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Reserve design for uncertain responses of coral reefs to climate change

Authors

  • Peter J. Mumby,

    Corresponding author
    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Qld 4068, Australia
    2. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of BioSciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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  • Ian A. Elliott,

    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of BioSciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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  • C. Mark Eakin,

    1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coral Reef Watch, E/RA31, 1335 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226, USA
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  • William Skirving,

    1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coral Reef Watch, E/RA31, 1335 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226, USA
    2. ReefSense Pty Ltd, 675 Ross River Road, Kirwan, Qld 4817, Australia
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  • Claire B. Paris,

    1. Applied Marine Physics, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
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  • Helen J. Edwards,

    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of BioSciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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  • Susana Enríquez,

    1. Unidad Académica Puerto Morelos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ap. Postal 1152, CP 77500 Cancún, Mexico
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  • Roberto Iglesias-Prieto,

    1. Unidad Académica Puerto Morelos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ap. Postal 1152, CP 77500 Cancún, Mexico
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  • Laurent M. Cherubin,

    1. Applied Marine Physics, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
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  • Jamie R. Stevens

    1. Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of BioSciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK
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E-mail:p.j.mumby@uq.edu.au

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 132–140

Abstract

Rising sea temperatures cause mass coral bleaching and threaten reefs worldwide. We show how maps of variations in thermal stress can be used to help manage reefs for climate change. We map proxies of chronic and acute thermal stress and develop evidence-based hypotheses for the future response of corals to each stress regime. We then incorporate spatially realistic predictions of larval connectivity among reefs of the Bahamas and apply novel reserve design algorithms to create reserve networks for a changing climate. We show that scales of larval dispersal are large enough to connect reefs from desirable thermal stress regimes into a reserve network. Critically, we find that reserve designs differ according to the anticipated scope for phenotypic and genetic adaptation in corals, which remains uncertain. Attempts to provide a complete reserve design that hedged against different evolutionary outcomes achieved limited success, which emphasises the importance of considering the scope for adaptation explicitly. Nonetheless, 15% of reserve locations were selected under all evolutionary scenarios, making them a high priority for early designation. Our approach allows new insights into coral holobiont adaptation to be integrated directly into an adaptive approach to management.

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