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A global assessment of the direct and indirect benefits of marine protected areas for coral reef conservation

Strain, EMA, Edgar, GJ ORCID: 0000-0003-0833-9001, Ceccarelli, D, Stuart-Smith, RD ORCID: 0000-0002-8874-0083, Hosack, GR and Thomson, RJ 2018 , 'A global assessment of the direct and indirect benefits of marine protected areas for coral reef conservation' , Diversity and Distributions , pp. 1-13 , doi: 10.1111/ddi.12838.

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Abstract

Aim Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly implemented to conserve or restore coral reef biodiversity, yet evidence of their benefits for enhancing coral cover is limited and variable. Location 30 MPAs worldwide and nearby sites (within 10 km).Aim Taxa Cover of key functional groups for coral (total, branching, massive and tabular), and algae (total, filamentous, foliose) and total biomass of reef fish trophic groups (excavator, scraper, browser, higher carnivore). Methods We used a global dataset obtained using standardized survey methods at 465 sites associated with 30 MPAs in 28 ecoregions to test the effects of five key MPA attributes (>10 years old, well‐enforced, no‐take, large and isolated) on coral cover, algal cover and reef fish biomass. We also tested the direct (reducing disturbance by human activities) versus indirect pathways (increasing grazing potential through recovering populations of herbivorous fishes) by which MPAs can influence coral and algal cover. Results Only well‐enforced, no‐take and old (>10 years) MPAs had higher total coral cover (response ratio 1.08–1.19×) than fished sites, mostly due to the increased cover of massive coral growth forms (1.34–2.06×). This effect arose through both the direct influence of protection and indirect benefits of depressed algal cover by recovering herbivorous fish biomass. Neither the direct (standardized coefficient = 0.06) nor indirect effects (standardized coefficient = 0.04) of no‐take protection on coral cover were particularly strong, likely reflecting regional differences in fishing gear, targeted species and trophic webs. Conclusions MPAs promote the persistence of some functional groups of corals, and thus represent an important management tool, globally.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Strain, EMA and Edgar, GJ and Ceccarelli, D and Stuart-Smith, RD and Hosack, GR and Thomson, RJ
Keywords: Reef Life Survey, coral, reef fish, climate change, MPA, citizen science
Journal or Publication Title: Diversity and Distributions
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd
ISSN: 1366-9516
DOI / ID Number: 10.1111/ddi.12838
Copyright Information:

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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