Gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains

Cinner, Joshua E., Maire, Eva, Huchery, Cindy, MacNeil, M. Aaron, Graham, Nicholas A.J., Mora, Camilo, McClanahan, Tim R., Barnes, Michele, Kittinger, John N., Hicks, Christina C., D'Agata, Stephanie, Hoey, Andrew S., Gurney, Georgina G., Feary, David A., Williams, Ivor D., Kulbicki, Michel, Vigliola, Laurent, Wantiez, Laurent, Edgar, Graham J., Stuart-Smith, Rick D., Sandin, Stuart A., Green, Alison, Hardt, Marah J., Beger, Maria, Friedlander, Alan M., Wilson, Shaun, Brokovich, Eran, Brooks, Andrew J., Cruz-Motta, Juan J., Booth, David J., Chabanet, Pascal, Gough, Charlotte, Tupper, Mark, Ferse, Sebastian C.A., Sumaila, U. Rashid, Pardede, Shinta, and Mouillot, David (2018) Gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115 (27). E6116-E6125.

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Abstract

Coral reefs provide ecosystem goods and services for millions of people in the tropics, but reef conditions are declining worldwide. Effective solutions to the crisis facing coral reefs depend in part on understanding the context under which different types of conservation benefits can be maximized. Our global analysis of nearly 1,800 tropical reefs reveals how the intensity of human impacts in the surrounding seascape, measured as a function of human population size and accessibility to reefs (“gravity”), diminishes the effectiveness of marine reserves at sustaining reef fish biomass and the presence of top predators, even where compliance with reserve rules is high. Critically, fish biomass in high-compliance marine reserves located where human impacts were intensive tended to be less than a quarter that of reserves where human impacts were low. Similarly, the probability of encountering top predators on reefs with high human impacts was close to zero, even in high-compliance marine reserves. However, we find that the relative difference between openly fished sites and reserves (what we refer to as conservation gains) are highest for fish biomass (excluding predators) where human impacts are moderate and for top predators where human impacts are low. Our results illustrate critical ecological trade-offs in meeting key conservation objectives: reserves placed where there are moderate-to-high human impacts can provide substantial conservation gains for fish biomass, yet they are unlikely to support key ecosystem functions like higher-order predation, which is more prevalent in reserve locations with low human impacts.

Item ID: 54554
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: marine reserves; fisheries; coral reefs; social-ecological; socioeconomic
Additional Information:

This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

ISSN: 1091-6490
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CE), Pew Charitable Trust
Research Data: http://doi.org/10.4225/28/5a0e7b1b3cc0e
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2018 23:50
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 35%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960699 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation not elsewhere classified @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 35%
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