Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea's Biodiversity

Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea's Biodiversity



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781559636612
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 06/01/2005
Edition description: 1
Pages: 470
Product dimensions: 8.28(w) x 10.12(h) x 1.42(d)

About the Author

Elliot A. Norse is a marine and forest conservation biologist. His Ph.D. and postdoctoral research in the 1970s examined the ecology of blue crabs (Callinectes  spp.) in Jamaica, Curacao, Mexico, Panama, and Columbia. Since then, he has devoted his career to incorporating conservation biology into environmental decision making as a staff member or consultant for US federal agencies, international governmental organizations, scientific professional societies, conservation organizations, and foundations. His writings include more than 50 publications on environmental policy, conservation biology, marine ecology, forest ecology, and human-caused climatic change.
In 1986, as Public Policy Director of the Ecological Society of America, Elliot Norse worked with The Wilderness Society to write Conserving Biological Diversity in Our National Forests.
He is also the author of Ancient Forests of the Pacific Northwest (Island Press, 1989), Global Marine Biological Diversity: A Strategy For Building Conservation Into Decision Making (Island Press, 1993), and Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea's Biodiversity (Island Press, 2005).

Larry B. Crowder is Stephen Toth Professor of Marine Biology at Duke University. Crowder focuses on predation and food web interactions, mechanisms underlying recruitment variation in fishes, and on population modeling in conservation biology.

He co-directed the South Atlantic Bight Recruitment Experiment and continues to conduct research on the life histories of estuarine-dependent fishes. He continues to conduct model and statistical analysis to assist in endangered species management for both aquatic (sea turtles) and terrestrial species (red-cockaded woodpeckers). Recently he has begun developing more extensive programs in marine conservation, including research on bycatch, nutrients and low oxygen, marine invasive species and integrated ecosystem management

Crowder currently serves on the Ocean Studies Board, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences and on the scientific steering committees for the Global Ocean Observing System, the Global Oceanic Ecosystem Dynamics Program. He is a member of the IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialists Group and head of bycatch subgroup. He is also a member of the editorial board for Ecological Applications and serves as a science advisor for the Earth & Sky Radio Series.

Michael Soulé is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz. A founder and first president of the Society for Conservation Biology and The Wildlands Network, Dr. Soulé has written and edited nine books on biology, conservation biology, and the social and policy context of conservation and has published more than 170 papers in journals. Soulé is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his many honors, Dr. Soulé is the sixth recipient of the Archie Carr Medal and in the first class of recipients of The Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award.

Read an Excerpt

Marine Conservation Biology

The Science of Maintaining the Sea's Biodiversity

By Elliott A. Norse, Larry B. Crowder


Copyright © 2005 Island Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55963-662-9


Why Marine Conservation Biology?

Elliott A. Norse and Larry B. Crowder

Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.

WILLIAM D. RUCKELSHAUS, member of the US Commission on Ocean Policy

For many people old enough to remember, 1962 was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world came very close to nuclear self-immolation. The missiles and bombers were ready to launch, but—just barely—people in positions of power made difficult choices, and sanity prevailed. That same year, marine biologist Rachel Carson alerted the world to another crisis that we humans had made for ourselves. Before then, humankind had largely overlooked our impact on our environment. But Carson's (1962) best-selling Silent Spring demonstrated that "progress" (in this case, from new synthetic chemical pesticides) is threatening the integrity of our natural world. In 1969, widely televised footage of dying seabirds from an oil well blowout in California's Santa Barbara Channel quickly catalyzed a broad-based environmental movement that led to passage of a flood of new and strengthened environmental laws in the United States and beyond. A decade later, Lovejoy (1980), Myers (1979), and Norse and McManus (1980) showed that our planet is losing its biological diversity, and Soulé and Wilcox (1980) called upon the world's scientists to join forces to work to stop the accelerating erosion of life on Earth. These were wake-up calls that society could no longer afford to ignore. Yet, ironically, the visionary and courageous Rachel Carson, who had written three best-selling books about the wonders of the sea as well as Silent Spring, said almost nothing in these books about human impacts on the sea. And despite the Santa Barbara oil spill's role in mobilizing the public, decision makers, and scientists, environmental consciousness focused mainly on land and freshwaters. Having been jolted into awareness by a marine biologist and mobilized by an offshore oil spill, the environmental movement nonetheless shifted its attention away from the sea.

