ResearchPad - beaches Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Examination of the ocean as a source for atmospheric microplastics]]> Global plastic litter pollution has been increasing alongside demand since plastic products gained commercial popularity in the 1930’s. Current plastic pollutant research has generally assumed that once plastics enter the ocean they are there to stay, retained permanently within the ocean currents, biota or sediment until eventual deposition on the sea floor or become washed up onto the beach. In contrast to this, we suggest it appears that some plastic particles could be leaving the sea and entering the atmosphere along with sea salt, bacteria, virus’ and algae. This occurs via the process of bubble burst ejection and wave action, for example from strong wind or sea state turbulence. In this manuscript we review evidence from the existing literature which is relevant to this theory and follow this with a pilot study which analyses microplastics (MP) in sea spray. Here we show first evidence of MP particles, analysed by μRaman, in marine boundary layer air samples on the French Atlantic coast during both onshore (average of 2.9MP/m3) and offshore (average of 9.6MP/m3) winds. Notably, during sampling, the convergence of sea breeze meant our samples were dominated by sea spray, increasing our capacity to sample MPs if they were released from the sea. Our results indicate a potential for MPs to be released from the marine environment into the atmosphere by sea-spray giving a globally extrapolated figure of 136000 ton/yr blowing on shore.

<![CDATA[Warming seas increase cold-stunning events for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in the northwest Atlantic]]>

Since the 1970s, the magnitude of turtle cold-stun strandings have increased dramatically within the northwestern Atlantic. Here, we examine oceanic, atmospheric, and biological factors that may affect the increasing trend of cold-stunned Kemp’s ridleys in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, United States of America. Using machine learning and Bayesian inference modeling techniques, we demonstrate higher cold-stunning years occur when the Gulf of Maine has warmer sea surface temperatures in late October through early November. Surprisingly, hatchling numbers in Mexico, a proxy for population abundance, was not identified as an important factor. Further, using our Bayesian count model and forecasted sea surface temperature projections, we predict more than 2,300 Kemp’s ridley turtles may cold-stun annually by 2031 as sea surface temperatures continue to increase within the Gulf of Maine. We suggest warmer sea surface temperatures may have modified the northerly distribution of Kemp’s ridleys and act as an ecological bridge between the Gulf Stream and nearshore waters. While cold-stunning may currently account for a minor proportion of juvenile mortality, we recommend continuing efforts to rehabilitate cold-stunned individuals to maintain population resiliency for this critically endangered species in the face of a changing climate and continuing anthropogenic threats.

<![CDATA[Application of Empirical Wave Run-Up Formulas to the Polish Baltic Sea Coast]]>

Advanced, multidimensional models are typically applied when researching processes occurring in the nearshore. Relatively simple, empirical equations are commonly used in coastal engineering practice in order to estimate extreme wave run-up on beaches and coastal structures. However, they were mostly calibrated to the characteristics of oceanic coasts, which have different wave regime than a semi-enclosed basin like the Baltic Sea. In this paper we apply the formulas to the Polish Baltic Sea coast. The equations were adjusted to match local conditions in two test sites in Międzyzdroje and Dziwnówek, where beaches are under continuous video surveillance. Data from WAM wave model and coastal gauge stations were used, as well as precise measurements of the beaches' cross-sections. More than 600 run-up events spanning from June to December 2013 were analysed, including surges causing dune erosion. Extreme wave run-up R2% was calculated and presented as a percentage value indicating what part of the beach was inundated. The method had a root-mean-square error of 6.1 and 6.5 percentage points depending on the test site. We consider it is a fast and computationally undemanding alternative to morphodynamic models. It will constitute a part of the SatBałtyk Operating System-Shores, delivering forecasts of wave run-up on the beaches for the entire Polish coastline.

