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Ecosystem-based management is a useful management tool that considers both indirect and cumulative effects of added stressors to a system. Ecosystem models, especially those that consider physical and biological disturbances and human uses, can help to inform ecosystem-based management during planning and implementation stages. This study modified the Atlantis Ecosystem Model to quantify and predict the effect of added stressors on the Guam coral reef ecosystem. Specifically, the study focused on three main stressors: climate change, land-based sources of pollution (LBSP), and fishing. The study used the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report highest emission scenario to predict atmospheric CO2 concentrations and the RCP8.5 projection to predict sea surface temperatures. LBSP was predicted using previous data collected on Guam’s sediment and nutrient loads and river flow. Fishing predictions were based on historical catches. Short term (i.e. 30 years) and long term (i.e. 65 years) simulation tests were run for each stressor.
The short term tests revealed that fishing resulted in the greatest negative impacts with LBSP following close behind. Climate change became the dominant stressor in longer time scales with the bleaching threshold exceeded every year after year 48. It becomes clear that long-term high intensity disturbances from multiple stressors limits and sometimes even prevents ecosystem recovery. Limiting frequency, intensity, and number of stressors can significantly increase reef resilience. This study revealed that reducing LBSP and increasing water quality can delay climate-related impacts for up to 8 years while buying time for the corals to adapt to higher temperatures. The Atlantis Ecosystem Model and others like it can be used to provide a wealth of knowledge to inform ecosystem-based management decisions on both regional and global levels.
Author: Weijerman M., E.A. Fulton, I.C. Kaplan, R. Gorton, R. Leemans, W.M. Mooij, and R.E. Brainard
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PLoS ONE 10(12). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144165
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 study. Watch 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.
Reef Rescuers: Coral Gardening as an MPA Management Tool
Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
In 1998, the mass coral bleaching event, caused by the coupling of El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole, severely affected the reefs of the Seychelles Archipelago. The 1998 bleaching catastrophe decreased live coral cover by up to 97% in some areas and caused many reefs around the islands to collapse into rubble (which later became covered with algae). In the following decades, coral recovery has been extremely slow in the inner granitic islands of Seychelles. Despite the existence of numerous no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPA) – an effective tool to bolster coral reef recovery – it has taken almost 20 years to see coral cover at pre-1998 levels in most areas in the region. Due to continuous global threats, such as changes in climate and ocean chemistry, MPAs alone may not be enough to assist in the recovery of coral reefs in the Seychelles. Consequently, more active conservation strategies are needed to promote reef recovery and build reef resilience and to achieve the long-term conservation of coral reef ecosystem services.
The slow post-bleaching recovery motivated active restoration efforts in the inner islands of the Seychelles archipelago to assist in natural recovery. In 2010, Nature Seychelles launched the Reef Rescuers Project on Praslin Island. Financially supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), this climate adaptation coral restoration project seeks to repair coral bleaching damage in selected sites around Praslin and Cousin Island Special Reserve, a no-take marine reserve.
Through this project we are piloting the first-ever large scale active reef restoration project in the region using ‘coral gardening,’ a technique that involves collecting small pieces of healthy coral, raising them in underwater nurseries and then transplanting them to degraded sites that have been affected by coral bleaching. Forty thousand fragments of coral from 10 different branching/tabular species (Acropora hyacinthus, A. cytherea, A. abrotanoides, A. appressa, Pocillopora damicornis, P. grandis – senior synonym of P. eydouxi, P. meandrina, P. verrucosa, Stylophora pistillata, S. subseriata; species identification after Veron 2000 and nomenclature after the World Register of Marine Species) have been raised in 13 underwater nurseries located inside the Cousin Island Special Reserve. Between November 2011 and June 2014, a total of 24,431 nursery-grown coral colonies were transplanted to 5,225 m2 (0.52 ha) of degraded reef within the Cousin Island Special Reserve.
