world’s oceans must reflect the relationships among all ecosystem components, human and nonhuman species included. Marine Ecosystem-Based Management is an in-depth report of new advances in the rapidly evolving discipline of coupled Human-Ecological Systems.

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
February, 2014

Devillers, R., R. L. Pressey, A. Grech, J. N. Kittinger, G. J. Edgar, T. Ward, and R. Watson.

January, 2014

Nora Deans, Ann Stowe

See what the Center for Ocean Solutions has been up to in 2013.

Biological Conservation
January, 2014

Kyle S. Van Houtan and Jack N. Kittinger

Biodiversity conservation is often limited by short-term records of abundance, geographic distribution, and population dynamics. Historical information can provide a context for assessing current population status and defining recovery, especially for populations recovering from chronic human overexploitation. Here we analyze three decades (1948–1974) of commercial landings from a green turtle fishery in the Hawaiian Islands. While this turtle fishery was small in scale – with a limited effort, productivity, and revenue – we find dramatic declines in catch per unit effort and a spatial progression that strongly suggest rapid local population depletion. Additional analyses of economic data, restaurant menus, and expert interviews indicate the fishery was driven by limited, local demand. The seemingly incommensurate scale of the fishery and its impacts reveal the Hawaiian green turtle population was already significantly depleted when commercial fishery began. We describe how historical studies can inform conservation management, including population assessments.

January, 2014

The ocean is a soup of its resident species' genetic material, cast off in the forms of metabolic waste, shed skin cells, or damaged tissue. Sampling this environmental DNA (eDNA) is a potentially powerful means of assessing whole biological communities, a significant advance over the manual methods of environmental sampling that have historically dominated marine ecology and related fields. Here, we estimate the vertebrate fauna in a 4.5-million-liter mesocosm aquarium tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium of known species composition by sequencing the eDNA from its constituent seawater. We find that it is generally possible to detect mitochondrial DNA of bony fishes sufficient to identify organisms to taxonomic family- or genus-level using a 106 bp fragment of the 12S ribosomal gene. We conclude that eDNA has substantial potential to become a core tool for environmental monitoring, but that a variety of challenges remain before reliable quantitative assessments of ecological communities in the field become possible.

Nature Communications
October, 2013

Sara M. Maxwell, Elliott L. HazenSteven J. BogradBenjamin S. Halpern, Greg A. Breed, Barry Nickel, Nicole M. Teutschel, Larry B. Crowder, Scott Benson, Peter H. Dutton, Helen Bailey, Michelle A. Kappes, Carey E. Kuhn, Michael J. Weise, Bruce Mate, Scott A. Shaffer, Jason L. Hassrick, Robert W. Henry, Ladd Irvine, Birgitte I. McDonald, Patrick W. Robinson, Barbara A. Block, and Daniel P. Costa.

Stressors associated with human activities interact in complex ways to affect marine ecosystems, yet we lack spatially explicit assessments of cumulative impacts on ecologically and economically key components such as marine predators. Here we develop a metric of cumulative utilization and impact (CUI) on marine predators by combining electronic tracking data of eight protected predator species (n=685 individuals) in the California Current Ecosystem with data on 24 anthropogenic stressors. We show significant variation in CUI with some of the highest impacts within US National Marine Sanctuaries. High variation in underlying species and cumulative impact distributions means that neither alone is sufficient for effective spatial management. Instead, comprehensive management approaches accounting for both cumulative human impacts and trade-offs among multiple stressors must be applied in planning the use of marine resources.

September, 2013

Joshua E. Cinner, Cindy Huchery, Emily S. Darling, Austin T. Humphries, Nicholas A.J. Graham, Christina C. Hicks, Nadine Marshall, and Tim R. McClanahan. 

There is an increasing need to evaluate the links between the social and ecological dimensions of human vulnerability to climate change. We use an empirical case study of 12 coastal communities and associated coral reefs in Kenya to assess and compare five key ecological and social components of the vulnerability of coastal social-ecological systems to temperature induced coral mortality. We examined whether ecological components of vulnerability varied between government operated no-take marine reserves, community-based reserves, and openly fished areas. Overall, fished sites were marginally more vulnerable than community-based and government marine reserves. Social sensitivity was indicated by the occupational composition of each community, including the importance of fishing relative to other occupations, as well as the susceptibility of different fishing gears to the effects of coral bleaching on target fish species. Together, these results show that different communities have relative strengths and weaknesses in terms of social-ecological vulnerability to climate change.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
September, 2013

Brent B. Hughes, Ron Eby, Eric Van Dyke, M. Tim Tinker, Corina I. Marks, Kenneth S. Johnson, and Kerstin Wasson.

Many coastal vegetated ecosystems have declined, affected by human alterations to “bottom-up” forces such as nutrient loading from agriculture and by “top-down” forces such as overfishing of predators. Examining the interactions between such bottom-up and top-down changes is challenging, because top predators have disappeared from many of these ecosystems. A highly nutrient-loaded estuary in California recently colonized by a recovering sea otter population provided an unusual opportunity to examine these interactions. We demonstrate that top-down effects of sea otters mitigate negative effects of nutrient loading, enhancing growth of seagrass. Grazers that remove algae from seagrass are favored by decreased crabs resulting from otter predation. Recovery of top predators can thus support resilience of coastal vegetated ecosystems.