This study suggests that we can learn a significant amount about coral reef decline by identifying outliers. These outliers include areas where ecosystems performed better than expected, bright spots, and areas where ecosystems performed worse than expected in the presence of local environmental and socioeconomic pressures, dark spots. Data was compiled from more than 2500 reefs worldwide and a Bayesian hierarchical model was developed to determine the relationship between fish biomass of standing stocks related to 18 different environmental and socioeconomic drivers. 15 bright spots and 35 dark spots were identified. Bright spots were characterized by strong sociocultural institutions, high levels of local engagement in management, high dependence on marine resources, and beneficial environmental conditions. Dark spots saw high levels of fish capture, innovative storage technology, and a recent history of environmental shock. These findings suggest that bright spots can be used to broaden the discussion on coral reef conservation, help target areas other than those that are remote and pristine, and help to renew the focus of management on the socioeconomic drivers that impact reef condition. Dark spots will help identify strategies to avoid in coral reef management, while bright spots may be a key in reef resilience in the future as they will help create a long term sustainability plan for reefs impacted by layers of stress.
Author: Cinner, J.E., C. Huchery, M.A. MacNeil, N.A.J. Graham, T.R. McClanahan, J. Maina, E. Maire, J.N. Kittinger, C.C. Hicks, C. Mora, E.H. Allison, S.D. Agata, A. Hoey, D.A. Feary, L. Crowder, I.D. Williams, M. Kulbicki, L. Vigliola, L. Wantiez, G. Edgar, R.D. Stuart-Smith, S.A. Sandin, A.L. Green, M.J. Hardt, M. Beger, A. Friedlander, S.J. Campbell, K.E. Holmes, S.K. Wilson, E. Brokovich, A.J. Brooks, J.J. Cruz-Motta, D.J. Booth, P. Chabanet, C. Gough, M. Tupper, S.C.A. Ferse, U.R. Sumaila, and D. Mouillot
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Nature 535: 416-419. doi:10.1038/nature18607