Posts Tagged 'socio-economy'

The Great Barrier Reef: vulnerabilities and solutions in the face of ocean acidification

As living carbonate-based structures, coral reefs are highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the largest continuous coral reef system in the world. Its economic, social, and icon assets are valued at AU$56 billion (Deloitte Access Economics, 2017), owing to its vast biodiversity and services related to commercial and recreational fisheries, shoreline protection, and reef-related tourism and recreation. Ocean acidification poses a significant risk to these ecological and socioeconomic services, threatening not only the structural foundation of the GBR but the livelihoods of reef-dependent sectors of society. To assess the vulnerabilities of the GBR to ocean acidification, we review the characteristics of the GBR and the current valuation and factors affecting potential losses across three major areas of socioeconomic concern: fisheries, shoreline protection, and reef-related tourism and recreation. We then discuss potential solutions, both conventional and unconventional, for mitigating ocean acidification impacts on the GBR and propose a suite of actions that would help assess and increase the region’s preparedness for the effects of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The Great Barrier Reef: vulnerabilities and solutions in the face of ocean acidification’

Building the knowledge-to-action pipeline in North America: connecting ocean acidification research and actionable decision support

Ocean acidification (OA) describes the progressive decrease in the pH of seawater and other cascading chemical changes resulting from oceanic uptake of atmospheric carbon. These changes can have important implications for marine ecosystems, creating risk for commercial industries, subsistence communities, cultural practices, and recreation. Characterizing the extent of acidification and predicting the ramifications for marine and freshwater resources and ecosystem services are critical to national and international climate mitigation discussions and to local communities that rely on these resources. Based on critical grassroots connections between scientists, stakeholders and decision makers, “Knowledge-to-Action” networks for ocean acidification issues have formed at local, regional and international scales to take action. Here, we review three examples of North American groups elevating the issue of ocean acidification at these three levels. They each focus on developing practicable, implementable steps to mitigate causes, to adapt to unavoidable change, and to build resilience to changing ocean conditions in the marine environment and coastal communities. While these first steps represent critical efforts in protecting ecosystems and economies from the risks posed by ocean acidification, some challenges remain. Sensitivity and risk to OA varies by region, species and ecosystems; priorities for action can vary between multiple and conflicting partners; evidence-based strategies for OA risk mitigation are still in the early stages; and gaps remain between scientific research and actionable decision-maker support products. However, the scaled networks profiled here have proven to be adept at identifying and addressing these barriers to action. In the future, it will be critical to expand funding for food web impact studies and development of decision support tools, and to maintain the connections between scientists and marine resource users to build resilience to ocean acidification impacts.

Continue reading ‘Building the knowledge-to-action pipeline in North America: connecting ocean acidification research and actionable decision support’

People and the changing nature of coral reefs

Highlights

• Large numbers of people in tropical regions are highly dependent on the goods and services produced by coral reef ecosystems.

• Coral reef ecosystems are under severe threat from both local and global threats, which are degrading the ecosystem services that they provide to humanity.

• Past studies have assumed that the loss of ecosystem services will lead to a proportionate impact on people.

• We argue that this is unlikely to be the case in the short-term due to the high level of adaptability illustrated by communities associated with coral reefs. Eventually, however, stress will reach levels that exhaust the capacity of people and communities to adapt.

• Data sets and analysis are sparse, however, we call for a greater focus on understanding the flexibility and adaptability of people associated with coral reefs, especially in a time of rapid global change.

Abstract

Coral reefs are biodiverse and productive ecosystems but are threatened by local and global stresses. The resulting loss of coral reefs is threatening coastal food and livelihoods. Climate projections suggest that coral reefs will continue to undergo major changes even if the goals of the Paris Agreement (Dec 2015) are successfully implemented. Ecological changes include modified food webs, shifts in community structure, reduced habitat complexity, decreased fecundity and recruitment, changes to fisheries productivity/opportunity, and a shift in the carbonate budget of some ecosystems toward dissolution and erosion of calcium carbonate stocks. Broad estimates of the long-term (present value) of services provided by the ocean’s ecological assets exist and are useful in highlighting the value of reefs yet must be contextualised by how people respond under ecosystem change. The dynamic nature of the relationship between people, economies, and the environment complicates estimation of human consequences and economic outcomes of changing environmental and ecological capital. Challenges have increased given lack of baseline data and our inability to predict (with any precision) how people respond to changing coral reef conditions, especially given the variability, flexibility, and creativity shown by human communities and economies under change. Here, we explore how the changes to the three-dimensional structure of coral reefs affect benefits for people, specifically coastal protection, fisheries habitat, and tourism. Based on a review of available data and literature, we make a series of key recommendations that are required to better understanding of how global change will affect people dependent on coral reefs. These include: (1) baseline studies and frameworks for understanding human responses to climate change within complex social and ecological setting such as coral reefs, (2) better tools for exploring environmental benefits, markets, and financial systems faced by change, and (3) the integration of these insights into more effective policy making.

