One of the most unusual/interesting findings from the dock was the massive sea star and the fair-to-poor condition of the green crab. Long Island is a peculiar geographic place to be during the summer in the age of Global Warming. Over the last decade more and more tropical fish have been riding further north on the Gulf Stream since the waters have been gradually warming. One theory is that along with these new, brightly colored and exotic fish, new virulent diseases have arrived in Long Island waters.
These unstudied and largely unknown diseases are threatening the endemic species and likely causing immune suppression and sickness in sea stars and green crabs (which technically are an invasive species, but they’ve been here so long we consider them family). A common symptom of the scary disease is claw deformation and “erosion.” Sea stars have been simply dying out to the point where they are extremely rare. Last year at this time sea stars were decently abundant in the bays and in the Long Island intertidal zone. This year they are almost nonexistent.
I wonder how the other marine life are taking it, as for myself, I got a small sea star tattoo on my wrist in attempt to deal with their sudden loss. Well, that and I have a keen appreciation for the radially symmetric keystone predator
This morning’s ~8am low tide found me on the dock in Stony Brook Harbor. It was warm, about 80 degrees and sunny, and the bay was glassy flat. I was in excellent company with SBU’s Flax Pond lab director, Steve. We were on our hands and knees, inbetween baby boomer fishermen with dark tans, peering down at the pilings to see what marine life we could find.
The pilings were coated with barnacles, hydrozoans, invasive bread-crumb sponges and compound tunicates — invertebrate life was everywhere! On first glance we collected about 5 of purple sea urchins and mussels. Sponges and hydrozoans were collected for kids to examine under a microscope in a transparent box, so they can observe and report their microscopic findings.
Further down the dock we found a giant Forbes sea star and a one-clawed green crab. (One claw is better than two when it comes to handling by 5-year olds!) The race to catch the blennie fish pair was eventually won, and before leaving the dock we quickly grabbed an oyster off the dry side of the piling.
After today’s marine life survey I have 8 viable species for a touch tank. I will be feeding them a diet of grass shrimp and mussels in their flow through sea table with aeration.
Underwater view of a dock piling.
Underwater view of a dock piling.
Marine reserves are legally designated places in the ocean where commercial and recreational fishing are not allowed. As anthropogenic threats such as pollution, overfishing, destructive tourism practices, and significantly better fishing technologies have developed over time, so too has the need for protection of these habitats and species. Marine reserves create a refuge for exploited populations and their natural habitats; the management goal is to rebuild the depleted ecosystem back to a state in which it can thrive. The ability of a depleted ecosystem to regain resiliency depends on the specific boundaries applied to the reserve; in general the larger the area that is designed as reserve or a network or smaller reserves working in concert, the more successful the reserve setup will be over generations. Most marine reserves are small in size, typically less than a square kilometer, and despite this small size, many species respond positively to the protection.
Global distribution of marine reserves.
An important goal of fisheries and marine reserve management is to integrate an ocean-wide network of marine reserves. This network will directly protect fish, mammal and invertebrate populations and their critical habitat, and stave off global losses in fisheries landings and ultimately reversed them. The reversal from fisheries losses to fisheries gains is the consequence of marine reserve protection and sustainable fishing practices. Networks of marine reserves offer the best protection against overfishing within a specific region by connecting the dispersal of eggs and larvae to juvenile and adult migration paths. Networks are also important opportunities to build scientific understanding of complex marine ecosystems by protecting populations that depend on one another, from harmful human activities. Some remote marine reserves, despite being pristine areas with lightly exploited populations, such as those in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands may be the best candidates for protection from a management perspective. These are considered the “low hanging fruit,” from an economic and social perspective. Their remote location and narrowly affected area is a great chance for conservation to protect this marine ecosystem against future destruction, a pro-active management decision. More heavily exploited areas with marine environments in close proximity to big cities may show stronger responses to reserve protection, but their success depends on management and decreased instances of human disturbance, like pollution and runoff.
Marine reserves as a tool for marine conservation include many benefits; long lasting and often rapid increases in abundance, diversity and reproductive capacity of fish populations inside of the no take reserves are just a few. Other evidence indicates marine reserves leads decreased mortality, decreased habitat destruction, decreased extinction, and the foundation for a balanced, healthy ecosystem. Reserves are also excellent sites for collecting valuable fishery-independent data. Fishery independent data is data that does not rely on fisheries to report, which is preferred in many cases because fishery reported data is frequently flawed. In many cases, the larger the reserve are, the greater the increase in ecosystem benefits, however even small reserves can generate positive effects if they are part of a large reserve network.
One of the most important benefits for fisheries is the size and abundance of commercially harvested fish increase in areas adjacent to reserves. Networks of reserves buffer against environmental variability and provide significantly better protection for marine neighborhoods than a single reserve. Reserve networks that span large geographic distances and encompass substantial areas protect against catastrophic events and provide stable platforms for sustainable marine communities in the long term.