<![CDATA[The role of dispersal mode and habitat specialization for metacommunity structure of shallow beach invertebrates]]>

Metacommunity ecology recognizes the interplay between local and regional patterns in contributing to spatial variation in community structure. In aquatic systems, the relative importance of such patterns depends mainly on the potential connectivity of the specific system. Thus, connectivity is expected to increase in relation to the degree of water movement, and to depend on the specific traits of the study organism. We examined the role of environmental and spatial factors in structuring benthic communities from a highly connected shallow beach network using a metacommunity approach. Both factors contributed to a varying degree to the structure of the local communities suggesting that environmental filters and dispersal-related mechanisms played key roles in determining abundance patterns. We categorized benthic taxa according to their dispersal mode (passive vs. active) and habitat specialization (generalist vs. specialist) to understand the relative importance of environment and dispersal related processes for shallow beach metacommunities. Passive dispersers were predicted by a combination of environmental and spatial factors, whereas active dispersers were not spatially structured and responded only to local environmental factors. Generalists were predicted primarily by spatial factors, while specialists were only predicted by local environmental factors. The results suggest that the role of the spatial component in metacommunity organization is greater in open coastal waters, such as shallow beaches, compared to less-connected environmentally controlled aquatic systems. Our results also reveal a strong environmental role in structuring the benthic metacommunity of shallow beaches. Specifically, we highlight the sensitivity of shallow beach macrofauna to environmental factors related to eutrophication proxies.

<![CDATA[Smartphone-Based Distributed Data Collection Enables Rapid Assessment of Shorebird Habitat Suitability]]>

Understanding and managing dynamic coastal landscapes for beach-dependent species requires biological and geological data across the range of relevant environments and habitats. It is difficult to acquire such information; data often have limited focus due to resource constraints, are collected by non-specialists, or lack observational uniformity. We developed an open-source smartphone application called iPlover that addresses these difficulties in collecting biogeomorphic information at piping plover (Charadrius melodus) nest sites on coastal beaches. This paper describes iPlover development and evaluates data quality and utility following two years of collection (n = 1799 data points over 1500 km of coast between Maine and North Carolina, USA). We found strong agreement between field user and expert assessments and high model skill when data were used for habitat suitability prediction. Methods used here to develop and deploy a distributed data collection system have broad applicability to interdisciplinary environmental monitoring and modeling.

<![CDATA[Quantification of Massive Seasonal Aggregations of Blacktip Sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) in Southeast Florida]]>

Southeast Florida witnesses an enormous seasonal influx of upper trophic level marine predators each year as massive aggregations of migrating blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) overwinter in nearshore waters. The narrow shelf and close proximity of the Gulf Stream current to the Palm Beach County shoreline drive tens of thousands of sharks to the shallow, coastal environment. This natural bottleneck provides a unique opportunity to estimate relative abundance. Over a four year period from 2011–2014, an aerial survey was flown approximately biweekly along the length of Palm Beach County. A high definition video camera and digital still camera mounted out of the airplane window provided a continuous record of the belt transect which extended 200 m seaward from the shoreline between Boca Raton Inlet and Jupiter Inlet. The number of sharks within the survey transect was directly counted from the video. Shark abundance peaked in the winter (January-March) with a maximum in 2011 of 12,128 individuals counted within the 75.6 km-2 belt transect. This resulted in a maximum density of 803.2 sharks km-2. By the late spring (April-May), shark abundance had sharply declined to 1.1% of its peak, where it remained until spiking again in January of the following year. Shark abundance was inversely correlated with water temperature and large numbers of sharks were found only when water temperatures were less than 25°C. Shark abundance was also correlated with day of the year but not with barometric pressure. Although shark abundance was not correlated with photoperiod, the departure of the sharks from southeast Florida occurred around the vernal equinox. The shark migration along the United States eastern seaboard corresponds spatially and temporally with the spawning aggregations of various baitfish species. These baseline abundance data can be compared to future studies to determine if shark population size is changing and if sharks are restricting their southward migration as global water temperatures increase.

<![CDATA[Inter-nesting movements and habitat-use of adult female Kemp’s ridley turtles in the Gulf of Mexico]]>

Species vulnerability is increased when individuals congregate in restricted areas for breeding; yet, breeding habitats are not well defined for many marine species. Identification and quantification of these breeding habitats are essential to effective conservation. Satellite telemetry and switching state-space modeling (SSM) were used to define inter-nesting habitat of endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) in the Gulf of Mexico. Turtles were outfitted with satellite transmitters after nesting at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, USA, from 1998 through 2013 (n = 60); Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, during 2010 and 2011 (n = 11); and Tecolutla, Veracruz, Mexico, during 2012 and 2013 (n = 11). These sites span the range of nearly all nesting by this species. Inter-nesting habitat lies in a narrow band of nearshore western Gulf of Mexico waters in the USA and Mexico, with mean water depth of 14 to 19 m within a mean distance to shore of 6 to 11 km as estimated by 50% kernel density estimate, α-Hull, and minimum convex polygon methodologies. Turtles tracked during the inter-nesting period moved, on average, 17.5 km/day and a mean total distance of 398 km. Mean home ranges occupied were 725 to 2948 km2. Our results indicate that these nearshore western Gulf waters represent critical inter-nesting habitat for this species, where threats such as shrimp trawling and oil and gas platforms also occur. Up to half of all adult female Kemp’s ridleys occupy this habitat for weeks to months during each nesting season. Because inter-nesting habitat for this species is concentrated in nearshore waters of the western Gulf of Mexico in both Mexico and the USA, international collaboration is needed to protect this essential habitat and the turtles occurring within it.