Of course, our species evolved on land, and we tend to focus on what we can readily see. Although our Paleozoic ancestors were marine animals, they left the sea hundreds of millions of years ago, and humans' physiological mechanisms and senses are ill-suited for acquiring knowledge beneath the sea's wavy, mirrored surface. This profoundly affects marine conservation because, on land, people can see at least some of the consequences of our activities on ecosystems and species. Such understanding forms a basis for social, economic, and legal processes that can protect biodiversity. But judging the integrity of marine ecosystems and their species is far more difficult because most people never go below the sea surface and cannot gauge the health of a marine ecosystem. Rather, the general public and key decision makers (including legislators, agency officials, industrialists, funders, and environmental advocates) depend on those with information about what occurs beneath the surface, especially fishermen, offshore oil drillers, and marine scientists. And because people who extract commodities from the sea have strong economic incentive to minimize public concerns about marine biodiversity loss, marine scientists are by far the most credible providers of information.

It is difficult even for scientists to appreciate how the sea has changed. On that Pleistocene day when our ancestors first stood on an African shore and looked seaward, they must have been stunned by the wealth of marine life they saw. Were the mudflats paved with mollusks? Did the sea surface boil with fishes? Could dugongs and green sea turtles have filled the shallows like wildebeests and zebras on the plains? We cannot know for certain, but scientific information increasingly coming to light from around the world suggests that the sea was home to an astounding diversity and abundance of life as recently as hundreds, even tens of years ago (Crowder, Chapter 2). It was only in the 1990s (Butman and Carlton 1995; Norse 1993; Thorne-Miller and Catena 1991) that scientists assembled compelling information showing that biological diversity in the sea is imperiled worldwide. And not until the International Year of the Ocean did 1,605 the world's scientists join forces to publicly voice their concern about marine biodiversity loss in a statement called Troubled Waters: A Call for Action (MCBI 1998) (Box 1.1).

The land and freshwaters are anything but safe, and no knowledgeable person would suggest that we can afford to reduce our commitment to them, but it is also time to focus much more attention on the sea. The sea's vital signs are disquieting: most everywhere scientists look—in tropical and polar waters, urban estuaries and remote oceans, the sunlit epipelagic zone and seamounts in the black depths—we are seeing once-abundant species disappearing, noxious species proliferating, ecosystem functions changing, and fisheries collapsing. And although nature is always changing, these changes are without precedent in 65 million years, since a giant meteorite smashed into Earth, causing the extinction of dinosaurs, mosasaurs, ammonites, and countless other species (Ward 1994). Moreover, this time it is not a mindless mass of rock that threatens the sea's biodiversity. It is our species.

Marine conservation biologists do not need to plumb the scholarly literature to frame the challenge we face; two quotations accessible to a broad audience suffice. In the 2002 movie Spider-Man, Uncle Ben teaches Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." Armed with the power either to destroy or to protect, recover, and sustainably use marine biodiversity, people can choose, just as people in 1962 chose not to make nuclear war. The other quotation is from a 1968 speech by American black radical Eldridge Cleaver: "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." Marine scientists' unique combination of knowledge and credibility creates for us a unique niche in a world desperately in need of answers. Some of us might have been part of the problem in the past. But now the question is, Are we up to the challenge of being part of the solution? Are we ready to tackle the biggest question of all; namely, How can humankind live on Earth without ruining its living systems, including the largest component of the biosphere, the sea?

The marine conservation challenge shares most aspects of the terrestrial conservation challenge but also has some distinctive features. There are many important physicochemical and biological differences, but these pale in comparison to the human dimensions, how people treat estuaries, coastal waters, and the open oceans. Even more than poverty, affluence, technology, and greed, it is ignorance and indifference that are the enemies of marine biodiversity. Our not knowing the sea, not living in it, and not having a sense of responsibility for it have led to a "frontier mentality" that has governed our social contract with the sea. Signs that the end of the frontier is rapidly approaching indicate the need for a new system based on the idea that marine ecosystems are heterogeneous and have many legitimate human interests. The last chapter in this book (Norse, Chapter 25) offers ocean zoning as an alternative to what Hardin (1968) called the "tragedy of the commons." But to do this successfully, we must know more than we do now. And if unfamiliarity with the sea and its rapidly increasing conservation needs is the problem, then appropriately swift development of a vibrant interdisciplinary science of marine conservation biology must be an integral part of the solution.

