Marine reserves enhance resilience to climate change

December 2, 2013
Marine reserves enhance resilience to climate change
Large-bodied species such as the blue-throated wrasse were observed in greater numbers in a marine reserve following protection from fishing, leading to greater community stability and resilience. Credit: Dr. Rick Stuart-Smith

A new study, led by a University of Southampton scientist, highlights the potential for fish communities in marine reserves to resist climate change impacts better than communities on fished coasts.

The study, which is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, involved an Australian research team from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Marine and Atmospheric Research.

The researchers looked at different types of community responses to both short- and long-term environmental variability. They found that marine reserves have the potential to build community resilience through mechanisms that promote species and functional stability, and resist colonisation by warm water vagrants.

In addition, some ecological signals were consistently noted in both the reserve and fished sites, such as in increase in the number of herbivorous fish. Their results therefore suggest that persistent long-term warming in southeast Australia will lead to major changes in the structure and function of shallow reef .

"What I found most striking about this work," comments lead author Dr Amanda Bates from the University of Southampton, "is that marine reserves have an important role to play in understanding ecological change in the absence of fishing – the knowledge that we have gained was only possible because the long-term data on fish species were available from a marine reserve."

The authors took advantage of a two decade long data series of fish abundance from the Maria Island Marine Reserve, collected by Dr Neville Barrett and Professor Graham Edgar since 1992 with support from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. The study focused on how the biodiversity and biological characteristics of fish communities changed in the following a sustained period of sea warming in comparison to nearby sites open to fishing.

Explore further: New study of Glover's Reef challenges whether corals will benefit from Marine Reserves' protection

More information: 'Resilience and signatures of tropicalization in protected reef fish communities' Amanda E. Bates, Neville S. Barrett, Rick D. Stuart-Smith, Neil J. Holbrook, Peter A. Thompson and Graham J. Edgar, Nature Climate Change, 01 December 2013.

Related Stories

Naive fish easy targets for spear fishers

November 13, 2012

(Phys.org)—Big fish that have grown up in marine reserves do not seem to know enough to avoid fishers armed with spear guns waiting outside the reserve.

How much protection is enough?

February 27, 2013

Protection of marine areas from fishing increases density and biomass of fish and invertebrates (such as lobster and scallops) finds a systematic review published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Evidence. ...

Scientists call for large ocean wilderness parks

April 15, 2013

Leading international marine scientists have called for the protection of more, large marine wilderness areas in a bid to shield the world's dwindling stocks of fish from destruction.

Marine reserves help boost reef shark numbers

July 22, 2013

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have used non-destructive stereo video technology to obtain proof that marine reserves can have positive effects on reef shark populations.

Recommended for you

Drought's lasting impact on forests

July 30, 2015

In the virtual worlds of climate modeling, forests and other vegetation are assumed to bounce back quickly from extreme drought. But that assumption is far off the mark, according to a new study of drought impacts at forest ...

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.