Synergistic effects of reserves and connectivity on ecological resilience
Article first published online: 30 OCT 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology © 2012 British Ecological Society
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 49, Issue 6, pages 1195–1203, December 2012
How to Cite
Olds, A. D., Pitt, K. A., Maxwell, P. S., Connolly, R. M. (2012), Synergistic effects of reserves and connectivity on ecological resilience. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49: 1195–1203. doi: 10.1111/jpe.12002
- Issue published online: 29 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 30 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 21 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Received: 23 AUG 2012
- Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management
- Australian Research Council
- coral reef;
- landscape ecology;
- marine reserve;
- trophic cascade
- In light of the global extent and cascading effect of our impact on the environment, we design and manage reserves to restore biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems. Mobile organisms link important processes across ecosystems, however, their roles in providing these services are often overlooked and we need to know how they influence ecosystem functions in reserves. Herbivorous fish play a key role in coral reef seascapes. By removing algae, they promote coral growth and recruitment, and help to increase resilience.
- We examined how connectivity with mangroves affected herbivore populations and benthic succession on reefs in eastern Australia. We surveyed fish assemblages, examined reef composition and characterised benthic recruitment on reefs at multiple levels of connectivity with mangroves, in a no-take reserve and areas open to fishing.
- Our results show that connectivity enhanced herbivore biomass and richness in reserves, and that these connectivity and reserve effects interacted to promote herbivory on protected reefs near mangroves.
- Connectivity and reserve protection combined to double the biomass of roving herbivorous fish on protected reefs near mangroves. The increase in grazing intensity drove a trophic cascade that reduced algal cover and enhanced coral recruitment and reef resilience.
- Synthesis and applications. Our findings demonstrate that ecosystem resilience can be improved by managing both reefs and adjacent habitats together as functional seascape units. By understanding how landscapes influence resilience, and explicitly incorporating these effects into conservation decision-making, we may have greater success with environmental restoration and preservation actions.