Incorporating surrogate species and seascape connectivity to improve marine conservation outcomes
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Conservation focuses on maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, but gaps in our knowledge of species biology and ecological processes often impede progress. For this reason, focal species and habitats are used as surrogates for multispecies conservation, but species-based approaches are not widely adopted in marine ecosystems. Reserves in the Solomon Islands were designed on the basis of local ecological knowledge to conserve bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) and to protect food security and ecosystem functioning. Bumphead parrotfish are an iconic threatened species and may be a useful surrogate for multispecies conservation. They move across tropical seascapes throughout their life history, in a pattern of habitat use that is shared with many other species. We examined their value as a conservation surrogate and assessed the importance of seascape connectivity (i.e., the physical connectedness of patches in the seascape) among reefs, mangroves, and seagrass to marine reserve performance. Reserves were designed for bumphead parrotfish, but also enhanced the abundance of other species. Integration of local ecological knowledge and seascape connectivity enhanced the abundance of 17 other harvested fish species in local reserves. This result has important implications for ecosystem functioning and local villagers because many of these species perform important ecological processes and provide the foundation for extensive subsistence fisheries. Our findings suggest greater success in maintaining and restoring marine ecosystems may be achieved when they are managed to conserve surrogate species and preserve functional seascape connections.
Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)