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Global Coastal Change

376 pages
Global Coastal Changeprovides a comprehensive overview of the environmental factors changing the marine systems of the world including atmospheric changes, sea level rise, alterations in freshwater and sediment use and transport, toxins, overfishing, alien species, and eutrophication.

  • Includes case studies providing real-world examples, detailed reviews of the evidence of changes and possible solutions.
  • Brings together a wealth of important information about our changing marine environments.
  • An invaluable reference for upper level undergraduates, graduates, and professionals interested in marine environmental science.
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Preface, vi
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.
Global context of coastal change, 1 Atmosphericdriven changes, 22 Sea level rise, 48 Alteration of freshwater discharges, 79 Alteration of sediment transport, 105 Loss of coastal habitats, 124 Petroleum hydrocarbons, 146 Chlorinated hydrocarbons, 174 Metals, 201 Introduction of exotic species, 226 Harvest of finfish and shellfish, 245 Eutrophication, 283 Other agents of coastal change, 324 Summing up, 347
Index, 357
All environments on the earth’s surface have always been in flux, and so they are today. The action of agents of change is evident everywhere, in the geological record, in the changing mosaic of land covers that carpets dry land. For a variety of reasons, environmental change has been par ticularly notable along the narrow coastal zones of the world. The changes have not escaped un noticed: there has been concern among many about the alterations, especially as they have modified, thwarted, or prevented our uses of these environ ments. There are many books with titles such asThe Empty Ocean,Sea of Slaughter, and so on, most of which emphasize the alarming degree of change attributable to human exploitation, uses, and alterations of virtually all coastal environments. Public and even scientific discussion and writ ing about too many of the examples discussed below provides ample evidence of widespread heedless unconcern with the environmental dam age that follows so many human activities. On the other extreme, that bias is matched by the toofacile position of “viewing with alarm”, a position with which I largely symphathize. Yes, there will be no improvement in environmental quality unless cases are argued powerfully and rules enforced. On the other hand, it seems to me that there are issues that are more and less compelling, and we should act accordingly. There are so many causes for concern, all to some degree and at some scale important: which agent of coastal change should be considered as the higher and highest priorities? In each chapter, I have tried to provide the information I found, and thought relevant to, a thoughtful assessment of the agents of environmental change altering coastal environments at global and at local spatial scales. Advocates of some of the specific topics may find my assessments wanting of conviction; all I can add is that the chapters hold what to me seemed assessments warranted by a careful scrut iny of the most current data and that often, the
evidence is ambiguous and incomplete. I would take it as a measure of success if the assessments I include in this book prompt skeptical or irate readers to review the evidence included, and to explore the reference materials added in the footnotes. In this book I review evidence of intensity and pervasiveness of effects, and recovery from the action of the major agents of change that are alter ing the diverse coastal habitats and populations of the world; a brief overview of the subjects of the chapters is provided at the end of Chapter 1. Throughout all chapters, I try to assess the degree of change forced by human and nonhuman influences. In reading otherwise quite good books cov ering the staggering recent changes in marine environments I have often felt the need to actu ally see the evidence underlying the alarming trends being discussed, rather than just read text “viewing with alarm”. For this reason, I endeav ored, perhaps to a burdensome degree, to include relevant facts, tables, figures, and references throughout the chapters. To make the material clear, I have sorted the evidence into chapters that separately focus on each major agent of change, but, as will become evident, in the majority of cases there are joint effects of more than one agent of change, and powerful interactions. The separation of subject matter into the various chapters is a simple pedagogic device that should not be taken to mean that the impact of agents of change can readily be taken in isolation. I should add that my focus will be on the environmental effects. Although here and there I note certain relevant public health and other human effects, I do so simply to set the stage for the ecological discus sion. A comparable treatment of the human effects is beyond the scope of this book. Looking back, I see that the chapters differ in length and detail. This disparity was more a reflection of the published literature than a
