Strengthening the resilience of marine ecosystems

coral reefEarlier today the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) was announced. The newly protected Northwest Hawaiian Islands and surrounding waters and reefs is slightly larger than the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia (139,793 and 128,960 square miles respectively). Today’s announcement, combined with the recent listing of two coral species (Elkhorn and Staghorn) on the U.S. Endangered Species Act, suggests momentum towards strengthening the resilience of marine ecosystems.

With many marine protected areas being both small and isolated, a move toward creating very large MPA’s is a more effective strategy. Larger areas allow for more widespread dispersal of species, including coral offspring, which provides greater insurance against changing conditions. Even better would be the linking together of MPA’s in a global network. Authors of a paper published this past March in Nature (“Coral reef diversity refutes the neutral theory of biodiversity”), have called for the worldwide networking of tropical marine parks and protected areas to reduce risks of extinction under climate change.

One of the paper’s authors, Prof. Terry Hughes, is Centre Director of the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, based in Townsville, Australia, as well as the project leader for the Resilience Alliance’s Marine Resilience Program. Later this summer, Prof. Hughes, along with other researchers will gather in Maine for a meeting with the theme “Social-ecological traps and transformations in marine fisheries”. More information at: http://www.resalliance.org/1608.php.

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