<![CDATA[Re-Evaluating the Geological Evidence for Late Holocene Marine Incursion Events along the Guerrero Seismic Gap on the Pacific Coast of Mexico]]>

Despite the large number of tsunamis that impact Mexico’s Pacific coast, stratigraphic studies focusing on geological impacts are scanty, making it difficult to assess the long-term risks for this vulnerable region. Surface samples and six cores were taken from Laguna Mitla near Acapulco to examine sedimentological and geochemical evidence for marine incursion events. Sediment cores collected from behind the beach barrier are dominated by intercalated layers of peat and inorganic sediments, mostly silt and clay, with little or no sand. Sand- and shell-rich clastic layers with high levels of sulfur, calcium, and strontium only occur adjacent to the relict beach ridge remnants near the center of the lagoon. With the exception of one thin fine sand layer, the absence of sand in the near-shore cores and the predominance of the terrigenous element titanium in the inorganic layers, evidently eroded from the surrounding hillslopes, suggests that these large-grained intervals do not represent episodic marine incursions, but rather were likely formed by the erosion and redeposition of older marine deposits derived from the beach ridge remnants when water levels were high. These results do not support the occurrence of a large tsunami event at Laguna Mitla during the Late Holocene.

<![CDATA[Effects of Spartina alterniflora Invasion on Soil Quality in Coastal Wetland of Beibu Gulf of South China]]>


Since Spartina alterniflora (simplified as Spartina) has strong ecological competitiveness and rapid growth, it has been introduced and living in the coastal wetland regions of China for more than 30 years. Taking coastal wetland in the Beibu Gulf of south China as an example, the effects of Spartina invasion on soil quality were investigated to provide scientific basis for soil management.


The soil quality of six different coastal wetlands, i.e. mangrove (vegetation coverage is above 95%), mangrove- Spartina ecotones (vegetation coverage is above 95%), sparse mangrove (vegetation coverage is 10%-20%), sparse mangrove- Spartina ecotones (vegetation coverage is about 80%), Spartina (vegetation coverage is about 80%) and bare beach (no plants), were analyzed using the following indicators: pH, cation exchange capacity, contents of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and organic carbon, microbial biomass carbon, microbial biomass nitrogen, microbial carbon / organic carbon, and activities of urease, acid phosphatase, invertase, polyphenol oxidase and catalase.

Principal Findings

The results showed that compared to mangrove wetland, most indicators in the mangrove-Spartina wetland showed a decline tendency except pH value, and the contents of total phosphorus and organic carbon, microbial biomass carbon and soil microbial biomass nitrogen, and the activities of acid phosphatase and invertase were significantly reduced (P<0.05). Compared to sparse mangrove wetland and bare beach, the Spartina invasion wetland (sparse mangrove-Spartina wetland and Spartina wetland) had higher contents of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and organic carbon, microbial biomass carbon, microbial biomass nitrogen, cation exchange capacity and the activities of urease and acid phosphatase, so soil quality in the sparse mangrove wetland and bare beach was significantly improved. Factor Analysis and PCA also showed that: the quality of mangrove wetland soil is better than that of mangrove-Spartina ecotones wetland soil; the quality of sparse mangrove-Spartina ecotones wetland soil is better than that of sparse mangrove wetland soil; the quality of Spartina wetland soil is better than that of bare beach wetland soil.


Therefore, in the invaded Beibu Gulf wetland ecosystems of south China, for the mangrove wetlands where the productivity of native plant was higher than that of Spartina, the Spartina invasion can cause soil degradation significantly and it must be strictly controlled, while for sparse mangrove wetland and bare beach where the productivity of native plant was lower than that of Spartina, Spartina invasion can improve the soil quality. Thus our study may help to better understand the effect of plant invasion.

