There is concern that elevated sea temperatures and ocean acidification may influence the resilience of coral reefs, inherently affecting their vital role of providing the structure which maintains ecosystem services around the world. This review explores the idea of artificially enhancing the ability of reef building organisms to handle stress and accelerate recovery after impact. While there is concern that artificially manipulated organisms may have a biological advantage over endemic species, corals are good candidates for assisted evolution. The authors advocate that stress exposure to natural stock, active modification of community composition of coral symbionts, selective breeding, and laboratory breeding of the symbionts all warrant research attention. As controversy continues to surround these ideas, it is important to consider that assisted evolution strategies such as these may increase the adaptive capacity of corals, perhaps allowing them to better respond to environmental and anthropogenic stressors more easily, in turn directly enhancing resilience.
Author: van Oppen, M.J.H., J.K. Oliver, H.M. Putnam, and R.D. Gates
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(8): 2307-2313
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
In a world where coral reefs face continual and mounting pressures, there is a need for adaptive resilience based management (ARBM) of these systems to help managers hone in on supporting resilience. Focusing on reef resilience allows a unique opportunity to develop a more integrated and dynamic approach when dealing with the synergistic impact of global and local stressors. It is suggested that ARBM may be enhanced through the integration of key principles such as ecosystem vulnerability, ecological resilience, and disturbance regimes. As stressors continue to mount, management plans will have to consider alternatives which can simultaneously help coral reefs deal with stressors and enhance their resilience. This publication utilizes stability landscape resilience models to demonstrate how the presence of different stressors alters the resilience of coral reefs and may lead them to shift to an alternative state of dominance. The three broad elements acting as a decision support framework for ARBM are the management system, the environmental and anthropogenic drivers/activities leading to stress on the ecosystem, and the link between the social and ecological systems. The four different action pathways that coincide with this framework include management of drivers or activities leading to stress, managing stressors directly, supporting ecosystem resilience, or supporting social resilience. It is suggested that in order to get a clear picture of reef resilience, indicators including structural complexity, coral disease prevalence, substrate quality, and distribution of key functional groups, be used instead of the traditional coral cover and fish abundance. Understanding how pulse and press stressors affect indicators such as these will help immensely in ARBM which provides a pathway to help understand how resilience concepts can be incorporated with conservation and decision making. ARBM ultimately bridges the gap between theory and practice and will help prioritize what areas management efforts should target.
Author: Anthony, K.R.N., P.A. Marshall, A. Abdulla, R. Beeden. C. Bergh, R. Black, C.M. Eaking, E.T. Game, M. Gooch, N.A.J. Graham, A. Green, S.F. Heron, R. van Hooidonk, C. Knowland, S. Mangubhai, N. Marshall, J.A. Maynard, P. McGinnity, E. McLeod, P.J. Mumby, M. Nyström, D. Obura, J. Oliver, H.P. Possingham, R.L. Pressey, G.P. Rowlands, J. Tamelander, D. Wachenfeld, and S. Wear
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Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12700
We are happy to announce that new coral restoration information and resources are coming soon to the Reef Resilience online toolkit and we’d like to hear from you! Please take this short survey and let us know what you need to be more effective in your work on coral restoration.
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Large marine protected areas (LMPAs) are an emerging trend and are critical to achieving the Conservation on Biological Diversity’s target to protect 10% of the ocean by 2025. This paper addresses management concerns over LMPAs and calls for a distinct research agenda that examines both biological and social, or ‘human dimensions’, processes and outcomes. The study conducted interviews with LMPA managers, advocates, scientists, and donors along with participant observations at the 2014 World Parks Conference and a literature review.
Gruby et al.’s proposed LMPA social science research agenda consists of four related themes: scoping of human dimensions, governance, politics, and social and economic outcomes. More attention must be given to these four themes at all stages of the LMPA management process. Considering factors such as stakeholder engagement, policy interactions, and equitable distribution of benefits can help to mitigate conflict and increase LMPA effectiveness.
Author: Gruby, R.L., N.J. Gray, L.M. Campbell, and L. Acton
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Conservation Letters May/June 9(3): 153-163. doi: 10.1111/conl.12194
Marine spatial planning (MSP) and ocean zoning is a holistic tool that spatially prioritizes management attention where it is most needed. MSP addresses conflicting uses by establishing clearly defined boundaries. These boundaries coordinate efforts across ecologically appropriate scales to achieve ecological, economic and social goals. This study analyzed demographic data, current and projected trends in climate change and ocean chemistry, and reef and fisheries models to produce expected changes by 2050. The analysis was used to inform best practices for MSP. Results show the effects of anthropogenic stress will not be uniform, and therefore, neither should management.
MSP recommends prioritizing attention to areas farther away from urban centers while integrating other factors such as habitat coverage, biodiversity, ecological connectivity, spawning locations, and areas of human use. Along with prioritization, MSP requires site-specific continued investment in research, monitoring and adaptive management. Communities must also be receptive and willing to engage in broader-scale change of practice. When implemented correctly, MSP can effectively address conservation, fishing, aquaculture, industry, trade and tourism. This tool also has the ability to encourage cross-sector management, capacity-building and leadership, conflict resolution, and efforts toward region-wide sustainability and reef resilience.
Author: Sale, P.F., T. Agardy, C.H. Ainsworth, B.E. Feist, J.D. Bell, P. Christie, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, P.J. Mumby, D.A. Feary, M.I. Saunders, T.M. Daw, S.J. Foale, P.S. Levin, K.C. Lindeman, K. Lorenzen, R.S. Pomeroy, E.H. Allison, R.H. Bradbury, J. Corrin, A.J. Edwards, D.O. Obura, Y.J. Sadovy de Mitcheson, M.A. Samoilys, and C. Sheppard
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Marine Pollution Bulletin 85: 8-23. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.005
Can you believe it? A decade ago, TNC – with the support of partners AROUND THE WORLD– launched the Reef Resilience Network, creating what would grow to become a global network of resource managers sharing ideas, experiences, and expertise to effectively manage our coral reefs and reef fisheries. Curious to see what ten years can do for managers and reefs? Take a look below and here!
Special thanks to NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and International Union for Conservation of Nature, whose committed support to the Network has helped managers innovate, accelerate, and leverage solutions for improved global coral reef health and restoration of reef fisheries.
In a new article published today in the world’s leading academic journal, Science, Mark Spalding, Senior Marine Scientist for The Nature Conservancy looks at the broad issues surrounding the current situation of coral reefs and highlights points of hope.
“There is growing concern around coral reefs,” said Spalding. “For decades they have had to survive a growing array of human threats and now climate change has added to this. It’s the new threat on the block and it’s a deep worry, but it is too early to proclaim the end of reefs.”
Many corals are showing some degree of adaptive capacity to both warming and to acidification, more than some scientists were expecting. Spalding notes that such adaptive capacity, alongside the natural resilience of reefs can enable them to recover even from quite severe perturbations. For example, most reefs in the British Indian Ocean Territory and the Seychelles, which lost virturally all their coral in 1998 due to warm-water induced coral “bleaching”, showed good recovery within a decade. Read more.