|"We've taken what we now know and put it into much clearer management recommendations."
|Stephanie Wear, The Nature Conservancy|
Coral reef managers can now keep up with the latest science and best management practices with a click of a mouse. The resources are all part of a new online toolkit created by The Nature Conservancy.
“This is a body of resources that we have compiled for coral reef managers that are meant to make their jobs easier on a number of fronts,” says Stephanie Wear, director of coral reef conservation at The Nature Conservancy. “We’re keeping up with the latest science and best management practices so that coral reef managers don’t have to.”
The Reef Resilience Toolkit provides managers with information on building resilience to climate change into the design of marine protected areas (MPA) and their daily management activities.
“This is a body of resources, not step-by-step guidance,” Wear says. “We’re helping managers develop strategies based on the new science coming out to increase the likelihood that coral reefs will survive a warming or bleaching event.”
Climate Change Impacts
A coral bleaching event means that these normally colorful ecosystems are being subjected to starvation and could face disease, and even death. The primary culprit, scientists say, is rising sea temperatures fueled by climate change.
In 1997 and 1998, coral reefs worldwide bleached for the first time, killing about 16 percent of those reefs. Afterwards, scientists began discussions about why some corals survived while others died.
Why Corals Survived
In 2003, The Nature Conservancy put up the first version of the toolkit, which was an “assemblage of hypotheses of why corals survived,” Wear says. That resource has since been revamped several times, with the current Reef Resilience Toolkit being the latest iteration.
“It’s been entirely overhauled,” Wear says. “Since that first bleaching event, we’ve learned a lot and there’s been a lot of science focused on this problem. We’ve taken what we now know and put it into much clearer management recommendations.”
Distilling It Down
The toolkit is divided into two modules, Coral Reefs and Fish Spawning Aggregations. Each module begins with introductory information defining a problem and providing background about the system and issues.
There are also sections that provide specific guidelines on implementing resilience-based management. For example, the introduction to the coral reefs module focuses on the problem of climate change and coral bleaching, followed by guidance on how to design MPAs and networks to anticipate climate change.
There are also sections introducing the relatively new concept of reef resilience and providing 20 case studies from around the world. Online training and additional resources are featured, as are links to newsletters, webinars, and science blogs. The toolkit is available on CD-ROM for those with slow Internet connections.
Since March 2010, 540 people have enrolled in the interactive online course, which is jointly sponsored by the conservancy and the NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program. Wear says that so far the toolkit is being used in 70 countries.
“This product is a compilation of work coming from many organizations.” Wear says. “We’ve taken that information and distilled it down to make it useful for managers all over the world.”
She adds, “It’s been really exciting to work with so many people in so many places and see how relevant this information is.”