<![CDATA[Long-Term Seasonal and Interannual Patterns of Marine Mammal Strandings in Subtropical Western South Atlantic]]>

Understanding temporal patterns of marine mammal occurrence is useful for establishing conservation strategies. We used a 38 yr-long dataset spanning 1976 to 2013 to describe temporal patterns and trends in marine mammal strandings along a subtropical stretch of the east coast of South America. This region is influenced by a transitional zone between tropical and temperate waters and is considered an important fishing ground off Brazil. Generalized Additive Models were used to evaluate the temporal stranding patterns of the most frequently stranded species. Forty species were documented in 12,540 stranding events. Franciscana (n = 4,574), South American fur seal, (n = 3,419), South American sea lion (n = 2,049), bottlenose dolphins (n = 293) and subantarctic fur seal (n = 219) were the most frequently stranded marine mammals. The seasonality of strandings of franciscana and bottlenose dolphin coincided with periods of higher fishing effort and strandings of South American and subantarctic fur seals with post-reproductive dispersal. For South American sea lion the seasonality of strandings is associated with both fishing effort and post-reproductive dispersal. Some clear seasonal patterns were associated with occurrence of cold- (e.g. subantarctic fur seal) and warm-water (e.g. rough-toothed dolphin) species in winter and summer, respectively. Inter-annual increases in stranding rate were observed for franciscana and South American fur seal and these are likely related to increased fishing effort and population growth, respectively. For subantarctic fur seal the stranding rate showed a slight decline while for bottlenose dolphin it remained steady. No significant year to year variation in stranding rate was observed for South American sea lion. The slight decrease in frequency of temperate/polar marine mammals and the increased occurrence of subtropical/tropical species since the late 1990s might be associated with environmental changes linked to climate change. This long-term study indicates that temporal stranding patterns of marine mammals might be explained by either fishing-related or environmental factors.

<![CDATA[Geomorphic response to sea level and climate changes during Late Quaternary in a humid tropical coastline: Terrain evolution model from Southwest India]]>

The coastal lands of southern Kerala, SW India in the vicinity of Achankovil and Thenmala Shear Zones reveal a unique set of geomorphic features like beach ridges, runnels, chain of wetlands, lakes, estuaries, etc. The chain of wetlands and water bodies that are seen in the eastern periphery of the coastal lands indicates the remnants of the upper drainage channels of the previously existed coastal plain rivers of Late Pleistocene age that are later broadened due to coastal erosion under the transgressive phase. The terrain evolutionary model developed from the results of the study shows that the Late Pleistocene transgressive events might have carved out a major portion of the land areas drained by the coastal plain rivers and as a result the coastal cliff has been retreated several kilometers landwards. The NNE—SSW trending beach ridges located close to the inland wetlands indicate the extent of shoreline shift towards eastwards during Late Pleistocene period. The present beach parallel ridges in the younger coastal plain indicate the limit of the Mid Holocene shoreline as the transgression was not so severe compared to Late Pleistocene event. The zone of convergence of the two sets of beach ridges coincides with the areas of economically viable heavy mineral placers that resulted from the size and density based sorting under the repeated transgressive events to which the coast had subjected to. The chain of wetlands in the eastern side of the study area has been evolved from a mega lagoon existed during Late Pleistocene. The Pallikkal River that links discrete eastern wetland bodies has been evolved into its present form during Early Holocene.

<![CDATA[Anti-predator meshing may provide greater protection for sea turtle nests than predator removal]]>

The problem of how to protect sea turtle nests from terrestrial predators is of worldwide concern. On Queensland’s southern Sunshine Coast, depredation of turtle nests by the introduced European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has been recorded as the primary terrestrial cause of egg and hatchling mortality. We investigated the impact of foxes on the nests of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and occasional green turtle (Chelonia mydas) over ten nesting seasons. Meshing of nests with fox exclusion devices (FEDs) was undertaken in all years accompanied by lethal fox control in the first five-year period, but not in the second five-year period. Lethal fox control was undertaken in the study area from 2005 to February 2010, but foxes still breached 27% (range19–52%) of turtle nests. In the second five-year period, despite the absence of lethal fox control, the average percentage of nests breached was less than 3% (range 0–4%). Comparison of clutch depredation rates in the two five-year periods demonstrated that continuous nest meshing may be more effective than lethal fox control in mitigating the impact of foxes on turtle nests. In the absence of unlimited resources available for the eradication of exotic predators, the use of FEDs and the support and resourcing of a dedicated volunteer base can be considered an effective turtle conservation tool on some beaches.

