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Diversity  2010 

Ecological Processes and Contemporary Coral Reef Management

DOI: 10.3390/d2050717

Keywords: alternate states, anthropogenic impacts, resilience management

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Top-down controls of complex foodwebs maintain the balance among the critical groups of corals, algae, and herbivores, thus allowing the persistence of corals reefs as three-dimensional, biogenic structures with high biodiversity, heterogeneity, resistance, resilience and connectivity, and the delivery of essential goods and services to societies. On contemporary reefs world-wide, however, top-down controls have been weakened due to reduction in herbivory levels (overfishing or disease outbreak) while bottom-up controls have increased due to water quality degradation (increase in sediment and nutrient load) and climate forcing (seawater warming and acidification) leading to algal-dominated alternate benthic states of coral reefs, which are indicative of a trajectory towards ecological extinction. Management to reverse common trajectories of degradation for coral reefs necessitates a shift from optimization in marine resource use and conservation towards building socio-economic resilience into coral reef systems while attending to the most manageable human impacts (fishing and water quality) and the global-scale causes (climate change).


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