With the onset of a weak-to-moderately strong El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event starting late summer to early fall 2014 and continuing through 2016, we had a unique opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the choice of coral reef species (initially chosen based on survival rates during the last seawater warming anomaly) and the restoration process itself in alleviating the impact of warmer ocean temperatures. We are using standardized protocols to monitor the survival, reproduction, recruitment and bleaching response of donor and transplanted colonies. We continue monitoring at the transplantation site and two control sites, representing a healthy and degraded coral reef. Such monitoring allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration effort. Additionally, we are assessing the costs of large-scale reef restoration via coral gardening and the life cycle of coral reef restoration technology.
How successful has it been?
The long-term “success” of this mass transplantation is still being monitored but the project has already had positive outcomes. Forty-one practitioners from 11 countries have been exposed to reef restoration techniques by “on the job” work as volunteers up to three months on site, and eight experts have to date been formally trained through a full-time six-week classroom and field based training program. Before-and-after comparisons in coral cover at the transplanted site showed that the restoration project resulted in a 700% increase in coral cover, from about 2% in 2012 to 16% by the end of 2014. Similarly, we have documented a five-fold increase in fish species richness, a three-fold increase in fish density, and a two-fold increase in coral settlement and recruitment at the transplanted site. We also found that our coral transplants responded better to stressful conditions resulting from increased sea temperatures and a harmful algal bloom. The transplanted corals appear to recover faster and better than corals at other sites. The response of the transplanted reef to thermal stress bleaching is still being monitored. The preliminary analysis of the costs of reef restoration via coral gardening and the life cycle of coral reef restoration technology together with the ecological results so far support the application of large-scale, science-based coral reef restoration projects with long timescales to assist the recovery of damaged reefs. A proposal to scale up the coral farms to a mariculture venture so as to reduce costs through economies of scale has been accepted by the Seychelles government and funding is currently being sought.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
A tool kit is currently being put together to highlight the lessons learned from the project. In summary, we have learned that:
- Survival of coral donor colonies is high.
- Survival of nursery colonies is high for the selected species listed above.
- There is a natural supply of corals (corals of opportunity) to be grown in the nurseries and that eliminate the need to re-fragment nursery-grown or donor colonies.
- Nurseries become floating reef ecosystems.
- Natural cleaning of coral nurseries and coral ropes reduces nursery maintenance and increases transplantation success.
- There is a positive transplantation effect on settlement and recruitment of new corals, fish diversity and density.
- The response of transplanted corals to bleaching causative events needs close monitoring to assess the effects of coral gardening on building bleaching resistance.
- There is citizen science interest internationally in receiving training on coral reef restoration.
- Partnerships with the tourism sector can be developed to establish coral gardens (seascaping) as a guest attraction and as a key part of the industry’s environmental management programs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
- Large-scale coral reef restoration needs to be considered as a cost-effective tool to include in the MPA manager’s toolbox.
Until 2015, funds to support the Reef Rescuers Project have been sourced and provided by USAID. Further financial support was received under the Government of Seychelles-Global Environment Facility (GEF)-United Nations Development Project (UNDP) Protected Area Project in 2011.
About the Reef Rescuers project
Transplanted corals attach themselves in pioneering reef restoration project in the Seychelles
Reef Rescuers on CNN Inside Africa
US Oceans Envoy praises Nature Seychelles’ work
Saving the giant clams
At the Water’s Edge (AWE): Enhancing Coastal Resilience in Grenada
Greater Grenville Area, Grenada, Eastern Caribbean
Like most of the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, the island of Grenada is grappling with the effects of climate change, experiencing higher temperatures, more intense storms, rising sea levels, flooding and coastal erosion. In Grenada, coastal communities are affected by these impacts, particularly At the Water’s Edge’s targeted coastal communities (Telescope, Grenville, Soubise and Marquis) within the Greater Grenville Area. The communities of Telescope and the Town of Grenville have borne the brunt of climate impacts over the years, and continue to experience changes at an increasingly alarming rate, threatening lives, food security, livelihoods and valuable coastal property.
The Nature Conservancy’s At the Water’s Edge project (AWE) addresses climate impacts through the implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) solutions. These efforts are designed to support social and ecological resilience and increase the community’s capacity to respond to climate change through strong community engagement, and the implementation of nature-based solutions (e.g., restoration of coastal vegetation, installation of artificial reef structures to attenuate wave energy).
