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Marine Protected Areas Increase Resilience Among Coral Reef Communities

Whether or not marine protected areas (MPAs) can help mitigate the effects of multiple stressors and promote coral reef resilience around the world remains controversial. This study investigates community resistance both within MPAs and in areas which experienced a change in their protection status on reef communities on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). In using models for data analysis, it was found that fish and benthic assemblages were more stable on reefs inside MPAs despite experiencing a higher frequency of disturbance than reefs in non-MPA areas. While spatial and environmental characteristics were found to be similar across both MPAs and non-MPAs, non-MPA sites demonstrated highly variable assemblages of fish and benthic communities. There was a clear stabilization of these assemblages after a site was granted increased levels of protection. MPAs were found to be further advantageous as stressors were found to have limited influence on community composition and communities were able to recover faster than those in non-MPA sites. It is concluded that MPAs have increased both the resistance and recovery of coral reef communities in the shallow areas of the GBR. While MPAs are widespread around the world, they remain controversial in some areas. Knowing that these areas of increased protection can help increase reef resilience and perhaps slow the decline of coral cover in cases of disturbance, MPAs should receive continual support as utilization as effective management tools in the promotion of coral reef resilience.

Author: Mellin, C., M.A. MacNeil, A.J. Cheal, M.J. Emslie, and M.J. Caley
Year: 2016
View Abstract
Email for the full article: resilience@tnc.org

Ecology Letters 19(6): 629–637. doi: 10.1111/ele.12598

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Reef Resilience Indicators – Hawai‘i, 2016

During the IUCN World Conservation Congress, twenty-seven marine resource managers, scientists, and practitioners, representing nine countries, attended a half-day workshop to learn how to monitor coral reefs for resilience and use this information to guide management.

Workshop participants learned about resilience-based management – what it is, why it’s important, and how they can incorporate resilience concepts and strategies into existing management efforts. They got a behind the scenes look into The Nature Conservancy’s reef resilience assessment for west Hawai’i Island (what it takes to conduct an ecological resilience assessment from planning and data collection to analysis) from the Hawai’i Program’s Marine Science Director Dr. Eric Conklin. They were also treated to examples and stories from across the globe about how the results of resilience assessments have translated into management and policy from Dr. Rodney Salm, Senior Advisor, Marine Program Pacific Division, The Nature Conservancy.

Twelve of the workshop participants joined the second session – an afternoon snorkel trip to two reefs in Kaneohe Bay to provide guidance on identifying resilience indicators in the field.

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Strategic Communications – American Samoa, 2016

A three-day workshop was held in partnership with NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program to help marine conservation and education professionals from eight agencies in American Samoa approach their work strategically. Participants learned key components of strategic communications, and applied these concepts to develop communications plans for climate change preparation projects in American Samoa. Based on participants’ needs, training was also provided in media relations with opportunity for practical application of these skills. Read the report.
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Community-Based Management – Hawai‘i, 2015

Four participants from The Bahamas National Trust and the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association visited Hawai‘i to learn about community-based management initiatives across the state, with emphasis on the State of Hawai‘i’s Makai Watch Program – an innovative program engaging communities in the management of their nearshore marine resources by building voluntary compliance through outreach and the reporting of violations to state authorities. Participants took part in a series of meetings with the coordinators and volunteers for the Makai Watch program, as well as with other programs in support of marine conservation in Hawai‘i implemented in collaboration with the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, with NGOs, and community-based organizations. The learning exchange was hosted in partnership with the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and was organized in conjunction with the Pacific Islands Marine Protected Areas Community. Read the report.
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Scientific Writing – Hawai‘i, 2015

A four-day writing workshop was held for Pacific Island coral reef managers from Hawaiʻi, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa who received mentorship from The Nature Conservancy’s former Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva and team of reviewers to improve writing skills and finalize a journal publication for submission. Read about participants’ research on fish and octopus. Read the report.
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Managing for Resilience – Guadeloupe, 2011

Part of the 4th International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium (ITMEMS), this learning exchange included 58 individuals. The Reef Resilience Network participated as conference leaders and dedicated a day of the conference to resilience concepts, with trainings.

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