Social–environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 12:34pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 08/2019
Authors: Emily Darling, Tim McClanahan, Joseph Maina, Georgina Gurney, Nicholas Graham, Fraser Januchowski-Hartley, Joshua Cinner, Camilo Mora, Christina Hicks, Eva Maire, Marji Puotinen, William Skirving, Mehdi Adjeroud, Gabby Ahmadia, Rohan Arthur, Andrew Bauman, Maria Beger, Michael Berumen, Lionel Bigot, Jessica Bouwmeester, Ambroise Brenier, Tom Bridge, Eric Brown, Stuart Campbell, Sara Cannon, Bruce Cauvin, Chaolun Chen, Joachim Claudet, Vianney Denis, Simon Donner, Estradivari, Nur Fadli, David Feary, Douglas Fenner, Helen Fox, Erik Franklin, Alan Friedlander, James Gilmour, Claire Goiran, James Guest, Jean-Paul Hobbs, Andrew Hoey, Peter Houk, Steven Johnson, Stacy Jupiter, Mohsen Kayal, Chao-Yang Kuo, Joleah Lamb, Michelle Lee, Jeffrey Low, Nyawira Muthiga, Efin Muttaqin, Yashika Nand, Kirsty Nash, Osamu Nedlic, John Pandolfi, Shinta Pardede, Vardhan Patankar, Lucie Penin, Lauriane Ribas-Deulofeu, Zoe Richards, Edward Roberts, Ku’ulei Rodgers, Che Safuan, Enric Sala, George Shedrawi, Tsai Sin, Patrick Smallhorn-West, Jennifer Smith, Brigitte Sommer, Peter Steinberg, Makamas Sutthacheep, Chun Tan, Gareth Williams, Shaun Wilson, Thamasak Yeemin, John Bruno, Marie-Josée Fortin, Martin Krkošek, David Mouillot
Journal title: Nature Ecology & Evolution

Without drastic efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate globalized stressors, tropical coral reefs are in jeopardy. Strategic conservation and management requires identification of the environmental and socioeconomic factors driving the persistence of scleractinian coral assemblages—the foundation species of coral reef ecosystems. Here, we compiled coral abundance data from 2,584 Indo-Pacific reefs to evaluate the influence of 21 climate, social and environmental drivers on the ecology of reef coral assemblages. Higher abundances of framework-building corals were typically associated with: weaker thermal disturbances and longer intervals for potential recovery; slower human population growth; reduced access by human settlements and markets; and less nearby agriculture. We therefore propose a framework of three management strategies (protect, recover or transform) by considering: (1) if reefs were above or below a proposed threshold of >10% cover of the coral taxa important for structural complexity and carbonate production; and (2) reef exposure to severe thermal stress during the 2014–2017 global coral bleaching event. Our findings can guide urgent management efforts for coral reefs, by identifying key threats across multiple scales and strategic policy priorities that might sustain a network of functioning reefs in the Indo-Pacific to avoid ecosystem collapse.

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