In addition to four Focus Areas—Belize, Brazil, Fiji, and the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS)—we conduct research at sites around the world and pursue Science-to-Action activities at the global scale.
This guidebook provides practical tips on how to best bring together the worlds of science and decision-making.
Ecological Effects of Marine Managed Areas
Scientists used a network of interdisciplinary studies to investigate the
ecological effects of marine managed areas (MMAs) dispersed widely
across the tropics. The results indicate that rigorously enforced MMAs
can be an effective management tool to reduce
overuse of natural resources and conflicts among different uses of the ocean. In addition, MMAs can provide important
data for adaptive management of marine
resources. This four-page policy brief draws from the Living with the Sea report.
Coral Health Index: Measuring Coral Community Health
Adaptive management of coral reef communities will be most effective if a
reliable annual indicator of community health is available to resource
managers and policymakers. The Coral Health Index (CHI) is such a tool.
Living with the Sea: Local Efforts Buffer Effects of Global Change
This reader-friendly, richly illustrated 20-page booklet examines the role of marine managed areas (MMAs) in restoring and sustaining healthy oceans, particularly the importance of local management efforts.
People and Oceans: Managing Marine Areas for Human Well-being
This 20-page booklet examines the role of people in marine managed areas (MMAs), including the human well-being benefits and challenges of MMAs, and how socioeconomic conditions affect success.
Marine Managed Areas: What, Why, and Where
This reader-friendly, richly illustrated 16-page booklet defines marine managed areas (MMAs) and discusses the challenges of implementation.
Economic Incentives Motivate Human Behavior Change (PDF, 0.9 MB)
This four-page policy brief summarizes a guidebook on economic incentives and outlines how to design an incentive approach.
Bridging the Gap Between Human Culture and Conservation (PDF, 1.0 MB)
four-page policy brief discusses the mutual dependence of humans on
their surrounding environment, and the role of cultural beliefs and
behaviors as the mediating force between the two.
Socioeconomic Conditions Along the World’s Tropical Coasts: 2008
This report synthesizes data from individual socioeconomic assessments to quantify and qualify regional and global dependence on coral reef resources, perceptions of resource conditions, threats to marine and coastal resources, and support for marine management strategies such as marine protected areas.
Economic Values of Coral Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses: A Global Compilation
This booklet compiles the results of a wide variety of economic valuation studies on coral reef and related ecosystems around the world, with a focus on the following ecosystem goods and services: tourism, fisheries, coastal protection, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration.
Lessons on Connectivity and Conservation in Coral Reef Habitats: A Summary from the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium
This four-page policy brief summarizes key findings with particular relevance to conservation and management of coral reefs. The findings center around four main lessons: (1) larval recruitment occurs on a smaller scale than previously thought, (2) inter-archipelagic connectivity is limited, (3) oceanographic models can help managers assess reserve design options, and (4) ecological monitoring and genetic connectivity studies need to join forces to effectively characterize population dynamics.
Global Synthesis Report (PDF, 291 KB)
This report presents an integrated overview of findings from the following studies, drawing also from additional data and studies.
- Analysis of MMAs worldwide identified several human wellbeing benefits of MMAs: more diversified livelihoods, improved household income, greater food security, improved human health, greater community participation, enhanced community empowerment, reduced user conflicts, improved compliance, greater recognition of user rights, greater environmental awareness, enhanced social capital, and greater social resilience. However, MMAs also pose challenges, including loss of access to fishing grounds, inequitable distribution of benefits, dependence on project assistance, and unmet expectations. In-depth analysis of the socioeconomic benefits of 11 MMAs in Belize, Ecuador, Fiji, and Panama identified the following improvements: higher average income, more diversified livelihoods (that is, community members are more likely to be engaged in both tourism and fishing), and a much greater appreciation for the biodiversity and socioeconomic benefits of the MMA.
- Analysis revealed that MMAs can reduce fisheries declines by providing sanctuary and/or by reducing harvest. However, they are insufficient to reverse degradation due to pollution or climate change. Furthermore, the analysis found that while MMAs do not compensate for human population increases and associated pressures, they can provide resilience to various stressors, which is increasingly important in the face of global change.
- MMAs in which no-take zones are effectively maintained and enforced result in diverse, productive reefs with large predators, extensive live coral cover, and reduced macroalgae. Data from reference sites in the Line Islands indicate that even modest human development pressures can have significant impacts on coral reefs, including subtle impacts on microbial communities. The highest levels of biodiversity and ecosystem services are maintained in MMAs with the most protection.
- Analyses of fishes and corals from the tropical western and central Pacific have shown that these organisms are more localized in their dispersal abilities than previously assumed. Despite their planktonic dispersal mechanisms, the dispersal envelopes are in the range of 10s of kilometers rather than 100s or 1,000s. Consequently, local resource users and MMA managers cannot rely on distant populations to replenish local populations with new recruits, indicating that local management efforts are critical for long-term viability of local fish and coral populations.
- Analysis of the role of economic incentives in driving behavioral change in 27 MMAs worldwide demonstrated that approaches such as buyouts, conservation agreements, and alternative livelihoods provide positive incentives for altering human behavior. Combining features of the three approaches can remove harvest capacity to reduce pressure on resources, provide ongoing incentives to ensure long-term compliance, and create alternative economic options to generate income. In terms of MMA investment, an analysis of eight MMA sites in Central and South America revealed that the total expenditures for these sites ranged from US$88,000 to US$1,431,300 and covered a variety of uses, with enforcement (13-37%), research and monitoring (10-43%), and field operations (30-56%) composing the largest proportion of their budgets. A global literature review found that outreach is a critical component of MMA success, indicating that since outreach is typically a small component of budgets, more resources need to be put into this component.
