Towards A Network of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) In The Western Indian Ocean

This study describes the increasing use of community based management of marine resources in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and assesses locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), producing the first regional inventory. LMMAs are managed for sustainable use and utilize a combination of management tools; in this paper their geography, number, size, and governance structure were described and they were compared to areas managed by government initiatives. A synthesis of the 74 coral-related marine protected areas (MPAs) in eleven countries/territories within the WIO found only 29.6% to be ecologically effective.  Approximately 7% of the regions’ continental shelf receives protection, with 76% of reefs at risk from local threats, the most predominant of which was overfishing. This study also evaluated the potential for MPAs to contribute to the Convention on Biodiversity Target protecting 10% of coastal and marine ecosystems by 2020. Overall, LMMAs in 4 of the 11 countries/territories surveyed have the legal structures to support community-based management, which is lacking in the remaining 7 countries/territories. For LMMAs to be more effective, authors suggest the establishment of a network for LMMA practitioners in the region.

Author: Rocliffe, S., S. Peabody, M. Samoilys, and J.P. Hawkins
Year: 2014
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PLoS ONE 9(7): e103000. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103000

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Larval Dispersal And Movement Patterns Of Coral Reef Fishes, And Implications For Marine Reserve Network Design

Marine reserves are an effective tool for conservation and fisheries management in tropical marine ecosystems. They provide benefits to surrounding areas through the export of eggs, larvae, juveniles and adults to other reserves and fished areas. To increase conservation and fisheries benefits, connectivity (i.e. demographic linking of local populations through the dispersal of individuals as larvae, juveniles or adults) is a key ecological factor to consider when designing marine reserves. Consideration of the spatial scale of movement of coral reef fish species at each stage in their life cycle is also critically important in designing the size, spacing and location of networks of marine reserves.

This study evaluates movement patterns of 34 families (210 species) of coral reef fishes. Results showed that movement patterns (home ranges, ontogenetic shifts and spawning migrations) vary among and within species, and are influenced by a variety of factors such as size, sex, behavior, density, habitat characteristics, season, tide and time of day. The following recommendations on the size, spacing and location of marine reserves are made:

  1. Marine reserves should be more than twice the size of the home range of focal species (in all directions). Marine reserves of various sizes will be required depending on which species need protection, how far they move, and if other effective protection is in place outside reserves.
  2. Reserve spacing should be <15 km, with smaller reserves spaced more closely.
  3. Marine reserves should include habitats that are critical to the life history of focal species (e.g. home ranges, nursery grounds, migration corridors and spawning aggregations), and be located to accommodate movement patterns among these.

In addition to connectivity, other ecological considerations are required to ensure that the design of marine reserves maximize their benefits for conservation and fisheries management: (a) representing 20–40% of each habitat in marine reserves to ensure that a large proportion of the meta-population is protected overall; (b) protecting at least three widely separated examples of each habitat in marine reserves to minimize the risk that they might all be adversely impacted by a single disturbance; (c) ensuring marine reserves are in place for the long term; (d) protecting special and unique areas in marine reserves (e.g. resilient sites, turtle nesting areas, FSAs); (e) minimizing and avoiding threats in marine reserves; and (f) creating large multiple-use MPAs that include, but are not limited to, marine reserves.

Recommendations in this paper can be used by practitioners to design marine reserve networks to maximize benefits for focal species. In addition, recommendations for marine reserve network design regarding connectivity of reef fish populations must be considered alongside other ecological design criteria, and applied within different, context-dependent, socioeconomic and governance constraints.