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Ecological and socioeconomic strategies to sustain Caribbean coral reefs in a high-CO2 world

The Caribbean and Western Atlantic region hosts one of the world’s most diverse geopolitical regions and a unique marine biota distinct from tropical seas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. While this region varies in human population density, GDP and wealth, coral reefs, and their associated ecosystem services, are central to people’s livelihoods. Unfortunately, the region’s reefs have experienced extensive degradation over the last several decades. This degradation has been attributed to a combination of disease, overfishing, and multiple pressures from other human activities. Furthermore, the Caribbean region has experienced rapid ocean warming and acidification as a result of climate change that will continue and accelerate throughout the 21st century. It is evident that these changes will pose increasing threats to Caribbean reefs unless imminent actions are taken at the local, regional and global scale. Active management is required to sustain Caribbean reefs and increase their resilience to recover from acute stress events. Here, we propose local and regional solutions to halt and reverse Caribbean coral reef degradation under ongoing ocean warming and acidification. Because the Caribbean has already experienced high coral reef degradation, we suggest that this region may be suitable for more aggressive interventions than might be suitable for other regions. Solutions with direct ecological benefits highlighted here build on existing knowledge of factors that can contribute to reef restoration and increased resilience in the Caribbean: (1) management of water quality, (2) reduction of unsustainable fishing practices, (3) application of ecological engineering, and (4) implementing marine spatial planning. Complementary socioeconomic and governance solutions include: (1) increasing communication and leveraging resources through the establishment of a regional reef secretariat, (2) incorporating reef health and sustainability goals into the blue economy plans for the region, and (3) initiating a reef labelling program to incentivize corporate partnerships for reef restoration and protection to sustain overall reef health in the region.

Continue reading ‘Ecological and socioeconomic strategies to sustain Caribbean coral reefs in a high-CO2 world’

Arctic ocean acidification assessment 2018: summary for policy-makers

Some of the fastest rates of acidification are occurring in the Arctic, due mainly to the higher capacity of colder water to absorb CO2, but also due to dilution by river run-off and ice melt, and the inflow of naturally low pH waters from the Pacific. Changes are already evident in the Arctic Ocean’s marine carbonate system – which, among other things, has been shown to influence growth, reproduction and ultimately survival in some organisms. These changes may cause significant ecological shifts in the coming decades. These shifts could, in turn, have significant socioeconomic consequences, not only for Arctic communities, but more widely. These concerns were referenced in the Fairbanks Declaration of 11 May 2017, when ministers representing the eight Arctic states, and representatives of the six Permanent Participant organizations, noted “with concern the vulnerability of Arctic marine ecosystems to the impacts of ocean acidification”, and called for continuing study and awareness raising regarding those impacts and their consequences.

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Global aquaculture productivity, environmental sustainability, and climate change adaptability

To meet the demand for food from a growing global population, aquaculture production is under great pressure to increase as capture fisheries have stagnated. However, aquaculture has raised a range of environmental concerns, and further increases in aquaculture production will face widespread environmental challenges. The effects of climate change will pose a further threat to global aquaculture production. Aquaculture is often at risk from a combination of climatic variables, including cyclone, drought, flood, global warming, ocean acidification, rainfall variation, salinity, and sea level rise. For aquaculture growth to be sustainable its environmental impacts must reduce significantly. Adaptation to climate change is also needed to produce more fish without environmental impacts. Some adaptation strategies including integrated aquaculture, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), and the expansion of seafood farming could increase aquaculture productivity, environmental sustainability, and climate change adaptability.

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Ocean acidification impacts on coastal ecosystem services due to habitat degradation

The oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions is changing seawater chemistry in a process known as ocean acidification. The chemistry of this rapid change in surface waters is well understood and readily detectable in oceanic observations, yet there is uncertainty about the effects of ocean acidification on society since it is difficult to scale-up from laboratory and mesocosm tests. Here, we provide a synthesis of the likely effects of ocean acidification on ecosystem properties, functions and services based on observations along natural gradients in pCO2. Studies at CO2 seeps worldwide show that biogenic habitats are particularly sensitive to ocean acidification and that their degradation results in less coastal protection and less habitat provisioning for fisheries. The risks to marine goods and services amplify with increasing acidification causing shifts to macroalgal dominance, habitat degradation and a loss of biodiversity at seep sites in the tropics, the sub-tropics and on temperate coasts. Based on this empirical evidence, we expect ocean acidification to have serious consequences for the millions of people who are dependent on coastal protection, fisheries and aquaculture. If humanity is able to make cuts in fossil fuel emissions, this will reduce costs to society and avoid the changes in coastal ecosystems seen in areas with projected pCO2 levels. A binding international agreement for the oceans should build on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to ‘minimise and address the impacts of ocean acidification’.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification impacts on coastal ecosystem services due to habitat degradation’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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