Handbook of Connectivity of Coral Reefs

Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2010 23:04:40 -0400
From: Peter Sale <sale@uwindsor.ca>
Subject: [Coral-List] Connectivity Handbook for Coral Reef Managers
now available
To: coral-list@coral.aoml.noaa.gov

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”ISO-8859-1″

Connectivity Handbook is now available

Reef areas that support the well-being of over half the world?s population
are compromised by management practices that fail to recognize ecosystem
interconnections, according to the authors of ?Connectivity Handbook. A
Guide for Marine Protected Area Managers?, a practical guide for reef
managers published by the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building
for Management Project (CRTR). The Connectivity Handbook is based largely
on the results of research at sites in the Caribbean and Pacific by
members of the CRTR?s international Connectivity Working Group.

Printed copies are available from UNU-INWEH, and the Handbook is available
for download from both the CRTR (www.gefcoral.org) and UNU-INWEH (
www.inweh.unu.edu) sites. A Spanish version is in preparation.

Understanding connectivity patterns is vital for effective reef
management. To effectively sustain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning,
as well as coastal fisheries, management actions must be designed to
ensure that the larvae are able to disperse successfully from spawning
sites to the reefs where they will settle and grow. While the authors
acknowledge major knowledge gaps, they outline tools and techniques to
assess connectivity for coral, fish, lobster and other coral reef species.
Although the handbook has been written mainly for coral reef managers,
the science discussed is relevant to managers of coastal waters in all

Some 40% of all people on Earth live within 50 km of a coast, and our
enthusiasm for coastal living is creating ever more environmental damage.
The decline of coastal environments is a critical problem for many
tropical countries with coral reefs. Unfortunately, current management
practices in most coastal regions are ineffective, and to continue them
endangers coastal economies and ecosystems. Today, climate change is
adding to the pressures on coastal ecosystems. This practical handbook is
one useful step to help better manage some of the planet?s most critically
important resources.

?No-take fishery reserves? and other Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and are
characteristically established without foreknowledge of the connectivity
of key species, nor use of techniques for acquiring such information at
sites of interest, even though the fundamental importance of such data is
broadly recognized. Dispersive pelagic larvae do not drift aimlessly in
the ocean. They use their varying behavioral and sensory capabilities to
minimize the extent of dispersal, and in many species, are active agents
in ensuring successful return to reef habitat, and to specific
microhabitats that will be suitable for juvenile life. MPAs should be
established in ways that take deliberate advantage of these patterns of
use of space. Our relative lack of scientific information on matters such
as the correct size, spacing or placement of no-take reserves limits our
ability to predict the effects that a proposed no-take reserve will have
on surrounding fisheries or biodiversity conservation. The Handbook
offers rules of thumb about connectivity that can help estimate patterns
of larval dispersal and exchange, noting that some taxa disperse over
limited distances, while others disperse more widely. It also
demonstrates ways to identify likely patterns of dispersal and track them,
and to measure the relatedness of populations of a species across

The Handbook also attempts to answer other questions reef managers
commonly struggle with, such as:
? Are MPAs in a network adequately connected?
? What is the maximum geographic distance at which they will remain
ecologically connected?
? Are populations within MPAs self-sustaining?
? What is the output of an MPA to surrounding exploited areas?

The authors also urge scientists and managers to work more closely
together in an adaptive management context to build and apply new
knowledge and insights to decision-making. We have to put in place the
best possible local management if we are to provide coral reefs with the
capacity to weather global threats. In a world in which climate is
changing rapidly, with consequences that are not yet fully apparent, it
will be more important than ever to ensure that coral reef and other
coastal ecosystems are managed as effectively as possible. Understanding
connectivity is an important step to building this effective management.

The Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management
Program (CRTR) is an international development project funded by the
Global Environment Facility (GEF), World Bank, and the University of
Queensland. CRTR addresses fundamental gaps in understanding of coral
reef ecosystems in order to strengthen global management and policies. The
Connectivity Working Group, one of six in the project, included 16 leading
experts in this technically challenging field, drawn from research and
teaching institutions across seven countries, together with collaborators
and graduate students.

UNU-INWEH, the United Nations University?s Institute for Water,
Environment and Health, which managed the Connectivity Working Group, was
established in 1996 to strengthen water management capacity, particularly
of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support.
With core funding from the Government of Canada through CIDA, it is hosted
by McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
Peter F. Sale
Assistant Director
United Nations University
Institute for Water, Environment and Health

UNU-INWEH The United Nations Think Tank on Water