Author: Green, A. L., A.P. Maypa, G.R. Almany, K.L. Rhodes, R. Weeks, R.A. Abesamis, M.G. Gleason, P.J. Mumby, and A.T. White
Year: 2014
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Biological Reviews 90: 1215–1247. doi: 10.1111/brv.12155

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Marine Protected Area Networks: Assessing Whether the Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

This study looks at whether MPAs in a given network have synergistic benefits on ecological, economic, and social management levels. A proposed analytical framework assessed whether ecological effects across entire an MPA network are greater than the sum of the effects occurring within each individual MPA and evaluates an MPA network in Hawai’i using monitoring data. The West Hawai’i network analyses consists of nine MPAs along with eight smaller, pre-existing protected areas that protect 35% of the coast from aquarium trade fishing. In order for MPA networks to be effective it was established that quantitative monitoring for indicators (biological, ecological, socio-economic, etc.) should be evaluated inside and outside the MPA network before and after MPA establishment. Planning processes should involve all players (managers, scientists, stakeholders) to determine desired goals of the MPA network as well so that monitoring programs collect relevant data to speak to those goals.

Author: Grorud-Colvert K., J. Claudet, B.N. Tissot, J.E. Caselle, M.H. Carr, et al.
Year: 2014
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PLoS ONE 9(8): e102298. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102298

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New and improved Network Forum

The Reef Resilience Network has launched a new and improved online discussion forum!

Now part of the Reef Resilience website, this interactive online community is a place where coral reef managers and practitioners from around the world can connect and share with others to better manage marine resources.

If you work to protect, manage, or promote coral reefs please join the conversation:

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Assessing Habitat Risk From Human Activities To Inform Coastal And Marine Spatial Planning: A Demonstration In Belize

The expansion of existing and emerging ocean uses has negative effects on ecosystems that provide habitat for key species and benefits to people. Integrated coastal and ocean management needs straightforward approaches for understanding the effects people have on marine environment. In recent years, extensive research has resulted in development of accessible approaches and a better understanding of the relationships between human activities and marine ecosystems. However, some important gaps prevent the use of these approaches in policy-making. This study focuses on the following three impediments to the uptake of risk assessments in coastal management: (1) methods for estimating how habitats will change under future management scenarios; (2) better understanding of the degree to which estimated risk reflects observed environmental degradation; and (3) accessible and transparent tools for incorporating estimated risk into coastal and ocean planning. A model called the Habitat Risk Assessment (HRA) model was developed, which is available in open-source software and can be used by government planners, NGOs, or other stakeholders to assess future scenarios for managing marine ecosystems. To make results more accessible to a policy audience, areas of habitat are classified as high, medium or low risk based on the risk posed by individual activities or by the cumulative effects of multiple activities. The model was used to assess risk to coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds and to design a spatial plan for the sustainable use of the marine environment of Belize. Results from the analysis and the model developed were used to inform the design of the country’s first Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Plan.

This study provides a risk ranking method that calculates risk to ecosystems using two sets of information: (a) exposure, which represents the degree to which the habitat experiences stressors due to a specific human activity and (b) consequence, which reflects the habitat-specific response to stressors associated with different human activities. This method helps identify management options for reducing impacts. In general, management interventions have greater potential to reduce risk via changes in exposure than changes in consequence. New criteria was also developed for estimating risks specific to life history characteristics of the main taxa of coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds. Criteria developed to estimate exposure and consequence were based on the cumulative impact and risk assessment literature for ecosystem components. To quantify exposure, the model requires information on (a) spatial overlap between habitats and activities; (b) temporal overlap between habitats and activities; (c) intensity of the activity; and (d) effectiveness of management strategies for reducing exposure. To estimate consequence of exposure to human activities, the model requires information on (a) change in area; (b) change in structure; (c) frequency of natural disturbance; and (d) resilience. To estimate risk, the study used information on exposure of corals, mangroves and seagrass in Belize to selected human activities and the consequence of this exposure. The study also evaluates future habitat risk under alternative scenarios such as conservation, informed management and development, to understand the influence of human activities on coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds in the future. Results suggest that of the three future scenarios, the Conservation option would result in the greatest area of low-risk habitat and least amount at high risk, for all three habitats.

The HRA model presented here identifies both, planning regions where corals, mangroves and seagrass are at high risk, and which activities contributes the most to risk. The information allows managers to prioritize locations for actions to reduce risk by identifying where the spatial extent and exposure of certain high-risk activities can be reduced. In general, the approach presented has the potential to inform multi-sectoral ocean processes by identifying where cumulative risk from human activities is likely to degrade marine habitats, and how changing the location and extent of these activities reduces risk. When combined with models that estimate habitat-induced changes in ecosystem services, the HRA model helps to evaluate trade-offs between human activities and benefits that ecosystems provide to people.

Author: Arkema, K.K., G. Verutes, J.R. Bernhard, C. Clarke, S. Rosado, M. Canto, S.A. Wood, M. Ruckelshaus, A. Rosenthal, M. McField, and J. de Zegher
Year: 2014
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Environmental Research Letters 9. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114016

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New Reef Resilience Online Course Launched

The new online course Advanced Studies in Coral Reef Resilience is designed to provide coral reef managers and practitioners in-depth guidance on managing for resilience. This free course incorporates new science, case studies, and management practices described in the Reef Resilience Toolkit.

The course includes six modules that discuss local and global stressors affecting coral reefs, guidance for identifying coral reef resilience indicators, design principles for resilient MPA networks, methods for implementing resilience assessments, and important communication tools for managers. Course participants can choose to complete any or all lessons within course modules. Read more.

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Perceived Benefits of Fisheries Management Restrictions in Madagascar

Support for fisheries restrictions in coastal villages along coral reefs in Madagascar was studied to help guide the development of effective management practices. In Madagascar, as in other places with low enforcement capacity, effective management depends on understanding how to facilitate self-compliance. The researchers interviewed 465 people in 24 fishing villages using a questionnaire which included questions on fishing restriction and management preferences, in addition to socioeconomic questions. Support for management restrictions was high and unexpected given the poverty and dearth of past fisheries management. Incorporating this type of information on individual and village management preferences into management plans can increase the rate of compliance. To that end, the authors conclude that based on respondents’ perceptions, gear restrictions have broad appeal and could be implemented at the national level; while closed seasons and minimum size fish restrictions are more likely to be adopted on the village level. With low support for species restrictions, this type of management is expected to lead to conflict and undermine management. The authors point out the discrepancies between local and international donor and conservation group preferences, the latter groups often prefer closures and species restrictions, which can lead to slow progress of implementation. Thus, they advocate for working towards finding common ground and implementing the most supported restrictions first to support effective management.

Author: McClanahan, T. R., J. E. Cinner, C. Abunge, A. Rabearisoa, P. Mahatante, F. Ramahatratra, and N. Andrianarivelo
Year: 2014
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Ecology and Society 19(1): 5. doi: 10.5751/ES-06080-190105

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Meta-Analysis Indicates Habitat-Specific Alterations to Primary Producer and Herbivore Communities in Marine Protected Areas

A recent global quantitative review and meta-analysis was conducted on the effects of MPAs on coral reef herbivores and primary producers to support management decisions. Based on criteria for the meta-analysis, which included only well-enforced no-take MPAs, 41 individual publications representing 57 MPAs worldwide were included in the study. The authors found that within MPAs, macroalgal cover and sea urchin density were significantly lower as compared to fished areas. The relationship between macroalgae cover and herbivores was also explored. MPAs with higher populations of herbivorous fishes had significantly lower macroalgal cover. The authors conclude that the community response to MPAs is highly variable. Management implications include protecting key echinoid predators which appear crucial to the recovery of reefs. Also, actively managing grazers and predators should be an integral component of MPA design.

Author: Gilby, B.L. and T. Stevens
Year: 2014
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Global Ecology and Conservation 2: 289-299. doi: 0.1016/j.gecco.2014.10.005

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Fish with Chips: Tracking Reef Fish Movements to Evaluate Size and Connectivity of Caribbean Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are commonly implemented in the Caribbean to address the rapid decline in the quality of coral reefs and in the abundance and body size of associated fish populations. However, MPAs are typically designed without sufficient knowledge of reef fish movements within and across their boundaries. Spatial information on the movement patterns of fish such as home range size, relocation movements and distances traveled on migrations can influence the effective functioning of MPAs. Knowledge of the spatial scale and patterns of fish movements provide evidence of ecological connectivity between individual MPAs and data to evaluate the ecological coherence within an MPA network.