A Long-standing Problem

Marine scientists have come a long way since the Challenger expedition (1872 – 76) and the founding of the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Italy) in 1872 and the Marine Biological Association (UK) in 1883. We have reason to be proud of what we have learned and for the increasing use of scientific information as a basis for conservation decision making. But large knowledge gaps are still numerous, and scarcity of fact and theory bedevils marine conservation decision making. A telling sign is that, for some six decades, marine scientists failed to notice the extinction of a once- abundant nearshore limpet, Lottia alveus (Carlton et al. 1991) along a coastline studded with as many marine labs as any comparable stretch in the world. Similarly, nobody seemed to notice for five decades while once-abundant populations of oceanic whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) in the Gulf of Mexico were being reduced more than 99 percent (Baum and Myers 2004). When marine scientists do see worrisome phenomena, such as the toxic phytoplankton bloom or viral disease that devastated Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) populations in Mauritania in 1997 or jellyfish population explosions in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Mexico in the late 1990s, we are often unable to ascertain definitively why they are occurring. Scientists have not convincingly determined why Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) have not rebounded after their exploitation in the Northwest Atlantic declined sharply or ceased. The reasons for this include the youth of our science, the lack of an institutional basis for supporting marine conservation biology training, and the extreme scarcity of funding for research, with the net result being that considerable uncertainty (Botsford and Parma, Chapter 22) always impedes informed decision making.

The problem, however, goes beyond gaps in data and theory to a pernicious asymmetry in standards for taking action. While lawmakers and officials have often accepted "management" plans to exploit species based on very thin evidence, they often demand scientific "proof" that human activities are harmful, and, in its absence, allow harmful activities to continue. So long as the burden of proof falls on scientists, losses will accelerate except in those rare cases where we can show persuasively—not just to one another, but to the public, agency officials, and political leaders—that decisive action is essential. The "Precautionary Principle" that activities cannot proceed unless they clearly pose acceptable risk does not yet govern most human activities that affect the sea.

Moreover, although awareness that there is a problem is very recent, impoverishment of the sea has been a longstanding problem (Jackson et al. 2001; Crowder, Chapter 2). The gigantic Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), ranging from Japan to California, disappeared almost everywhere as humans spread along the North Pacific coast. The last ones survived only 27 years after Western civilization discovered their final island redoubt in 1741 (Scheffer 1973; Stejneger 1887). Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) were eliminated from the Atlantic Ocean in the same century (Mead and Mitchell 1984), and a number of mammals (Day 1981), seabirds (Fuller 1987), and invertebrates (Carlton et al. 1999; Roberts and Hawkins 1999) followed. Yet despite these extinctions, there is reason for tempered optimism: the number of documented extinctions in marine systems is much lower than in terrestrial systems. Undoubtedly this is, in part, an artifact of our having overlooked organisms' final disappearance, but if it is nonetheless true that far fewer marine species have completely disappeared, we still have important opportunities to recover populations and restore ecosystem structure and function in the sea.

However, the loss of marine biodiversity is not merely the extinction of taxa but the loss of functions (Soulé et al. 2003). Marine species have also become economically and ecologically extinct even when remnant individuals survived. Fisheries for Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), Atlantic cod, white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni), and wool sponges (Hippiospongia lachne) arose and then crashed when their populations became commercially extinct (Cargnelli et al. 1999; Davis et al. 1992; Hutchings and Myers 1994; Witzell 1998). The ecological extinction of sea otters (Enhydra lutris), California spiny lobsters (Panulirus interruptus) and California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) led to widespread loss of kelp forests in southern California (Dayton et al. 1998). Human impact on the sea has a long history, but biotic impoverishment has accelerated sharply in recent decades, and the hand of humankind is now visible everywhere scientists look.

It is difficult for people to grasp how quickly things have changed. Gilbert and Sullivan's 1885 proclamation in The Mikado that "there's lots of good fish in the sea" was largely correct then, and as late as the last decade some scientists (e.g., Jamieson 1993) believed it is difficult to drive marine invertebrates to extinction. Even the wisest people have underestimated humankind's unique power to change the biosphere's parts and processes. Our species is now the sea's dominant predator (Pauly et al. 1998), leading source of seabed disturbance (Watling and Norse 1998), and primary agent of biogeographic (Carlton and Geller 1993) and geochemical (Smith and Kaufmann 1999; Vitousek et. al 1997) change. So one of the biggest challenges marine conservation biologists face is changing people's notion that the sea is an inexhaustible cornucopia.

