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Assisted Evolution: A Novel Tool to Overcome the Conservation Crisis?

Assisted Evolution Announcement PhotoThis symposium was live streamed as part of the Coral Restoration Consortium webinar series in conjunction with The Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and “The Future Ocean” cluster in Kiel. Speakers shared information on new approaches for the conservation of coral reefs such as assisted colonization and assisted evolution and synthetic biology. View the presentation recordings below.

Presentations:

Welcome and introduction – Marlene Wall, Geomar, Germany

Session 1: Shifting paradigms in conservation: social, public and scientific landscape of conservation genetics
Objective: The aim of session 1 is to (i) discuss new approaches for the conservation of natural environments, such as assisted colonization, assisted evolution and synthetic biology and (ii) introduce the current legal, public and scientific framework of novel methods in conservation.

Session 2: Assisted evolution in corals: Opportunities, applications, challenges, and limitations
Objective: The aim is to introduce how assisted evolution might change our way of restoring natural marine environments. What new tools are available that can improve the selection of environmental stress resistance and be implemented in conservation? What are the promises and perils of such approaches?

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Coral Bleaching Futures

Coral Bleaching Futures – Downscaled Projections of Bleaching Conditions for the World’s Coral Reefs, Implications of Climate Policy and Management Responses

Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Global climate models (GCMs) project great spatial variation in the timing of annual severe bleaching (ASB) conditions; a point at which reefs are certain to change and recovery will be limited. Previous model-resolution projections (approximately 1×1°) are too coarse to inform reef management planning (recognized, for example, in SAMOA Pathways, paragraph 44b). To meet the need for higher-resolution projections, this report presents statistically downscaled projections (4-km resolution) of the timing of ASB for all the world’s coral reefs using the newest generation of IPCC climate models (CMIP5). Results are reported by country and territory, grouped in bioregions based on the 10 UNEP Regional Seas programmes with coral reefs (also including countries or territories in or near the Regional Sea area but not participating in the Regional Sea).

Among the goals of the Paris Agreement adopted at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in 2015 is to hold temperature “well below” 2°C while also pursuing efforts to stay below 1.5°C. This legally binding agreement entered into force 4 November 2016. This report evaluates the implications of the Paris Agreement for coral reef futures. Projections of ASB timing are compared between business as usual scenario (RCP8.5) and RCP4.5, which could represent emissions concentrations mid-century. This report makes the projections data and main findings publicly accessible to inform management and policy planning as well as to support education and outreach. The data are currently being used to inform conservation planning in the U.S., including Florida and Hawaii, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Australia and Malaysia.

Author: United Nations Environment Program
Year: 2017
View Full Article

Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN: 978-92-807-3649-6

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Western Indian Ocean Post-Bleaching Assessment Training

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July 21, 2017

Dr. David Obura and Mishal Gudka of CORDIO East Africa (supported through the Biodiversity Project of the Indian Ocean Commission) present a training on how to conduct a post-bleaching assessment in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). This is part of a regional project in 6 WIO countries to assess the global impacts of the 2016 coral reef bleaching event. Contact mgudka@cordioea.net to learn more about the program.

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Population Genetic Structure Between Yap and Palau for the Coral Acropora Hyacinthus

(ALL INTERNAL, LIMITED EXTERNAL USAGE RIGHTS) Vibrant coral reef in Palau. While looking healthy, the white corals are the early signs of a struggling habitat as they begin to bleach from warm waters often attributed to climate change. Unfortunately there is not a reef in Palau that has not been affected in some way by coral bleaching. The coral reefs of Palau are part of a massive interconnected system that ties together Micronesia and the Western Pacific. To protect these reefs the Conservancy joined with other experts to develop Transforming Coral Reef Conservation. The Conservancy has worked with Palau’s community leaders and government agencies since 1992. In that time we have helped bridge the gap between traditional and modern approaches to conservation. The Conservancy helped establish the Palau Conservation Society, a local environmental organization dedicated to protecting Palau’s natural heritage. PHOTO CREDIT: © Ian Shive

Vibrant coral reef in Palau. Photo © Ian Shive

Listen to our interview with Dr. Annick Cros, coral reef scientist at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology to hear about highlights from her recent publication on population genetic structure between Yap and Palau and how genetics can be used in coral reef management.

Click the play button below to listen to the interview.

 

Interview Transcript 

Reef Resilience (RR): Hello everyone, Reef Resilience is interviewing Dr. Annick Cros, coral reef scientist at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology where she will share highlights from her recent publication on population genetic structure between Yap and Palau and how genetics can be used to tackle conservation issues.

Annick Cros (AC): Hi everyone! Thanks for having me here.

RR: Can you start with introducing what population genetics is?

