Exploration Based Conservation: Developing Capacity from Deep Coral Reefs
Posted by Sonia Rowley | Hawaii, United States
Tropical coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific are central to marine biodiversity, yet resource management strategies developed by Pacific Island cultures over hundreds of generations face significant challenges in the modern world. Ocean temperatures have fluctuated over the millennia, a single stressor that reefs may well have the capacity to recover from in our current climate, but the addition of multiple stressors such as eutrophication, and international fishing exploitation exacerbate coral reef resilience.
Explore & Discover
Deep-reef exploration at Pohnpei and its neighbouring atolls has revealed annual temperature anomalies across 0-150 m/500 ft depth. These appear to have resulted in extensive algal smothering down to 60 m/200 ft on Pohnpei reefs, whereas neighbouring atolls that lack multiple stressors seemed unaffected.
Share to Protect
Through sharing our data and imagery with local communities and governing bodies, we have helped to select and protect deep reefs with the greatest biodiversity and abundance of fishes and invertebrates from local and international exploitation – which are increasing at an alarming rate - and consequently the adjacent shallow reefs will be better protected.
We have demonstrated a ‘Proof of Concept’ of a simple model to reduce multiple stressors on reefs through increasing community awareness and value, which can be developed and applied throughout the Pacific Island nations and other tropical regions. Exploration and research of deep-reef ecosystems on oceanic islands and atolls not only reveals species and ecological patterns new to science, but also shapes priority conservation management decisions, leading to an exploratory-based conservation model: to discover, share, protect, and leverage a natural capacity, the raw material of which already exists.