People have shown that we have great power, and intemperate use of our power has made us the problem. Can we accept our responsibility for being part of the solution and help our species develop the knowledge, ethical values, and institutions needed to reverse these trends? That is the hope that motivates this book.

The Need for Marine Conservation Biology

Before maintaining biodiversity was a widely accepted conservation goal and conservation biology coalesced as a science, conservation in terrestrial ecosystems was largely the province of wildlife biologists and foresters whose focus was maximizing populations or biomass of species preferred by hunters and loggers. The birth of conservation biology brought two dramatic changes: (1) it had a broader focus on maintaining biological diversity as a whole, including biodiversity elements that had previously been of little concern, such as nongame species; and (2) it examined questions relevant to management using insights from a much broader range of disciplines, including biogeography, landscape ecology, evolutionary biology, molecular genetics, genecology, biogeochemistry, ethnobotany, ecological economics, and environmental ethics. By posing new questions and offering useful answers, conservation biology has been supplanting narrower traditional wildlife biology and forestry approaches. Conservation biologists are now providing answers to previously unasked questions, such as, How much of Oregon's ancient coniferous forest is needed to have a 95 percent probability of sustaining spotted owl populations beyond 2100? and Why do songbird populations decline when coyotes disappear from southern California's urban "islands" of chaparral? Armed with such insights, managers, legislators, and voters can make much better decisions about land use. Conservation biology is increasingly affecting decision making on issues affecting species and ecosystems.

But because estuaries, coastal waters, and oceans weren't on conservation biologists' "radar screens," nor was conservation on marine scientists' agendas, the biodiversity-focused, multidisciplinary approach has, until very recently, been neglected in the marine realm. Most attention has focused on managing fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks that people eat. Some researchers have paid attention to protecting imperiled megafauna, particularly whales, seabirds, and sea turtles. But marine conservation lags its terrestrial counterpart by decades. To illustrate, when the 1990s began, there was a substantial scientific literature on modern extinctions of terrestrial species (e.g., Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1981; Wilson 1988) yet none for modern marine species other than mammals or birds. At that time the US Endangered Species Act—which inspired similar laws in other countries—provided protection for hundreds of terrestrial and freshwater plant, invertebrate, and fish species, but for no marine plant or invertebrate species and for only one truly marine fish species (totoaba, Totoaba macdonaldi). Except for a minority of commercially fished species and some "charismatic megavertebrates," the status of most marine organisms was (and continues to be) unknown.


Excerpted from Marine Conservation Biology by Elliott A. Norse, Larry B. Crowder. Copyright © 2005 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Why Marine Conservation Biology?
Chapter 2. Back to the Future in Marine Conservation

PART I. Marine Populations: The Basics
Chapter 3. The Life of the Sea: Implications of Marine Population Biology to Conservation Policy
Chapter 4. The AlCee Effect in the Sea
Chapter 5. Extinction Risk in Marine Species
Chapter 6. Behavioral Approaches to Marine Conservation

PART II. Threats to Marine Biological Diversity
Chapter 7. The Potential for Nutrient Overenrichment to Diminish Marine Biodiversity
Chapter 8. The Magnitude and Consequences of Bioinvasions in Marine Ecosystems: Implications for Conservation Biology
Chapter 9. Diseases and the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity
Chapter 10. Multiple Stressors in Marine Systems

PART III. The Greatest Threat: Fisheries
Chapter 11. Global Fisheries and Marine Conservation: Is Coexistence Possible?
Chapter 12. The Global Destruction of Bottom Habitats by Mobile Fishing Gear
Chapter 13. Effects of Fishing on Long-Lived Marine Organisms
Chapter 14. Evolutionary Impacts of Fishing on Target Populations
Chapter 15. Are Sustainable Fisheries Achievable?

PART IV. Place-Based Management of Marine Ecosystems
Chapter 16. Marine Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation
Chapter 17. Marine Reserve Function and Design for Fisheries Management
Chapter 18. Place-Based Ecosystem Management in the Open Ocean
Chapter 19. Metapopulation Structure and Marine Reserves

PART V. Human Dimensions
Chapter 20. Developing Rules to Manage Fisheries: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
Chapter 21. The Role of Legal Regimes in Marine Conservation
Chapter 22. Uncertainty in Marine Management
Chapter 23. Recovering Populations and Restoring Ecosystems: Restoration of Coral Reefs and Related Marine Communities
Chapter 24. Toward a Sea Ethic
Chapter 25. Ending the Range Wars on the Last Frontier: Zoning the Sea

About the Editors

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews