Increased spatial and temporal variability in coral damage caused by recreational scuba diving

Rouphael, Anthony B., and Inglis, Graeme J. (2002) Increased spatial and temporal variability in coral damage caused by recreational scuba diving. Ecological Applications, 12 (2). pp. 427-440.

[img] PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

View at Publisher Website:


The most dramatic changes in natural environments caused by human recreation are often during the initial use of a site, when the most susceptible and fragile species are disturbed. Approaches to managing the effects of recreational activities often assume that site impacts accumulate under sustained patterns of use and that the rate of accumulation is predictably related to the amount of initial use that individual sites receive. We investigated the patterns of impact caused by the experimental opening of two new scuba diving sites in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Queensland, Australia. Changes in the abundance and condition of corals at the dive sites and two undived (control) sites were monitored for 5 mo before the sites were opened and for a further 13 mo after regular dive visits began. Sampling was stratified at increasing distances (0, 40, and 80 m) away from the point of entry to each site to determine spatial patterns of impact. Despite regular use of the sites by dive charters, impacts occurred as repeated discrete pulses in coral damage that were spatially and temporally heterogeneous. Increases in the density of broken branching corals were typically short-term and occurred asynchronously within a single stratum or dive site. Our results show that repeated use of coral reef dive sites does not necessarily lead to cumulative deterioration in their condition. The heterogeneous patterns of impact that we detected appear to be associated with variability in diver behavior and to the relatively rapid growth of broken coral branches. To limit damage in these popular environments, management actions that identify and mitigate the causes of damaging behavior are likely to be more pragmatic and efficient than setting numerical limits to site use.

Item ID: 27278
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-5582
Keywords: coral reef, human impact, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, disturbance
Date Deposited: 29 May 2013 06:44
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 5
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page