Reefs containing more than 600 kilograms per hectare of fish biomass should be conservation priorities
A new study by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) has found that coral reef diversity 'hotspots' in the southwestern Indian Ocean rely more on the biomass of fish than where they are located, a conclusion that has major implications for management decisions to protect coral reef ecosystems.
Using data gathered over a 12-year period from nearly 270 coral reefs across the southwestern Indian Ocean, the WCS study found that the highest conservation priorities in the region should be reef systems where fish biomass exceeds 600 kilograms per hectare. This finding conflicts with a common conservation and management policy that emphasizes the geographical location and physical factors that are often associated with reef diversity.
The study--authored by Dr. Tim McClanahan of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)--appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Biogeography.
Click here for a link to the study: http://onlinelibrary.
"While geography has often been the main factor that conservation policy has used to establish protected areas, this study shows that protecting fish biomass should be the priority and this can be done with improved fisheries management," said McClanahan, a Senior Conservationist for WCS. "A hotspot is not a permanent feature and can be lost if the fish and the habitat are not protected."
Experts agree that fishing is a primary cause in the degradation of coral reefs, and needs to be better managed but what is more controversial is the various roles of protected areas or fisheries restrictions. Protecting regions containing threatened biodiversity--considered to largely be an attribute of geography-- has created a policy focus on the geographic hotspots. McClanahan found that the hotspot in the Indian Ocean is a real feature but is maintained more by fish biomass and habitat than by the geographic location. This means that fish biomass and habitat are the most influential factors and should be used to guide management decisions rather than location.
McClanahan's study of 266 sites in seven countries of the southwestern Indian Ocean measured numbers of fish species while simultaneously collecting information on the abundance of corals and algae, depth, geographical location, and the types of fisheries management. This allowed him to compare the importance of each of these factors.
The results support previous studies identifying the Mozambique Channel as a center of species richness in the southwestern Indian Ocean. However, sites in this region with low fish biomass also lacked full diversity, and being in this hotspot center alone did not ensure high diversity. Stronger correlations were found between biomass and local factors such as restrictions on fishing along with coral cover and water depth. The latitude and longitude were significant but found to contribute the least to the variation in numbers of species - a finding that challenges common conservation wisdom.
The study also reveals that protected areas that lacked regular and strong enforcement of fishing bans - classified as 'low compliance' fisheries closures - had nearly as low numbers of fish species as reefs that were regularly fished. The low compliance category included 50 of the 104 reefs included in the study. McClanahan added: "Having fishing restrictions is better than closing reefs to fishing if the closure rules are not followed, which was common and found for nearly half of the studied closures."
"The Southwest Indian Ocean is a globally important marine biodiversity hotspot. Unfortunately, this study shows that many protected areas are not doing a good job at protecting fish diversity, a shortcoming that threatens some of the world's most important coral reefs," said Dr. Caleb McClennen, Executive Director of the Marine Program. "While these ecosystems are complex, it is clear we need to do at a minimum two things very well to save the world's coral reefs: strictly enforce established marine protected areas, and; outside these areas, increase the sustainability of fishing practices to increase biomass."
The projects that lead to the compilation of the large data set were supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).
John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences