Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Sustainable coral reefs and fisheries
by Staff Writers
Mangilao, Guam (SPX) Sep 25, 2015

Striking a balance between harvesting large herbivores and predators and allowing for their functional roles in the ecosystem is a major challenge facing reefs in Micronesia. Image courtesy UOG Marine Lab. For a larger version of this image please go here.

The University of Guam Marine Laboratory leads the way in research to demonstrate how scientists help managers measure the effectiveness of marine conservation efforts.

While island societies can do little to control carbon emissions from developed nations, they can manage their local resources to enhance the ecosystem services that coastal habitats, including reefs, provide for people. In this spirit, the political leaders of five nations in Micronesia initiated the Micronesia Challenge (MC) in 2006 as a commitment to 'effectively conserve' at least 30% of their marine resources and 20% of their terrestrial resources by 2020. With regards to coral reefs, the MC was established due to growing concerns of stressors such as climate change, unsustainable harvest of fisheries, and land-based pollution.

The tough thing about studying fishes, coral reefs and other marine ecosystems is that they are constantly moving and changing in response to natural variation, episodic disturbances, and human stressors. So how can scientists help managers measure the effectiveness of marine conservation efforts? This is the question new research in Micronesia is helping to answer led by the University of Guam Marine Laboratory (UOGML).

The new paper published in the academic journal PLOS ONE describes a way to measure coral-reef ecosystem condition, and predict the relative influence of key threats to coral reefs. "Perhaps the greatest challenge for the team of scientists from Yap to the Marshall Islands was establishing a 'scorecard' indicative of the fish, corals, and benthic substrates that all depend upon each other," described Dr. Peter Houk (UOGML), the lead author of the study.

"This was accomplished by using individual condition metrics, similar to our blood pressure and cholesterol, which combine to determine our health." Armed with this approach, the researchers evaluated the current health of 78 reefs across eight islands in Micronesia.

The results were a bit daunting, revealing that only 42 percent of the major reef habitats across Micronesia exceeded the thresholds established for the Micronesia Challenge.

"Understanding current health was a key component of this research, but we also needed to evaluate why reefs in some localities were not as healthy as others. More specifically, we needed to understand if coral-reef status was due to natural environments or human stressors because we can only manage human stressors," described Trina Leberer from The Nature Conservancy and co-author of the study.

For several islands with low human populations, such as Rota in the Mariana Islands and Namdrik Atoll in the Marshall Islands, wave energy alone was the best predictor of coral-reef condition, and so reefs were considered to be more-or-less in a natural state, and healthy.

However, for the majority of islands with larger human populations, fishing pressure acting alone on the outer reefs, or in combination with pollution in some lagoons, was the best predictor of more than 50 percent of the reefs examined. "These results highlighted the ecological roles that healthy fisheries contribute to overall ecosystem function.

When examined deeper, we found that the absence of predators and large herbivores on reefs was the strongest factor leading to the dominance of algae cover. Both have key functional roles that are threatened," described Houk.

Also interesting was the finding that the majority of marine protected areas across Micronesia are not currently living up to their full potential. This could be due to poor placement and natural factors, but was more likely a consequence of insufficient enforcement given that the fewer successful MPA's were associated with dedicated community-based enforcement.

"We have to start thinking outside the box and managing fisheries from many approaches, not just no-take marine protected areas," suggested Eugene Joseph, executive director of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei and co-author. "Networks of scientists, community members, and the fishing community have begun coming together in Pohnpei and have together decided on new legislation that limits the harvesting and sizes of key predators and large herbivores.

This legislation recently passed and is now a law. Enforcement and compliance is now the remaining issue we're dealing with, and outreach to communities is a big part of that. Such practices of limiting our catches of certain species and size classes were common practices of traditional cultures."

The results of the current study have pinpointed reefs that are not doing well, evaluated which stressors are most likely responsible, and finished by determining what aspects of the fish communities are most threatened.

This represents a key step towards promoting healthy reefs and ecosystem services such as fisheries that they provide. Next steps include completing the assessment in Palau in coordination with the Palau International Coral Reef Research Center, and exploring interest in the possibility of conducting this type of assessment for Guam.

"Fishing is and will always be a cornerstone for societies and livelihoods in Micronesia. This requires that we have dedicated science-to-management frameworks in place to efficiently evaluate management, and help adapt policies when necessary," concluded Houk.

Specific details about progress in each jurisdiction can be found in the freely-available online report here

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
University of Guam
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Nearly half of US seafood supply is wasted
Baltimore MD (SPX) Sep 25, 2015
As much as 47 percent of the edible U.S. seafood supply is lost each year, mainly from consumer waste, new research from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) suggests. The findings, published in the November issue of Global Environmental Change, come as food waste in general has been in the spotlight and concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the world's seafo ... read more

Clean-up of toxic pool in Tianjin complete: Xinhua

Pomp and poverty: Pope Francis sees two sides of Washington

Pope urges US Congress to action on refugees, climate

Dutch team launches free 'Airbnb' site for refugees

Laser pulses for ultrahigh molecular sensitivity, in Nature Photonics

4-D technology allows self-folding of complex objects

Laser ablation boosts terahertz emission

Insects passed 'the Turing Test'

New Zealand deports would-be 'climate change refugee'

Can vinegar save the Great Barrier Reef?

Research uncovers microsopic key to reducing ocean dead zones

Nearly half of US seafood supply is wasted

Melting Arctic sea ice accelerates methane emissions

Adaptation to high-fat diet, cold had profound effect on Inuit, including shorter height

Solving the problem of sea ice thickness distribution using molecular concepts

Burning remaining fossil fuel could cause 60-meter sea level rise

Horse owners can battle flies with wasps, not pesticides

UK food recycling cafes go global in fight against waste

Variety the spice of life for Mumbai's tiffin carriers

Bordeaux winegrowers hail 'magnificent' harvest

Volcano erupts in Nicaragua

Are we wiser about tsunamis? Expert says yes and no

One-two punch of rising seas, bigger storms may greatly magnify US East coast floods

6.6-magnitude quake sparks panic in Indonesia's Papua

Burkina president resumes power after week-long coup

Nigeria claims rescue of 241 women, girls from Boko Haram

Burkina Faso celebrates end to coup, demands democracy

Burkina president resumes power after week-long coup

How to find out about the human mind through stone

Targeted Electrical Stimulation of the Brain Shows Promise as a Memory Aid

Scientists report earlier date of shift in human ancestors' diet

Fossil trove adds a new limb to human family tree

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.