Theme: Management Effectiveness
- Core ecological monitoring. In Belize, Brazil, Fiji, and the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, we used standardized protocols to track ecological changes inside and outside marine managed areas. To identify global patterns in MMA effectiveness, we integrated and analyzed the results from the sites. Science Report (86 KB)
- Core socioeconomic monitoring. Using standardized methods, we monitored how socioeconomic conditions affect MMA success and how MMAs affect socioeconomic parameters in the MMAS Focus Areas. Because we conducted socioeconomic and ecological monitoring in parallel, we can unravel linkages between the human and natural systems. Science Report (3.3 MB)
- Global socioeconomic conditions of MMAs. We conducted a global analysis of people’s dependence on marine resources, perceptions of resource conditions and threats, and MMA governance status. This study provides insights into the importance of coastal and marine resources to human well-being. Science Report (PDF, 2.3 MB)
- Predictive decision-support tool. We developed a tool called the Marine Integrated Decision Analysis System (MIDAS), which enables managers, policy makers, and stakeholders to predict the effectiveness of MMAs based on interactions of ecological, socioeconomic, and governance factors. MIDAS User Guide (2.2 MB)
- Diagnostic system for ecosystem health. We developed a diagnostic tool for evaluating the health of coral reefs. The tool is a set of ecological indicators that can be used to assess a reef’s condition and to track changes caused by human activities. It can be used to compare MMAs to identify successful management approaches. Science Report (PDF, 1.9 MB)
Theme: Connectivity of Populations and Habitats
- Role of deepwater habitats. We are studying the degree of ecological linkage between shallow and deepwater areas to evaluate the need to extend MMAs offshore. Science Report (PDF, 2.9 MB)
Theme: Climate Change Adaptation
- Early-warning indicators. We are identifying genes and proteins that corals activate when experiencing stress from disease or from warmer seawater due to climate change. The goal is to produce a tissue-sampling kit that managers can use to assess coral health, providing early detection before bleaching or visible disease is apparent. In addition, we are studying shifts in the microbial ecology of coral reefs as the ecosystem degrades. Measuring these shifts represents a powerful new approach to determining ecosystem health. Science Report (643 KB)
- Potential for MMAs to boost corals’ resilience. We are investigating the impacts of increased carbon dioxide concentrations on coral growth rates and are developing protocols that are used to evaluate corals’ resiliency to stresses inside and outside MMAs. Science Report (PDF, 422 KB)
- Advanced cross-site comparison of ecosystem health. We are creating a next-generation diagnostic system for comparing ecosystem health for reefs around the world that offers improvements upon current approaches such as the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) and the “scorecard” for the Healthy Reefs Initiative. This system will include representatives of all living organisms in the ecosystem, from microbes to sharks, which will provide a diagnosis of overall current ecosystem health. Science Report (PDF, 1.9 MB)
Theme: Economic and Cultural Values
- Value of natural resources. We assessed the monetary value of natural resources from marine management areas. The study provides estimates of changes in resource values expected under different management scenarios. Resource managers, educators, and conservationists can use the findings to build support for marine conservation and to prioritize among management options. Science Report (279 KB)
- Cultural roles. We conducted focus groups and interviews to learn how cultural practices and values influence the outcomes of marine management areas. Science Report (314 KB)
- Science-to-Action workshops in four Focus Areas brought together MMAS researchers and the relevant stakeholders—government, user groups, businesses, NGOs, and academics—to discuss how MMAS research can contribute to existing and planned conservation efforts.
- Our research in the Line Islands was instrumental in the establishment of the 195,000-square-mile Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument on January 6, 2009. Ecological monitoring by our interdisciplinary team of scientists revealed that the Line Islands have the most pristine coral reefs on the planet. Our scientists communicated closely with the White House, providing data and photographs, as President Bush made the decision to establish the new national monument. Underwater photographs from the expedition clearly showed a devastating loss of reef biodiversity at the more populated islands.
- We released the first global compilation of the economic values of reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses, and the first global assessment of socioeconomic conditions of the tropical coasts, which have been used by World Bank staff, Asian Development Bank staff, and a U.S. Congresswoman to demonstrate the importance of coral reefs in areas they want to protect.
- After discussions about our global research results, the Kiribati Minister of Environment proposed a halt to all land development projects in Kiribati; a strategic exercise to examine environmental impacts; and a revision of the Kiribati World Heritage proposal to include the Line Islands.
- Based on a session including 27 expert speakers, we published Lessons on Connectivity and Conservation in Coral Reef Habitats: A Summary from the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium. The document provides guidance for managers thinking about ecological connectivity in their marine conservation work.
- We published A User’s Guide to the Coral Resiliency Assay: A Protocol for Assessing Coral Response to Stress and presented it at the International Coral Reef Symposium.
- Building on preliminary results from our Global Management Effectiveness study, we facilitated an interactive session with 100 MMA practitioners at the World Conservation Congress. The group concluded that MMAs can increase and diversify economic opportunities; be implemented with a recognition of traditional fishing and other user rights; enhance community empowerment; and resolve user conflicts. Participants identified several key challenges in MMA implementation: unequal opportunities for economic benefits; loss of access to fishing grounds; increased dependence on project assistance; and unmet expectations. We organized the session with Fond Francais pour l’Environment Mondial, NOAA, and the University of Washington.
- Through the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas–Marine, and in collaboration with WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Nature England, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we developed an online marine protected area (MPA) library for MPA practitioners around the world that was launched at the World Conservation Congress. The library is a portal to the most widely acclaimed resource materials on key MPA issues, such as guidebooks, toolkits, and peer-reviewed publications.
For information about our social science research, contact Giselle Samonte-Tan, Director for Social Science Research and Outreach.
For information about our natural science research, contact John Tschirky, Director for Natural Science Research and Outreach.