A new study conducted by Brittany Huntington, Mandy Karnauskas and UM Professor Diego Lirman appears in the journal Coral Reefs. Its authors tested whether 10 years of reserve designation has translated into positive impacts on coral communities in Gloverís Reef Marine Reserve, Belize. Results from their surveys showed no clear indication of reserve implementation benefiting coral cover, colony size or the abundance of juvenile corals. Credit: Image courtesy of Brittany Huntington.

A new study conducted by Brittany Huntington, Mandy Karnauskas and UM Professor Diego Lirman appears in the journal Coral Reefs. Its authors tested whether 10 years of reserve designation has translated into positive impacts on coral communities in Gloverís Reef Marine Reserve, Belize. Results from their surveys showed no clear indication of reserve implementation benefiting coral cover, colony size or the abundance of juvenile corals. Credit: Image courtesy of Brittany Huntington.

Surveys of famed Belize Reef suggest that reserve status doesn’t guarantee protection and restoration

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY ó Results of a 10-year study at a well-known reef in Belize suggest that a protected reserve status isn’t doing much to restore the coral ecosystems. The study concludes that, in order to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems, management must be carefully targeted.

“Reserves that are not designed and implemented specifically for the protection of the coral community may fail to provide benefits to these species,” said researcher Mandy Karnauskas, part of a team with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.

Instead, the scientists documented declines in the coral community both inside and outside of the marine reserve at Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, designated as a World Heritage site. These patterns of coral decline at Glover’s Reef seem to reflect a regional patterns of coral decline in the Caribbean, including a shift in dominance from massive reef-building broadcasting species to smaller brooding species, the researchers said.

The results were compiled from surveys at 87 patch reefs both inside and outside the marine reserve. They showed no clear indication of reserve implementation benefiting coral cover, colony size or the abundance of juvenile corals. The study was conducted by Brittany Huntington, Mandy Karnauskas and UM Professor Diego Lirman appears in the journal Coral Reefs.

“We had hoped to find evidence of reserve protection benefiting the coral community as well as the fish community at Glover’s Atoll. Unfortunately, the coral communities on protected reefs were in no better condition than the fished reefs,” says Huntington.

The scientists detected no difference in herbivorous fish abundances or the abundance of macroalgae dominating the reef between reserve and fished sites. This provides a potential explanation for the lack of cascading effects on the coral community.

“The macroalgae is faster growing than corals, dominating the available free space on the reef and impeding coral growth and survival,” said Huntington. “Without greater numbers of herbivorous fishes in the reserve to consume the macroalgae that is dominating these reefs, corals have little chance at recovery.”

The UM team also found that massive broadcasting coral species exhibited greater losses over time than their smaller-sized counterparts, suggesting that local management actions have not alleviated the trend of high mortality for these species.

“Glover’s Marine Reserve provides a unique opportunity to learn more about how marine reserves impact coral and fish populations,” says Karnauskas. “Reserves that are not designed and implemented specifically for the protection of the coral community may fail to provide benefits to these species.”

Summit County Voice