Guiding coral reef futures in the Anthropocene

Anthropogenic changes to the Earth now rival those caused by the forces of nature and have shepherded us into a new planetary epoch – the Anthropocene. Such changes include profound and often unexpected alterations to coral reef ecosystems and the services they provide to human societies. Ensuring that reefs and their services endure during the Anthropocene will require that key drivers of coral reef change…

Identifying multiple coral reef regimes and their drivers across the Hawaiian archipelago

Loss of coral reef resilience can lead to dramatic changes in benthic structure, often called regime shifts, which significantly alter ecosystem processes and functioning. In the face of global change and increasing direct human impacts, there is an urgent need to anticipate and prevent undesirable regime shifts and, conversely, to reverse shifts in already degraded reef systems. Such challenges require a better understanding of the…

Impacts of Artisanal Fishing on Key Functional Groups and the Potential Vulnerability of Coral Reefs

Fishing can have major impacts on the structure of coral reef ecosystems. Overfishing of herbivores is particularly detrimental, as it makes the coral system more likely to undergo shifts to macroalgal dominance in the event of coral mass mortality. Knowing when important processes, such as herbivory, are becoming brittle is important because it can provide an opportunity for managers to avoid undesirable ecosystem-level changes. This…

Alternative states on coral reefs: beyond coral–macroalgal phase shifts

Degradation of coral reefs is often associated with changes in community structure where macroalgae become the dominant benthic life form. These phase shifts can be difficult to reverse. The debate on coral reef phase shifts has not focused on reports of coral reefs becoming dominated by other life forms following disturbance. A review of the primary and grey literature indicates that reefs dominated by corallimorpharia,…

No-Take Areas, Herbivory and Coral Reef Resilience

Coral reefs worldwide are under threat from various anthropogenic factors, including overfishing and pollution. A new study by Mumby et al. highlights the trophic relationships between humans, carnivorous and herbivorous fishes, and the potential role of no-take areas in maintaining vulnerable coral reef ecosystems. No-take areas, where fishing is prohibited, are vital tools for managing food webs, ecosystem function and the resilience of reefs, in…

Adaptive Management of the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon World Heritage Areas

Conventional perceptions of the interactions between people and their environment are rapidly transforming. Old paradigms that view humans as separate from nature, natural resources as inexhaustible or endlessly substitutable, and the world as stable, predictable, and in balance are no longer tenable. New conceptual frameworks are rapidly emerging based on an adaptive approach that focuses on learning and flexible management in a dynamic social-ecological landscape….

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