In this study fish were tagged with miniature acoustic transmitters to obtain evidence of their movements in time and space. An array of underwater acoustic receivers, known as the U.S. Caribbean Acoustic Network (USCAN), was used to track fish movements between MPAs and across the insular shelf of the U.S. Virgin Islands and southeastern Puerto Rico. The study was conducted to answer the following questions: (1) How far can reef fish move? (2) Does connectivity exist between adjacent MPAs? and (3) Does existing MPA size match the spatial scale of reef fish movements?

Results show that many reef fish travel great distances in short duration and may undertake ontogenetic habitat shifts and spawning migrations across the shelf. Evidence of ecological connectivity across MPAs, which can boost MPA performance and increase reef resilience, was also provided. Fish within MPAs were found to spend time and use resources under different management regimes with different levels of protection. Fish were also found outside of protected areas contributing to spillover and influencing the biodiversity, productivity and ecological functions in neighboring unprotected areas. Even though ecological connectivity exists between MPAs, a wide range of reef associated fish undertake movements that are broader than the dimensions of the existing MPAs. A mismatch between the scale of management and the scale(s) of the ecological processes being managed may be responsible for the challenges encountered in managing populations of highly mobile animals. The authors recommend that MPA functionality and design should be evaluated using key species movement patterns. A re-scaling of Caribbean reef fish mobility and habitat use is also necessary and should be considered for management effectiveness and to achieve conservation goals.

Author: Pittman, S.J., M.E. Monaco, A.M Friedlander, B. Legare, R.S. Nemeth, M.S. Kendall, M. Poti, R.D. Clark, L.M. Wedding, and C. Caldow
Year: 2014
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PLoS ONE 9(5): e96028. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096028

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Developing Marine Protected Area Networks in the Coral Triangle: Good Practices for Expanding the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System

The authors describe six case studies of marine protected area (MPA) networks in the Coral Triangle region that differ in scale and the approach taken to establish the networks. These are:

  • Nusa Penida in Indonesia
  • Tun Mustapha Park in Malaysia
  • Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea
  • Verde Island Passage in the Philippines
  • The Lauru Ridges to Reefs Protected Area Network in Choiseul, Solomon Islands
  • Nino Konis Santana Park in Timor Leste

Through a synthesis of these case studies, common themes underlying successful outcomes were generated. These are:

  • Multi-stakeholder and cross-level management institutions: because ecological and institutional boundaries rarely overlap, multi-scale management and governance are needed for effective management
  • Integrated scientific information and local knowledge and traditions: MPA networks designed using scientific information and local knowledge that include stakeholder involvement typically have better compliance and community ownership
  • Building capacity for local responsibility and leadership: while all MPAs in the case studies above had the involvement of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), technical support should build the capacity for local management and leadership for long-term success
  • Multiple-use zoning to balance objectives: this flexible approach allows multiple objectives of the MPA network to be met for a broad range of stakeholder interests
  • Learning networks: Dissemination of lessons learned and best practices for MPA networks, and support networks are needed to share experiences and facilitate effective management

Author: Weeks, R., P.M. Aliño, S. Atkinson, P. Beldia II, A. Binson, W.L. Campos, R. Djohani, A.L. Green, R. Hamilton, V. Horigue, R. Jumin, K. Kalim, A. Kasasiah, J. Kereseka, C. Klein, L. Laroya, S. Magupin, B. Masike, C. Mohan, R.M. Da Silva Pinto, A. Vave-Karamui, C. Villanoy, M. Welly, and A.T. White
Year: 2014
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Coastal Management 42(2): 183-205. doi: 10.1080/08920753.2014.877768

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