Marine protected areas can help save coral reefs: Study

WASHINGTON,: Marine protected areas (MPAs) may be effective in saving coral reefs from the damaging effects of global climate change, according to a study which contradicts the notion that such efforts are futile.
The study by researchers at the University of Maine in the US spanned 700 kilometers of the eastern Caribbean, discovering that local reef protection efforts can work.
According to the findings, published in the journal Science Advances, local fisheries management resulted in a 62 per cent increase in the density of young corals, which improves the ecosystem’s ability to recover from major impacts like hurricanes and coral bleaching.
“MPAs can help coral reefs, but studies to the contrary just were not measuring the right things at the right scales,” said Robert Steneck, a professor at the University of Maine.
“The idea behind MPAs is that, by reducing fishing pressure, you increase the number of seaweed-eating fish, and they decrease the amount of harmful seaweed, which makes it easier for baby corals to get started and thrive on the reef,” Steneck said.
“But coral reefs are complicated, and lots of other things can affect fish numbers, their ability to control the growth of algae and the ability of corals to take advantage of this,” he said.
Taking field measurements on coral reefs is time consuming, so many researchers are forced to take shortcuts and use simple, widely available data to analyse how reefs respond to protection, said Peter Mumby from the University of Queensland, Australia.
“While it sounds obvious, we show that our ability to detect the benefits of MPAs on corals improves dramatically when you take more detailed measurements,” Mumby said.
There is no management panacea for any ecosystem, and especially not for coral reefs, researchers said.
“Certainly, stresses on reef corals from climate and atmospheric changes are serious and beyond direct management control,” Steneck said.
“However, we suggest that local management measures can bolster the recovery of corals after damaging events and, eventually, improve their overall condition,” he said. (AGENCIES)


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