Dear MPA News:
Incorporating the potential impacts of climate change into MPA planning is certainly a wise approach. Often we focus on the root causes of climate change while forgetting that there are tangible actions we can take in response to ecosystem change.
In your March issue, MPA News published a list of six things for managers to consider ("Advice for coral MPA managers on managing for climate change"). I would like to suggest a seventh item. In American Samoa, a US territory in the central South Pacific, managers have been encouraging, investing in, and facilitating research into areas of coral reef science linked to climate change. For example, Chuck Birkeland of the University of Hawaii has begun a three-year study in American Samoa investigating genetic and physiological differences between corals inside and outside of bleaching-prone areas. If genetic differences exist, this will have implications for selected area management, as these areas may make good seed banks in the event of mass mortality.
Additional studies have examined factors that may provide increased natural resilience and resistance to climate change and therefore allow for longer term MPA success. Specifically being investigated are the amounts of UV shielding that mycosporine-like amino acids confer in corals of the lagoons and nearshore (cooler, deeper) reefs of Ofu Island in American Samoa. These results may provide evidence that a number of Ofu coral species are more tolerant of high levels of UV irradiation, suggesting that some reef areas are more resilient to climate-change stress. Much of this work was made possible by work of Peter Craig and Eva DiDonato, both of the National Park Service (DiDonato has since moved on), and this has proved to be a model for interagency and federal-state/territory collaboration.
While we may not be able to address the causes of global climate change in small island settings, I encourage managers to understand all aspects of their resources as best as possible, as such knowledge will undoubtedly assist with long term management efforts.
Coral Reef Initiative Coordinator, Department of Commerce, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799. Tel: +1 684 633 5155; E-mail: amsamoacrag [at] yahoo.com