- A novel protocol was developed for ecological prioritization of coral reefs for inclusion in a marine reserve network. Standard benthic survey data were normalized and combined in a conservation priority index (CPI) which rates individual candidate sites according to their ecological values and their potential contributions to an effective network.
- The CPI differentiates between sites on the basis of strength or weakness of surrogates for desirable attributes such as benthic biodiversity, reef-building capacity and hard-coral resilience.
- Biodiversity and reef-building attributes (more is better) were assigned progressive weightings (high abundance, high score), whereas neutral or detrimental attributes (less is better) were assigned regressive weightings (high abundance, low score).
- Abundance of small corals (new recruits and remnants) was included as an indicator of a site's potential for recovery following disturbance.
- The CPI rankings were used in conjunction with multidimensional scaling to prioritize candidate sites for a proposed reserve network near Salvador, Brazil. The information is complementary to considerations of existing uses and socio-economic considerations, in the prioritization of reefs for protection.
- The approach ensured that ecological inputs to the broader marine spatial planning process embraced both representativeness of biodiversity per se and the investigator's evaluation of key qualitative site attributes (amount, size, and resilience indicators for the critical architectural components hard coral and encrusting coralline algae).
Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.