AC: In very simple terms, it is the study of genetic variations in populations to understand their structure, boundaries and connectivity with other populations. When you study population genetics, you typically ask questions such as: “How much gene flow is there between these two populations?” As a manager, you surprisingly ask very similar questions! “How much spillover will I get from this MPA and where will larvae recruit?” Or “are these two groups of turtles related and should I manage them as one?”

RR: How can population genetics be used as a tool in management?

AC: So you are right in thinking that using population genetics to solve a conservation issue can be time consuming, expensive and requires resources and skills you may not have. However, in the case of connectivity of marine organisms, and the design of MPA networks, population genetics seems to be the best tool that we have at the moment. This is due to the fact most marine organisms reproduce via minute pelagic larvae that are very difficult to track. Since we often rely on oceanographic models to predict where larvae will go and settle we do not always get the right answer. Population genetics will not track larvae directly but will give information on where larvae have settled over time. The paper that we wrote actually is an example of how to use population genetics to answer one of these questions. 

We used Palau as our case study because in 1998 Palau suffered heavy bleaching mortality. Yet by 2004-2005, studies showed that the reef had almost recovered. Managers and scientists wanted to know how it had recovered so quickly and where the coral larvae came from. One hypothesis that we had was supported by an oceanographic model was that Palau recovered from a pulse recruitment event from Yap, a neighboring island approximately 500 km away. We wanted to test if this was true. Using the coral Acropora hyacinthus, we tested for a founder effect between Yap and Palau. The founder effect states that if larvae originating from Yap had traveled to Palau and recolonized the reef, the same genetic signatures should be found on Yap and Palau but with less genetic diversity in Palau. And that’s because only a small fraction of Yap’s genetic diversity would have traveled to Palau. We found that this was not the case and we rejected the hypothesis that Yap was the sole source of larvae for Palau’s recovery. Other signs indicated that it was more than likely that Palau recovered from its own surviving colonies.

RR: How do the results from your paper translate into management actions that can be implemented on the ground?

AC: Knowing that Palau had not recovered from Yap but from it’s own surviving colonies, this gave us the tools to tell managers that the best strategy to increase Palau’s reef resilience was to not to invest in Yap’s coral reefs but to instead invest in protecting their reefs at home. We are currently looking at further information to see how to protect these coral reefs at home based on population genetics. 

Author: Cros, A., R.J. Toonen, S.W. Davies, and S.A. Karl
Year: 2016
View Abstract
Email for the full article: resilience@tnc.org

PeerJ 4e2330. doi:10.7717/peerj.2330

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New Techniques for Coral Restoration in the Caribbean

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May 18, 2017

Hear experts from the Global Coral Restoration Project provide an overview of coral restoration efforts around the world and discuss current obstacles and potential solutions. This seminar kicks off an in-person workshop designed to foster exchange between practitioners working in the fields of coral science, restoration, aquaculture and marine resource management. Explore the seminar presentations and learn about coral restoration from the experts!

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Year in Review

In 2016, The Reef Resilience Network convened hundreds of marine resource managers, scientists, and decision-makers to inspire greater collaboration, share cutting-edge resilience science, and improve management decisions.

The International Coral Reef Symposium and World Conservation Congress offered ideal venues to further this work, as well as share lessons learned during the Network’s ten years. Notable scientific contributions include our research collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to identify coral reef refuges in Palau in the face of increasing thermal stress and ocean acidity.

Take a look at our Year in Review to see our latest efforts in helping marine managers manage  coral reefs more effectively. 

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Coral Reef Resilience – Florida, 2011

This was the 2nd Reef Resilience Conference: Planning for Resilience, with 242 participants. It included a 2-day workshop, with a presentation of viewpoints of the fishing/diving industry and the International Reef Resilience practitioners workshop.

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New Network Resources: Spotlight on the Western Indian Ocean

Cleaning a coral nursery. © Reef Rescuers

Content Here

Improving Management of Spawning Aggregation Fisheries in the Seychelles Using Acoustic Telemetry

Marine managers in the Seychelles are collecting and using behavioral information on Shoemaker spinefoots to develop management strategies that protect spawning aggregations of these commercially important fish. Read the case study.

Reef Rescuers: Coral Gardening as an MPA Management Tool

To repair coral bleaching damage in a marine reserve in the Seychelles, a large scale reef restoration project uses “coral gardening”, a technique that involves collecting small pieces of healthy coral, growing them in underwater nurseries, and then transplanting them to degraded sites. Read the case studyWatch the webinar.

Preparing for Coral Bleaching in the Western Indian Ocean

David Obura of CORDIO East Africa presents updated guidance (in four basic steps!) for monitoring bleaching events in the Western Indian Ocean at basic, intermediate, and expert levels. Watch the webinar.

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