Making a model meaningful to coral reef managers in a developing nation: a case study of overfishing and rock anchoring in Indonesia.Conserv Biol. 2010 Oct; 24(5):1316-26.CB
Most of the world's coral reefs line the coasts of developing nations, where impacts from intense and destructive fishing practices form critical conservation issues for managers. Overfishing of herbivorous fishes can cause phase shifts to macroalgal dominance, and fishers' use of rocks as anchors lowers coral cover, giving further competitive advantage to macroalgae. Overfishing and anchoring have been studied extensively, but the role of their interaction in lowering coral reef resilience has not been quantified formally. We analyzed the combined effects of overfishing and rock anchoring on a range of reef habitat types--varying from high coral and low macroalgae cover to low coral and high macroalgae cover--in a marine park in Indonesia. We parameterized a model of coral and algal dynamics with three intensities of anchoring and fishing pressure. Results of the model indicated that damage caused by rock anchoring was equal to or possibly more devastating to coral reefs in the area than the impact of overfishing. This is an important outcome for local managers, who usually have the funds to distribute less-damaging anchors, but normally are unable to patrol regularly and effectively enough to reduce the impact of overfishing. We translated model results into an interactive visual tool that allows managers to explore the benefits of reducing anchoring frequency and fishing pressure. The potential consequences of inaction were made clear: the likelihood that any of the reef habitats will be dominated in the future by macroalgae rather than corals depends on reducing anchoring frequency, fishing pressure, or both. The tool provides a platform for strengthened relationships between managers and conservationists and can facilitate the uptake of recommendations regarding resource allocation and management actions. Conservation efforts for coral reefs in developing nations are likely to benefit from transforming model projections of habitat condition into tools local managers can understand and interact with.