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The Sea Around Us Project, initiated by the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia, PA, and located at the Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, started in mid 1999. Its goal was (and still is) to investigate the impact of fisheries on marine ecosystems and to propose policies to mitigate these impacts. Although conceived as a global activity, the project first emphasized the data-rich North Atlantic as a test bed for developing its approaches, which rely on mapping of catch data and indicators of ecosystem health derived from the analysis of long catch time series data. Initial achievements included mapping the decline, throughout the North Atlantic basin, of high-trophic level fishes from 1900 to the present and the presentation of compelling evidence of change in the functioning of the North Atlantic ecosystems, summarized in a 2003 book. The Central and South Atlantic were the next basins to be tackled, with emphasis on the distant-water fleet off West Africa, culminating in a major conference in Dakar, Senegal, in 2002. The project then emphasized the North Pacific, Antarctica, and marine mammals and the multiplicity of tropical Indo-Pacific fisheries before it turned completely global, with all our major analyses and reports (e.g., on the interactions between marine mammals and fisheries, on fuel consumption by fleets, on the catches of small-scale fisheries, on subsidies to fisheries) being based on global studies. Broadly, the work of the project is aimed at a reappraisal of fisheries, from the benign activity that many interested people still perceive them to be, to a realization that they have become the driver for massive loss of biodiversity in the ocean. Moreover, the emphasis on global estimates (rather than local estimates of dubious generality) has allowed the project to contribute to various global initiatives (e.g., developing the Marine Trophic Index for the Convention on Biological Diversity, quantifying marine ecosystem services for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment), that is, activities that we expect to increase and for which we invite collaboration from academia and environmental nongovernmental organizations.
There are two diverging views of the status and future of the world's fisheries. One group represented largely by academic marine ecologists sees almost universal failure of fisheries management and calls for the use of marine-protected areas as the central tool of a new approach to rebuilding the marine ecosystems of the world. The scientists working in fisheries agencies and many academic scientists see a more complex picture, with many failed fisheries but also numerous successes. This group argues that we need to apply the lessons from the successful fisheries to stop the decline and rebuild those fisheries threatened by excess fishing. These lessons are stopping the competitive race to fish by appropriate incentives for fishing fleets and good governance. The major tool of resetting incentives is granting various forms of dedicated access, including community-based fishing rights, allocation to cooperatives, and individual fishing quotas. Many of the failed fisheries of the world occur in jurisdictions where central governments are not functional, and local control of fisheries is an essential part of the solution.
Adaptive management has been widely recommended as a way to deal with extreme uncertainty in natural resource and environmental decision making. The core concept in adaptive management is that policy choices should be treated as deliberate, large-scale experiments; hence, policy choice should be treated at least partly as a problem of scientific experimental design. There have now been upwards of 100 case studies where attempts were made to apply adaptive management to issues ranging from restoration of endangered desert fish species to protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of these cases have been failures in the sense that no experimental management program was ever implemented, and there have been serious problems with monitoring programs in the handful of cases where an experimental plan was implemented. Most of the failures can be traced to three main institutional problems: i) lack of management resources for the expanded monitoring needed to carry out large-scale experiments; ii) unwillingness by decision makers to admit and embrace uncertainty in making policy choices; and iii) lack of leadership in the form of individuals willing to do all the hard work needed to plan and implement new and complex management programs.
The main aims of the present study, conducted in the framework of the MONIQUA–Egadi Scientific Project, were twofold: first, to make the first step in the development and validation of an ecotoxicological approach for the assessment of marine pollution in coastal environments on the basis of a set of biomarker responses in new sentinel species; and second, to obtain preliminary information on environmental quality in an Italian marine protected area, the Egadi Islands (Sicily). Several cytochrome P450–dependent mixed-function oxidase activities were measured in the following sentinel species: rainbow wrasse Coris julis, gastropod limpet Patella caerulea, and sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. The results suggest that specimens from the Favignana Harbor may be exposed to P450 inducers, whereas most of the other sites seem to share similar environmental quality. The proposed approach has potential for assessment of environmental quality in marine protected areas.
Marine protected areas increasingly are challenged to maintain or increase tourism benefits while adequately protecting resources. Although carrying capacity strategies can be used to cope with use-related impacts, there is little understanding of divers themselves, their management preferences, and how preferences relate to conservation goals. By using a stated preference choice modeling approach, we investigated the choices divers make in selecting diving trips to marine protected areas as defined by use level, access, level of supervision, fees, conservation education, and diving expectations. Logit models showed that divers preferred a more restrictive management scenario over the status quo. Divers favored reductions in the level of site use and increased levels of conservation education. Divers did not favor fees to access protected areas, having less access to the resource, or extensive supervision. Finally, divers were much more willing to accept increasingly restrictive management scenarios when they could expect to see increased marine life.