measure of the relative heft of the subjects. Some topics—petroleum hydrocarbons, effects of met als, impacts of overfishing, for example—seem to have led to greater and more detailed contro versies, and attracted more logorrheic groups of practitioners writing more publications than other topics. The result is more lengthy chapters. Other chapters, for example the one on eutrophi cation, hold subject matter that extends across many disciplines, and hence required more space to deal with the diverse materials. I have sought to make this book accessible to a variety of stakeholders interested in environ mental issues, including the interested lay pub lic, the professional manager and decisionmaker, and researchers and students dealing with coastal matters. To reach such a wide audience, I set out—ambitiously—to write three books in parallel: in each chapter I have added, as a case history, a vignette that showed, in an evident and compelling way, the essential dilemma and facts. This first “book” was intended to clearly make the case that humans were involved in has tening change and were in turn affected by the changes. The vignettes were intended to bring the material to the street level, so to speak (in the case of sea level change in Venice, this will liter ally be so). There is a second, more technical “book”, which provides a more general review of the background, principles, evidence, effects, consequences, and possible remediation. A third “book” will be found in the footnotes and in the longer boxed material, where background matters, more arcane, but perhaps interesting, details are provided, technical points and terms are defined and discussed, and references con taining more information are given. The subject matter covered in this book has turned out to be dauntingly broad, but more problematic has been the extraordinary prolifera tion of publications as we turn into the 21st cen tury. As an example, a search using just a single software search “engine”, entering the relatively specialized term “salt marsh” yielded 991 works during the last 10 years. This awesome plethora of publications has forced me to make use of a pitifully small portion of the available literature, limited by time to read titles, let alone digest all the information on sources. Every week, journals
arriving at our library carried papers that forced revisions of chapters already written. This has been true for some time (recall Darwin’s plight about Wallace’s paper on the idea of evolution) but the current state of scientific publication has brought a new dimension to the overwhelming avalanche of new material. As a result, many worthy papers were unfortunately left unread and uncited. I apologize to the many authors of these unmentioned works; I have no solution for this dilemma, but it is clear that the world’s sci entific community needs to search for ways to address this issue. In the blizzard of recent pub lications, there is also the danger of ignoring the older sources that constitute the intellectual his tory of the subject, and in many cases still merit knowing. To help readers, I endeavored to men tion updated reviews of various fields, as they were available. The development of the internet has made available a rich variety of sources of information on the subjects covered in this book. Unfor tunately, any thoughtful user will soon find that the information available in the internet varies enormously in quality, from the entirely com pelling to the completely unreliable. Moreover, the halflife of material posted in the internet seems unreliably short, with entries disappear ing with no record of their existence. Internet sources are proliferating, and often hold import ant information inaccessible otherwise, and so I used them, but it is with some hesitation that in the chapters below I provide internet addresses as sources of material. This book was in a real way made possible by having access to the Marine Biological Laboratory– Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library. I am deeply indebted to Catherine Norton, Eleanor Uhlinger, Colleen Hurter, and the many other members of the Library staff, who displayed extraordinary patience with endless queries about obscure materials, arcane sources, and incomplete references. There can be few librarians more devoted to make their library work for users than those in the MBL–WHOI Library, and there are few libraries that make their impressive holdings as easily available. I have to thank Gabrielle Tomasky and Marci Cole for developing excellent graphics based
only on my rough sketches, and Deborah Rutecki for detailed ferreting out of inconsistencies and references. Graduate students in my lab—Kevin Kroeger, Marci Cole, Jennifer Bowen, Joanna York, Ruth Carmichael, Sophia Fox, Mirta Teichberg, Sara Grady, Jennifer Culbertson, Ylva Olsen, and Nadine Lysiak—contributed many thoughts, information, and reactions during the long process of writing this book. In addition, Erin Kinney, Jayne Gardiner, Dhira Dale, and Scott Nickles, helped greatly by thoroughly reading and criticizing the manuscript during a course on the subject. I am indebted to John Farrington, Judy McDowell, Bruce Tripp, Anne Giblin, Max Holmes, Skee Houghton, and Sybil Seitzinger for
critiques of earlier drafts of various chapters, and am especially grateful to Pat Kramer, Boris Worm and Ken Tenore for extremely useful pre publication reviews of the entire manuscript. The remaining errors are mine, but all these stu dents and colleagues helped clarify and update ideas. Jennifer Bowen and Ruth Carmichael pro vided data for some figures, and Joanna York translated Russian text. At Blackwell Publishing, I must thank Jane Andrew, who concertedly trained her editorial skills and imposed a mea sure of clarity, accuracy, and consistency on my manuscript, and Rosie Hayden who was invalu able in the process of bringing the manuscript to press and in ensuring its quality.