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Understanding coral reef resilience in Tobago

news-Understanding Coral Reef Resilience in TobagoJahson Berhane Alemu I (a participant in our 2010 Training of Trainers Workshop) and co-author Ysharda Clement recently published the paper “Mass Coral Bleaching in 2012 in the Southern Caribbean”. For 6 months, they monitored approximately 650 colonies (composed of 30 taxa) at three sites across Tobago during a bleaching event in 2010. The purpose of their research was to find nodes of reef resilience in Tobago by identifying taxa resilient to bleaching. We asked Jahson more about his research. In particular, we wanted to know how coral reef managers could learn from his experience. Here’s what he said:

How do you think your findings will influence coral reef management in Tobago?

Our findings now contribute to an evidence-based foundation, on which reef managers can make more informed decisions. Our findings have now been integrated into a Bleaching Response Plan, where a suite of taxa have been incorporated to determine the impact of bleaching and other anthropogenic impacts on reef health.

What most surprised you during the analysis of your research?

The wide variety of responses of taxa to the same stimulus. This will be the subject of future research.

What advice do you have for coral reef managers and practitioners who are trying to identify resilient reefs?

Reef resilience means a bunch of things and it’s evolving. My opinion is that you’re not going to figure it out in one assessment. (Well, maybe you can, and good luck to you!) But I’m no expert and I’ve just started. For me, having a clear personal understanding of what it means and how I intended to apply this knowledge for example through the development of a response plan and MPA selection was central in my approach. This study is but only one of several underway to better understand reef dynamics and the future of coral reefs in Tobago.

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A Framework for Responding to Coral Disease Outbreaks that Facilitates Adaptive Management

In this study, investigators develop and present a framework for responding to coral disease outbreaks with implications for reef ecosystem health. The framework contains four components, including an early warning system, a tiered impact assessment program, scaled management actions, and a communication plan.

A combination of predictive tools with in situ observations of areas at risk for disease outbreak constitute the early warning system, while reports of increasing disease prevalence triggers a tiered response of assessment, research, or management actions. Response to the disease outbreak risk is scaled based on the severity and spatial extent of impacts incurred by a disease outbreak to coral species.

Additionally, the study reviews potential management actions to mitigate coral disease impacts and facilitate recovery of the reef ecosystem, and considers coral disease-specific strategies as well as strategies already used in reef resilience.

Author: Beeden R., J.A. Maynard, P.A. Marshall, S.F. Heron, and B.L. Willis
Year: 2012
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Environmental Management 49:1–13. doi:10.1007/s00267-011-9770-9

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