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Capturing the cornerstones of coral reef resilience: linking theory to practice
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2008 (English)In: Coral reefs (Print), ISSN 0722-4028, E-ISSN 1432-0975, Vol. 27, no 4, 795-809 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Coral reefs can undergo unexpected and dramatic changes in community composition, so called phase shifts. This can have profound consequences for ecosystem services upon which human welfare depends. Understanding of this behavior is in many aspects still in its infancy. Resilience has been argued to provide insurance against unforeseen ecosystem responses in the face of environmental change, and has become a prime goal for the management of coral reefs. However, diverse definitions of resilience can be found in the literature, making its meaning ambiguous. Several studies have used the term as a theoretical framework and concern regarding its practical applicability has been raised. Consequently, operationalizing theory to make resilience observable is an important task, particularly for policy makers and managers dealing with pressing environmental problems. Ultimately this requires some type of empirical assessments, something that has proven difficult due to the multidimensional nature of the concept. Biodiversity, spatial heterogeneity, and connectivity have been proposed as cornerstones of resilience as they may provide insurance against ecological uncertainty. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the divergent uses of the concept and to propose empirical indicators of the cornerstones of coral reef resilience. These indicators include functional group approaches, the ratios of "good" and "bad" colonizers of space, measurements of spatial heterogeneity, and estimates of potential space availability against grazing capacity. The essence of these operational indicators of resilience is to use them as predictive tools to recognize vulnerability before disturbance occurs that may lead to abrupt phase shifts. Moving toward operationalizing resilience theory is imperative to the successful management of coral reefs in an increasingly disturbed and human-dominated environment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 27, no 4, 795-809 p.
Keyword [en]
Diversity, Functional groups, Management, Phase shifts, Coral reefs, Resilience
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-15628DOI: 10.1007/s00338-008-0426-zISI: 000260616400011OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-15628DiVA: diva2:182148
Available from: 2008-12-07 Created: 2008-12-07 Last updated: 2012-11-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Exploring the resilience in coral reefs
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the resilience in coral reefs
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Considering the unprecedented global decline of coral reefs concerns about their future existence are well-justified. Safeguarding ecological resilience (i.e. the capacity of ecosystems to absorb disturbance without changing their identity) has become a prime goal for management in order to combat further degradation of coral reefs. This thesis uses the concept of ecological resilience as the theoretical framework to analyze vulnerability of coral reefs exposed to human interventions. This thesis consists of four papers. Papers 1-3 are based on field data from Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, whereas Paper 4 is a synthesis that explores the use of the resilience concept in coral reefs, putting the first papers into a broader context.

Paper 1 investigates the distribution and estimate the status of functional groups of coral, fish and sea urchins on five coral reefs outside the western coast of  Zanzibar Island. The study provides a first ecological “baseline” that may help detect future degradation and evaluate the effects of impending management interventions. The results show that reefs with high accessibility, i.e. close to shore and open to fisheries, have lower abundance and diversity of functional groups of both coral and fish compared to more remote or protected reefs. Paper 2 analyzes the impact of artisanal fishing on three key functional groups of herbivorous (grazers, scrapers and bioeroders). The study shows a negative correlation between fishing pressure and fish biomass, abundance, and diversity. The study also demonstrates a negative influence of fishing on the demographic structure of functional groups. Paper 3 focuses on the scraping function (i.e. the capacity of fish to remove algae and open up bare substratum for coral larval settlement) and investigates how body size of individual fishes influences the function. The results reveal a non-linear relationship between body size and scraping function and suggest that fishes start to have a significant impact on the function only after reaching a certain size. The results from Paper 1-3 suggest that human interventions (fishing in particular) can have profound impacts on the distribution and composition of functional groups which influence the vulnerability of coral reefs. Paper 4 provides an overview of the divergent uses of the resilience concept and proposes a range of empirical indicators which can be helpful when assessing coral reef resilience, such as functional groups, the ratio of “good” and “bad” colonizers of space, demographic skewness, discontinuities, the distribution of local phase shifts in the seascape and estimates of potential space availability against grazing capacity.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 2009. 50 p.
Keyword
Coral Reefs, Resilience, Functional Groups, Vulnerability, Overfishing, Ecosystem Indicators, Tanzania, Zanzibar
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-26659 (URN)978-91-7155-857-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-05-08, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-04-17 Created: 2009-04-06 Last updated: 2009-04-06Bibliographically approved
2. Upholding the coral loop: Resilience, alternative stable states and feedbacks in coral reefs
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Upholding the coral loop: Resilience, alternative stable states and feedbacks in coral reefs
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Coral reefs are suffering unprecedented declines in coral cover and species diversity. These changes are often associated with  substantial shifts in community structure to new dominant organisms. Ultimately, these “phase shifts” can be persistent and very difficult to return from. Building insurance against degradation and decreasing the likelihood of reefs undergoing shifts to undesirable states will require sustainable management practices that uphold coral reef resilience. This thesis consists of five papers that contribute new knowledge useful for managing the resilience of coral reefs, and other marine ecosystems. Paper I shows how the morphology of natural substrate (dead coral colonies) can significantly influence coral recruitment patterns. Paper II focuses on larval lipid levels, a key determinant of coral dispersal potential, in a common Caribbean coral (Favia fragum). It shows that i) lipid levels exhibit a significant, non-linear reduction throughout the larval release period of F. fragum and ii) exposure to a common pollutant (copper) could potentially lead to a more rapid lipid consumption in the larvae. Paper III presents a broader analysis of the different undesirable states a coral reef can shift to as a consequence of reef degradation. It concludes that different states are caused by different driving factors and that management must explicitly acknowledge this. Paper IV proposes a suite of resilience indicators that can help managers assess when a coral-dominated reef might be moving towards a shift to an undesirable state. These indicators capture key-processes occuring on different temporal and spatial scales and signal resilience loss early enough for managers to take appropriate measures. Finally, Paper V reviews the feedback loops that reinforce the undesirable states of five important marine ecosystems and suggests certain strategies that can ease the restoration back to healthier conditions. Managing these critical feedbacks will recquire monitoring the processes underpinning these feedbacks, breaking already established feedbacks loops through large-scale management trials and acknowledging transdisciplinary solutions that move management beyond the discipline of ecology

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 2010. 39 p.
Keyword
resilience, alternative stable states, regimes, feedbacks, recruitment, coral reefs, marine ecosystem management, regime shifts, phase shifts
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-34037 (URN)978-91-7155-997-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-01-29, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 5: In progress.Available from: 2010-01-07 Created: 2010-01-04 Last updated: 2010-01-07Bibliographically approved

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