Meeting fisheries, ecosystem function, and biodiversity goals in a human-dominated world

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Science  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6488, pp. 307-311
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax9412

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A complex landscape for reef management

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse systems in the ocean, and they provide both food and ecological services. They are also highly threatened by climate change and human pressure. Cinner et al. looked at how best to maximize three key components of reef use and health: fish biomass, parrotfish grazing, and fish trait diversity. They found that when human pressure is low, all three traits can be maximized at high conservation levels. However, as human use and pressure increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to promote biodiversity conservation. At some levels of human impact, even the highest amount of protection is not able to maximize biodiversity conservation.

Science, this issue p. 307


The worldwide decline of coral reefs necessitates targeting management solutions that can sustain reefs and the livelihoods of the people who depend on them. However, little is known about the context in which different reef management tools can help to achieve multiple social and ecological goals. Because of nonlinearities in the likelihood of achieving combined fisheries, ecological function, and biodiversity goals along a gradient of human pressure, relatively small changes in the context in which management is implemented could have substantial impacts on whether these goals are likely to be met. Critically, management can provide substantial conservation benefits to most reefs for fisheries and ecological function, but not biodiversity goals, given their degraded state and the levels of human pressure they face.

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