Climate change, coral loss, and the curious case of the parrotfish paradigm: Why don't MPAs improve reef resilience?

Friday 14 December, 2018
UNSW AGSM Building, Pioneer Theatre

Scientists have advocated for local interventions, such as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and fisheries restrictions, as tools to mitigate local stressors to limit the effects of climate change on reef-building corals and increase resilience. However, in a literature review, we find little empirical support for this notion of  "managed resilience". We outline some reasons for why MPAs and herbivorous fish (especially parrotfish) protection have had little effect on coral resilience. One key explanation is that impacts of local stressors (e.g., pollution and fishing) are often swamped by the much greater effect of ocean warming on corals. Another is the sheer complexity (including numerous context dependencies) of the five cascading links assumed by the managed resilience hypothesis. If reefs cannot be saved by local actions, it is time to face reef degradation head-on, by directly addressing anthropogenic climate change: the root cause of global coral decline.