Marine conservation biologists still question whether the reserves will be sustainable in the long term and how much sustainability depends on the links with other reserves, or how important having a network of reserves is for overall protection. Another important question; can the present or local knowledge help to figure out where to place a reserve for maximum suitability and fishery support from larval and adult spillover effects, since fishery enhancement only occurs when reserves are linked with the protection and proliferation of commercially important fish species. Scientists will continue to make progress in improving the benefits garnered from marine reserves, from the ideal size to the best placement. In the current stage of protection, every additional reserve is beneficial and spillover effects are one of the best techniques to sustainably enhance fisheries.
Abesamis, Rene A., and Garry R. Russ. “Density-Dependent Spillover From A Marine Reserve: Long-Term Evidence.” Ecological Applications 15.5 (2005): 1798-812.
Gell, Finoa R., and Callum M. Roberts. “Benefits Beyond Boundaries: The Fishery Effects of Marine Reserves.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 118.9 (2003): 448-55.
Harmelinvivien, M., L. Ledireach, J. Baylesempere, E. Charbonnel, J. Garciacharton, D. Ody, A. Perezruzafa, O. Renones, P. Sanchezjerez, and C. Valle. “Gradients of Abundance and Biomass across Reserve Boundaries in Six Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas: Evidence of Fish Spillover?” Biological Conservation 141.7 (2008): 1829-839.
Kellner, Julie B., Irene Tetreault, Steven D. Gaines, and Roger M. Nisbet. “Fishing The Line Near Marine Reserves In Single And Multispecies Fisheries.” Ecological Applications 17.4 (2007): 1039-054.
McClanahan, T. R., and R. Arthur. “The Effect of Marine Reserves and Habitat on Populations of East African Coral Reef Fishes.” Ecological Applications 11.2 (2001): 559.
McClanahan, T. R., and S. Mangi. “Spillover of Exploitable Fishes from a Marine Park and Its Effect on the Adjacent Fishery.” Ecological Applications 10.6 (2000): 1792.
Ojedamartinez, C., F. Gimenezcasalduero, J. Baylesempere, C. Barberacebrian, C. Valle, J. Luissanchezlizaso, A. Forcada, P. Sanchezjerez, P. Martinsosa, and J. Falcon. “A Conceptual Framework for the Integral Management of Marine Protected Areas.” Ocean & Coastal Management 52.2 (2009): 89-101.
Palumbi, Stephen R. “MARINE RESERVES AND OCEAN NEIGHBORHOODS: The Spatial Scale of Marine Populations and Their Management.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 29.1 (2004): 31-68.
Roberts, Callum M. “Selecting Marine Reserve Locations: Optimality versus Opportunism.” Bulletin of Marine Science 66.3 (2000): 581-92.
Russ, Garry R., Angel C. Alcala, Aileen P. Maypa, Hilconida P. Calumpong, and Alan T. White. “Marine Reserve Benefits Local Fisheries.” Ecological Applications 14.2 (2004): 597-606.
Russ, Gr, Ac Alcala, and Ap Maypa. “Spillover from Marine Reserves: The Case of Naso Vlamingii at Apo Island, the Philippines.” Marine Ecology Progress Series 264 (2003): 15-20.
It’s a rainy, summer Saturday evening, and I am ready to dive into something different. I’ve been thinking a bit about my Marine Reserves presentation for high school students and want to make a good impression on the students–it’s very important, afterall.
High school students are a unique group of individuals to coast on the stereotype; energetic, smart, and opinionated, yet mentally chaotic with short attention spans. This is probably the case for many students who might be interested in Marine Conservation. What these people need is something relevant, educational and cool to grab their attention and hold onto it. The data and examples are crucial and transformative when delivered with a succinct and innovative way that makes a definite impact. Powerpoint presentations often don’t cut it for me, so I can only imagine how dull they come off to someone less ‘tolerant.’
With that said, I am going for the open source, slightly more complicated, but much more versatile option–Showoff. In order to make a presentation in this format, I first have to learn something called ‘Markdown‘ to be able to convert my content into HTML. There you have it, that’s my Saturday night.
Writing, for me is more than a reflection but less than an internal journey. More of a procedure, less of a creation, an evolutionary theory for putting brain waves into words.
Tonight’s highlight: I’ve been working on writing my personal history statement, struggling for inspiration and better syntax. I wonder what it means to skate with ease through a personal statment detailing what my research passions are and what I want to accomplish in world of marine science, but when it comes to getting personal with my essay, I pine away and become despondent? I know that past is relevant to the future, but in what capacity, exactly? If only I knew, I would have finished this damn essay already.
Anyway, today I spoke with a very enlightening shop owner who was well traveled and knowlegeable on a variety of different subjects. His recommendation for a marine scientist passionate in the field of mangrove conservation traveling to Kenya was to research the life of Wangari Maathai. And to start this adventure learning about Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. Maathai I am reading “Replenishing the Earth.” More on Maathai to follow
Random side note life goal: visit and explore at least one national park on and off the coast of each of the 7 continents.