Representation of coral reefs or their components that demonstrate resilience to environmental fluctuations or threats (e.g., bleaching, hurricane, etc.) need to be included in zones with high levels of protection, and should be managed to maintain conditions that facilitate successful coral recruitment and recovery. To maximize both strong and reliable recruitment of all species within the community, and the likelihood that a portion of the recruits will enter surrounding areas, it is important that the MPA includes resilient features.
Resilience Factors in Coral Reefs
The following list of resilience factors1 in coral reef systems should be considered in any MPA design.
- Intrinsic (biological or ecological trait) resilience factors
Availability and abundance of local larvae recruits
Evidence of recruitment success
Diversity and abundance of different coral reef taxa, especially high herbivore densities and representative community structure
Low abundance of bioeroders, corallivores, and diseases (to prepare the substrate for successful recruitment)
- Extrinsic resilience factors
Effective management regime supported by legal framework, participation and enforcement
Larval transport and connectivity by currents
Concentration of larval supply (e.g., concentration and settlement)
Considering the above mentioned resilient factors, the following guidelines are recommended:
- Survey MPAs and their adjacent areas for the presence of environmental factors that cause bleaching resistance and identify coral communities protected by them. See Florida Keys and Mesoamerican Reef Case Studies as examples.
- For resilient coral communities inside established MPAs, consider securing high levels of protection for them by revising zone boundaries or establishing special zones to encompass these sites.
- For resilient coral communities outside established MPAs, consider extending MPA boundaries to incorporate these sites, if feasible, or creating new MPAs to include them.