<![CDATA[Evidence of a Shift in the Littoral Fish Community of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta]]>

Many estuarine and freshwater ecosystems worldwide have undergone substantial changes due to multiple anthropogenic stressors. Over the past two decades, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) in California, USA, saw a severe decline in pelagic fishes, a shift in zooplankton community composition, and a rapid expansion of invasive aquatic vegetation. To evaluate whether major changes have also occurred in the littoral fish community, we analyzed a beach seine survey dataset collected from 1995 to 2015 from 26 sites within the Delta. We examined changes in the Delta fish community at three different ecological scales (species, community, and biomass), using clustering analyses, trend tests, and change-point analyses. We found that the annual catch per effort for many introduced species and some native species have increased since 1995, while few experienced a decline. We also observed a steady pattern of change over time in annual fish community composition, driven primarily by a steady increase in non-native Centrarchid species. Lastly, we found that littoral fish biomass has essentially doubled over the 21-year study period, with Mississippi Silverside Menidia audens and fishes in the Centrarchidae family driving most of this increase. The changes in the catch per effort, fish community composition, and biomass per volume indicate that a shift has occurred in the Delta littoral fish community and that the same factors affecting the Delta’s pelagic food web may have been a key driver of change.

<![CDATA[Environmental Predictors of Seabird Wrecks in a Tropical Coastal Area]]>

Beached bird surveys have been widely used to monitor the impact of oil pollution in the oceans. However, separating the combined effects of oil pollution, environmental variables and methodological aspects of beach monitoring on seabird stranding patterns is a challenging task. The effects of a comprehensive set of oceanographic and climatic variables and oil pollution on seabird strandings in a tropical area of Brazil were investigated herein, using two robust and innovative methods: Generalized Linear Mixed Models and Structural Equation Modeling. We assessed strandings of four resident seabird species along 480 km of beaches divided into 11 sampling areas, between November 2010 and September 2013. We found that increasing the distance from the nearest breeding island reduce the seabird stranding events. Storm activity and biological productivity were the most important factors affecting the stranding events of brown boobies Sula leucogaster, Cabot’s terns Thalasseus acuflavidus and kelp gulls Larus dominicanus. These species are also indirectly affected by warm tropical waters, which reduce chlorophyll-a concentrations. Beach surveys are, thus, useful to investigate the mortality rates of resident species near breeding sites, where individuals are more abundant and exposed to local factors associated with at-sea mortality. In contrast, conservation actions and monitoring programs for far-ranging seabird species are needed in more distant foraging areas. Furthermore, beach monitoring programs investigating the impact of oil pollution on seabirds need to account for the effects of environmental factors on stranding patterns. The present study also demonstrated that seabirds inhabiting tropical coastal waters are sensitive to climate conditions such as adverse weather, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in next decades.

<![CDATA[The Early Shorebird Will Catch Fewer Invertebrates on Trampled Sandy Beaches]]>

Many species of birds breeding on ocean beaches and in coastal dunes are of global conservation concern. Most of these species rely on invertebrates (e.g. insects, small crustaceans) as an irreplaceable food source, foraging primarily around the strandline on the upper beach near the dunes. Sandy beaches are also prime sites for human recreation, which impacts these food resources via negative trampling effects. We quantified acute trampling impacts on assemblages of upper shore invertebrates in a controlled experiment over a range of foot traffic intensities (up to 56 steps per square metre) on a temperate beach in Victoria, Australia. Trampling significantly altered assemblage structure (species composition and density) and was correlated with significant declines in invertebrate abundance and species richness. Trampling effects were strongest for rare species. In heavily trafficked plots the abundance of sand hoppers (Amphipoda), a principal prey item of threatened Hooded Plovers breeding on this beach, was halved. In contrast to the consistently strong effects of trampling, natural habitat attributes (e.g. sediment grain size, compactness) were much less influential predictors. If acute suppression of invertebrates caused by trampling, as demonstrated here, is more widespread on beaches it may constitute a significant threat to endangered vertebrates reliant on these invertebrates. This calls for a re-thinking of conservation actions by considering active management of food resources, possibly through enhancement of wrack or direct augmentation of prey items to breeding territories.