[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recovery plan for Steller sea lions (SSL; Eumetopias jubatus) suggests critical habitat should be enhanced to incorporate the spatio-temporal variation in dynamic oceanographic features that influence the prey and survival of SSL. It is necessary, therefore, to determine which features affect SSL. Demographics for sub-regions of the endangered, western stock of SSL were examined with respect to corresponding average, maximum, and variance of chlorophyll-a data (SeaWIFS), a proxy for primary productivity. Overall, SSL trends (2000–2008) and pup productivity (1999–2009) were related to maximum values of chl-a in critical habitat. Additionally, conditions in critical habitat appeared worse in areas of decline (i.e., dispersed patterns of chl-a hotspots and greater distances from SSL sites to productive areas). Although there may be a low feasibility of mitigating the effects of dynamic fea-tures on the recovery of SSL, the interactive effects of primary productivity and other stressors should be inves-tigated for safeguarding their prey.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Understanding interactions between large ships and large whales is important to estimate risks posed to whales by ships. The coastal waters of Alaska are a summer feeding area for humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) as well as a prominent destination for large cruise ships. Lethal collisions between cruise ships and humpback whales have occurred throughout Alaska, including in Glacier Bay National Park (GBNP). Although the National Park Service (NPS) establishes quotas and operating requirements for cruise ships within GBNP in part to minimize ship-whale collisions, no study has quantified ship-whale interactions in the park or in state waters where ship traffic is unregulated. In 2008 and 2009, an observer was placed on ships during 49 different cruises that included entry into GBNP to record distance and bearing of whales that surfaced within 1 km of the ship's bow. A relative coordinate system was developed in ArcGIS to model the frequency of whale surface events using kernel density. A total of 514 whale surface events were recorded. Although ship-whale interactions were common within GBNP, whales frequently surfaced in front of the bow in waters immediately adjacent to the park (west Icy Strait) where cruise ship traffic is not regulated by the NPS. When ships transited at speeds >13 knots, whales frequently surfaced closer to the ship's midline and ship's bow in contrast to speeds slower than 13 knots. Our findings confirm that ship speed is an effective mitigation measure for protecting whales and should be applied to other areas where ship-whale interactions are common.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Over the last decade, hundreds of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programmes have been initiated around the world, but evidence of their environmental benefits remains limited. In this study, two PES programmes operating in the municipality of Coatepec (Mexico) were evaluated to assess their effectiveness in protecting the region’s endangered upland forests. Landsat satellite data were analysed to assess changes in forest cover before and after programme implementation using a difference-indifferences estimator. Additionally, surveys and interviews were conducted with local residents and a subset of PES programme participants to evaluate the programmes’ social and environmental impacts, particularly the effect of the programmes on landowner behaviour. The remote-sensing data show that
deforestation was substantially lower on properties receiving PES payments compared to properties not enrolled in the programmes, but the programmes did not prevent the net loss of forests within Coatepec. Moreover, the on-site interviews suggest that the payments may have had little impact on deforestation rates, and that other factors contributed to the conservation of forests in PES properties. These findings suggest that risk-targeted payments, robust monitoring and enforcement programmes, and additional conservation initiatives should be
included in all PES schemes to ensure environmental effectiveness.
Keywords: conservation additionality, forest conservation, Mexico, mixed-methods research, payments for ecosystem services
Correspondence: Mr Jason Scullion e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Over the past three decades, the decline and altered spatial distribution of the western stock of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska have been attributed to changes in the distribution or abundance of their prey due to the cumulative effects of fisheries and environmental perturbations. During this period, dietary prey occurrence and diet diversity were related to population decline within metapopulation regions of the western stock of Steller sea lions, suggesting that environmental conditions may be variable among regions. The objective of this study, therefore, was to examine regional differences in the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of oceanographic habitat used by Steller sea lions within the context of recent measures of diet diversity and population trajectories. Habitat use was assessed by deploying satellite-depth recorders and satellite relay data loggers on juvenile Steller sea lions (n = 45) over a five-year period (2000-2004) within four regions of the western stock, including the western, central, and eastern Aleutian Islands, and central Gulf of Alaska. Areas used by sea lions during summer months (June, July, and August) were demarcated using satellite telemetry data and characterized by environmental variables (sea surface temperature [SST] and chlorophyll a [chl a]), which possibly serve as proxies for environmental processes or prey. Spatial patterns of SST diversity and Steller sea lion population trends among regions were fairly consistent with trends reported for diet studies, possibly indicating a link between environmental diversity, prey diversity, and distribution or abundance of Steller sea lions. Overall, maximum spatial heterogeneity coupled with minimal temporal variability of SST appeared to be beneficial for Steller sea lions. In contrast, these patterns were not consistent for chl a, and there appeared to be an ecological threshold. Understanding how Steller sea lions respond to measures of environmental heterogeneity will ultimately be useful for implementing ecosystem management approaches and developing additional conservation strategies.