The thesis of this article is quite different from many other theses of papers, books, and articles on the Aral Sea. It is meant to purposely highlight the reality of the situation in Central Asia: the Aral Sea that was once a thriving body of water is no more. That sea is dead. What does exist in its place are the Aral seas: there are in essence three bodies of water, one of which is being purposefully restored and its level is rising (the Little Aral), and two others which are still marginally connected, although they continue to decline in level (the Big Aral West and the Big Aral East). In 1960 the level of the sea was about 53 m above sea level. By 2006 the level had dropped by 23 m to 30 m above sea level. This was not a scenario generated by a computer model. It was a process of environmental degradation played out in real life in a matter of a few decades, primarily as a result of human activities. Despite wishes and words to the contrary, it will take a heroic global effort to save what remains of the Big Aral. It would also take a significant degree of sacrifice by people and governments in the region to restore the Big Aral to an acceptable level, given that the annual rate of flow reaching the Amudarya River delta is less than a 10th of what it was several decades ago. Conferring World Heritage status to the Aral Sea(s) could spark restoration efforts for the Big Aral.
Mangroves, a predominant coastal habitat in the tropics, are constantly threatened by various anthropogenic pressures that are deteriorating the mangroves to a great extent. Global emissions of greenhouse gases are likely to raise the world temperature and the sea level at the rate of 0.3°C and 6 mm 10 y−1 by the year 2100. Mangrove habitats would be more vulnerable to climatic changes and resultant sea level rise (SLR) because of their unique location at the interface of the sea. By altering ecobiological processes, the intertidal and supratidal zones may extend further inland, resulting in changes in the existing ecological setup. The limitation of the landward margin would cause vertical rise, resulting in water-logging and ultimately killing the mangroves and dependent biota. The present document describes mangrove habitats and related issues from the Indian subcontinent in the context of climate variations and SLR, and recommends integrated long-term monitoring.
Natural wetlands, occupying 3.8% of China's land and providing 54.9% of ecosystem services, are unevenly distributed among eight wetland regions. Natural wetlands in China suffered great loss and degradation (e.g., 23.0% freshwater swamps, 51.2% costal wetlands) because of the wetland reclamation during China's long history of civilization, and the population pressure and the misguided policies over the last 50 years. Recently, with an improved understanding that healthy wetland ecosystems play a vital role in her sustainable economic development, China started major efforts in wetland conservation, as signified by the policy to return reclaimed croplands to wetlands, the funding of billions of dollars to restore degraded wetlands, and the national plan to place 90% of natural wetlands under protection by 2030. This paper describes the current status of the natural wetlands in China, reviews past problems, and discusses current efforts and future challenges in protecting China's natural wetlands.
Coptis teeta (Ranunculaceae), is a nontimber forest product (NTFP) that only grows in northwest Yunnan and northeast India. Its tenuous rhizome, known as “Yunnan goldthread” in the traditional Chinese medicine system, has been used as an antibacterial and as an anti-inflammatory medicine for a long time. The increasing demand has resulted in commercial harvesting pressure on wild populations that were already dwindling as a result of deforestation, and wild populations are at risk of extinction. Fortunately, there exists at least 2000 hectares of a C. teeta–based agroforestry system initiated by the Lisu people in Nujiang, northwest Yunnan. This cultivation supplies us with a valuable study case for the balance between conservation and sustainable use. This case study investigated the traditional management system and history of C. teeta in Nujiang through ethnobotanical methods and field investigation. We also contrasted initial costs, economic returns, and labor demands for C. teeta cultivation with other major land uses in the region. Compared with swidden agriculture, the major land-use type in the region, C. teeta cultivation offers high economic returns and low labor and initial costs; moreover, C. teeta cultivation does not interfere with subsistence agricultural duties. This agroforestry system reflected that the cultivation of NTFPs is a conservation strategy for maintaining forest diversity, while providing a stable economic return to local forest communities, and indicates how local people manage biodiversity effectively.
Cholera epidemics have a recorded history in the eastern Africa region dating to 1836. Cholera is now endemic in the Lake Victoria basin, a region with one of the poorest and fastest growing populations in the world. Analyses of precipitation, temperatures, and hydrological characteristics of selected stations in the Lake Victoria basin show that cholera epidemics are closely associated with El Niño years. Similarly, sustained temperatures high above normal (Tmax) in two consecutive seasons, followed by a slight cooling in the second season, trigger an outbreak of a cholera epidemic. The health and socioeconomic systems that the lake basin communities rely upon are not robust enough to cope with cholera outbreaks, thus rendering them vulnerable to the impact of climate variability and change. Collectively, this report argues that communities living around the Lake Victoria basin are vulnerable to climate-induced cholera that is aggravated by the low socioeconomic status and lack of an adequate health care system. In assessing the communities' adaptive capacity, the report concludes that persistent levels of poverty have made these communities vulnerable to cholera epidemics.