Ocean fronts are meeting places of life in the oceans. Marine organisms from plankton to blue whales congregate at the interface of cooler and warmer waters, due to the prevalence of enhanced productivity at fronts. This concentration of marine life constitutes a remarkable ecosystem, from primary producers to top predators that assembles and disperses following frontal structures. This makes ocean fronts extraordinarily valuable, both to fishing and in conservation. The aim of the OceanFrontChange project, funded through the Belmont forum, is to develop scientific and management techniques that allow effective fisheries and conservation management at ocean fronts in low- to medium-data settings in tropical oceans, using the Mozambique Channel as a test case. In Heidelberg, we contribute with two work-packages, WP3 and WP8, to this overall objective.
WP3: Biogeochemistry and primary production
Scientific lead: Yonss Jose
Plankton productivity in marine ecosystems depends on the surface availability of nutrients driven by ocean dynamics. In the Mozambique Channel, frontal structures associated with strong eddy activity influence the nutrients and organisms redistribution. Thus, they are key to evaluate plankton productivity and energy flow toward the upper tropic level organisms. In the work-package 3, we address the following questions: (1) what are the implications of fronts and eddies for nutrient availability and biogeochemical cycling in the study area? (2) what is the response of biological productivity (primary and secondary) to frontal dynamics and variability? (3) how can eddy and filament redistribution of coastal materials influence productivity in offshore regions?
WP8: Local fisher incentives
Information on the current status, distribution and abundance of megafauna in Mozambique (such as sea turtles, giant sharks, dugongs etc) is limited, as is understanding of fishers incentives to avoid by-catch. Raising awareness among local communities about the status of and threats to these megafauna is vital to promoting effective marine resource conservation. Here, we seek to understand how to best engage fishers in generating information on the sighting of marine megafauna to assist in the development of inclusionary resource management arrangements. Specifically, social norms, identity, and cultural factors provide strong incentives for community-based action. In this work package, we co-design and implement a randomized controlled trial with local partners to investigate whether social and cultural incentives can be amplified (or destroyed) by financial incentives. The results from the field study are then used to better understand the enabling conditions and constraints to the involvement of fishers in the conservation of marine megafauna.