Reserve effects and natural variation in coral reef communities

Harborne, Alastair R., Mumby, Peter J., Kappel, Carrie V., Dahlgren, Craig P., Micheli, Fiorenza, Holmes, Katherine E., Sanchirico, James N., Broad, Kenneth, Elliott, Ian A. and Brumbaugh, Daniel R. (2008) Reserve effects and natural variation in coral reef communities. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45 4: 1010-1018. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01490.x

Author Harborne, Alastair R.
Mumby, Peter J.
Kappel, Carrie V.
Dahlgren, Craig P.
Micheli, Fiorenza
Holmes, Katherine E.
Sanchirico, James N.
Broad, Kenneth
Elliott, Ian A.
Brumbaugh, Daniel R.
Title Reserve effects and natural variation in coral reef communities
Journal name Journal of Applied Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0021-8901
Publication date 2008-08
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01490.x
Volume 45
Issue 4
Start page 1010
End page 1018
Total pages 9
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
1. No-take reserves are a common tool for fisheries management and biodiversity conservation in marine ecosystems. Despite much discussion of their benefits, data documenting many reserve effects are surprisingly scarce. Several studies have also been criticized for a lack of rigour so that changes within reserves cannot be separated from underlying natural variation and attributed unequivocally to protection.
2. We sampled both benthic (video quadrats) and associated fish communities (underwater visual censuses) in a well-enforced reserve in The Bahamas. Sampling was explicitly stratified by habitat ('Montastraea reef' and 'gorgonian plain'). To distinguish reserve effects from natural variation, we compared changes inside and outside the reserve with those seen at equivalent spatial scales in other reef systems in the Bahamian archipelago that lack reserves. Reserve-level differences in benthic or fish communities not documented in other reef systems are categorized as 'robust' effects.
3. Robust reserve effects were limited to Montastraea reefs. The reserve supported an average of ≈ 15% more fish species per site compared to outside the reserve. This pattern was particularly driven by more large-bodied grouper, damselfish, and butterflyfish species inside the reserve. Increases in fish biomass and differences in community structure inside the reserve were limited to large-bodied groupers. Increased grazing pressure by parrotfishes in the reserve has lowered macroalgal cover, and caused previously undocumented changes in benthic community structure compared to sites outside the reserve.
4. Some reserve-level differences in fish communities were categorized as 'misleading' because equivalent differences were seen in other reef systems, and are likely to be caused by natural intra-habitat variation. Separation of robust and misleading results was only possible because of archipelago-scale sampling.
5. Synthesis and applications. The Bahamas represents a relatively lightly fished system within the Caribbean. However, cessation of fishing has still increased the mean number of species, the abundance of the most highly prized fishes and, through trophic cascades, altered benthic community structure. In certain habitats, reserves are clearly important for conserving fisheries and biodiversity. However, reserve effects must be explicitly separated from confounding variables to ensure conservation benefits are accurately identified and reported, and not oversold to managers and local stakeholders.
Keyword Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Intra-habitat variation
Marine reserves
Reef-fish communities
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Biological Sciences Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 38 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 37 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 23 Nov 2010, 14:33:51 EST