Marine reserves help coastal ecosystems cope with extreme weather
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Natural ecosystems have experienced widespread degradation due to human activities. Consequently, enhancing resilience has become a primary objective for conservation. Nature reserves are a favored management tool, but we need clearer empirical tests of whether they can impart resilience. Catastrophic flooding in early 2011 impacted coastal ecosystems across eastern Australia. We demonstrate that marine reserves enhanced the capacity of coral reefs to withstand flood impacts. Reserve reefs resisted the impact of perturbation, whilst fished reefs did not. Changes on fished reefs were correlated with the magnitude of flood impact, whereas variation on reserve reefs was related to ecological variables. Herbivory and coral recruitment are critical ecological processes that underpin reef resilience, and were greater in reserves and further enhanced on reserve reefs near mangroves. The capacity of reserves to mitigate external disturbances and promote ecological resilience will be critical to resisting an increased frequency of climate-related disturbance.
Global Change Biology
Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)