Ecology

The Reef Next Door

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Science  15 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6087, pp. 1362
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6087.1362-a
CREDIT: © ANNDREY NEKRASOV/ALAMY

Marine reserves have been repeatedly shown to conserve local populations of fish and other marine organisms, but whether they also help to replenish nearby fished areas has been more difficult to demonstrate. Harrison et al. tested whether connectivity between reserves and nonreserves in the Great Barrier Reef enhanced the recruitment of fish to fished reefs. First, they sampled hundreds of adults and performed genetic parentage analysis on two exploited reef species, the coral trout and stripey snapper, across three of the reserves. They then identified the parents of juveniles captured from 19 sites scattered across a 1000-km area encompassing reserves and harvest areas. The authors found that adults sampled within the reserves exported a majority of their offspring to intervening harvest areas (between 55 and 83%) and other reserves, but that a significant proportion remained within the reserve. They estimate that reserves (where fish are both larger and more abundant) contribute about half of the overall recruitment, despite being smaller in area. These results demonstrate that marine reserves benefit nearby harvested areas substantially and facilitate persistence of the overall network.

Curr. Biol. 22, 10.1016/j.cub.2012.04.008 (2012).

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