National actions to build capacity and support resilience include:
- GIS data (e.g., benthic habitats, critical infrastructure) has been gathered for the entire island
- A vulnerability analysis of Grenada was conducted; results provided the rationale for focus in the Grenville Bay Area
- GIS training workshops were held with participation fromboth the public and private sector
- Census data by enumeration districts for the years 2001 and 2011 were spatialized with personnel from Grenada’s Department of Statistics
- The AWE component of the Coastal Resilience website was developed with tools and data including the census data, sea-level rise scenarios, benthic habitats and other data, creating maps to aid in decision making
Local actions – (specific to the project communities) to build capacity and support resilience include:
- Training of AWE community leaders in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- A participatory 3D mapping exercise was conducted with the communities. Members constructed a model of the surrounding villages and the Bay of Grenville, highlighting existing natural and cultural resources
- The development of a community action plan and concept booklet with partners which outlines actions and opportunities through targeted interventions for the communities
- In collaboration with project partner Grenada Red Cross, a Vulnerability Capacity Assessment (VCA) was conducted which included ecological and social data (e.g., fisheries, climate change, and community perception and use of marine ecosystems). Red Cross provides trainings to fishers and the surrounding communities on sustainable fishing practices, and the importance of coastal and marine habitats to support local communities
- Through project partners, Grenada Fund for Conservation, community members were trained to collect, care for and out-plant mangroves seedlings along specific areas of the Telescope shoreline. These trainees are being engaged in other areas of the island for mangrove restoration work with other groups
- Innovative reef pilot structures were installed that were developed based on 60 years of wave data, utilizing a hydrodynamic model to mimic the protective functions of the reef, dissipating wave energy before it reaches the shoreline. In January 2015, the Conservancy with a local commercial diving company and 12 fishermen from the surrounding communities successfully installed 30 meters of submerged breakwater on the northern reef within the bay of Grenville
- A Community Resilience Plan (CRP) is being developed in collaboration with NaDMA – Grenada’s disaster management agency, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), local partners and the targeted communities
How successful has it been?
Although AWE is an ongoing project, the actions are combined to achieve the project goals. On the socio-economic front, most notable amongs these actions have been the training of community members to collect, care for and plant mangroves within the Bay of Grenville. Some of the community members were given a stipend to work on the project. The pilot reef structures were designed based on the following criteria and have been performing as expected:
- Must provide significant reduction in wave energy reaching the shore
- Must last at least 30 years
- Do not shift in heavy surf or intense storms
- Promote natural biological growth and accretion of coralline algae and corals, and provide habitat for fish
- Must be installed using local labor and materials at a cost which is less than that of a traditional breakwater
Based on scientific studies and modeling, the full shoreline can be protected if approximately 300 meters of submerged structure is built. For the pilot, 30 meters of submerged breakwater structures was installed to ensure the model projections are accurate and to make any refinements necessary before the full structures are installed. The structures are monitored quarterly by TNC Scientists and monthly by local partners. To date, they have withstood winter swells, are crusting over with crustose coralline algae, recruiting coral, dissipating wave energy and, serving as a nursery and habitat for fish. Efforts are currently underway to raise funds for the installation of the full structure, which will provide the necessary protection to the shores of Telescope and Grenville.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
- Community engagement. The importance of sustained community engagement and involvement throughout the life of the project from conception to implementation has been critical
- Integral partnerships with government agencies. TNC and the communities provided technical expertise and local knowledge of the project areas to make informed decisions to support AWE’s interventions
- Ecosystem-based Adaptation. EBA can provide new and innovative solutions to climate change impacts (e.g., installing artificial reefs to provide coastal protection from storms and habitat/nurseries for fish)
AWE’s work has been funded by various donors over the years. Donors include but are not limited to:
- Angell Foundation
- Carnival Cruise Line
- German Federal Foreign Office, which provided the funding for the implementation of the pilot phase of the reef re-engineering works
The Nature Conservancy
Communities of Telescope, Grenville, Soubise and Marquis
Government of Grenada
Grenada Red Cross
Grenada Fund for Conservation
For additional information on AWE including the reef brief
Coastal Resilience: Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Mapping Portal
Watch this video about the mapping tools used in the project
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
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.