Forest conservation delivers highly variable coral reef conservation outcomes

Authors

  • Carissa J. Klein,

    Corresponding author
    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, National Environmental Research Program funded Environmental Decisions Hub, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia
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  • Stacy D. Jupiter,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Society, Fiji Country Program, Suva, Fiji
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  • Elizabeth R. Selig,

    1. Science and Knowledge Division, Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia 22202 USA
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  • Matthew E. Watts,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, National Environmental Research Program funded Environmental Decisions Hub, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia
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  • Benjamin S. Halpern,

    1. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, California 93101 USA
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  • Muhammad Kamal,

    1. School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management, Centre for Spatial Environmental Research, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia
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  • Chris Roelfsema,

    1. School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management, Centre for Spatial Environmental Research, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia
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  • Hugh P. Possingham

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, National Environmental Research Program funded Environmental Decisions Hub, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia
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  • Corresponding Editor: T. E. Essington.

Abstract

Coral reefs are threatened by human activities on both the land (e.g., deforestation) and the sea (e.g., overfishing). Most conservation planning for coral reefs focuses on removing threats in the sea, neglecting management actions on the land. A more integrated approach to coral reef conservation, inclusive of land–sea connections, requires an understanding of how and where terrestrial conservation actions influence reefs. We address this by developing a land–sea planning approach to inform fine-scale spatial management decisions and test it in Fiji. Our aim is to determine where the protection of forest can deliver the greatest return on investment for coral reef ecosystems. To assess the benefits of conservation to coral reefs, we estimate their relative condition as influenced by watershed-based pollution and fishing. We calculate the cost-effectiveness of protecting forest and find that investments deliver rapidly diminishing returns for improvements to relative reef condition. For example, protecting 2% of forest in one area is almost 500 times more beneficial than protecting 2% in another area, making prioritization essential. For the scenarios evaluated, relative coral reef condition could be improved by 8–58% if all remnant forest in Fiji were protected rather than deforested. Finally, we determine the priority of each coral reef for implementing a marine protected area when all remnant forest is protected for conservation. The general results will support decisions made by the Fiji Protected Area Committee as they establish a national protected area network that aims to protect 20% of the land and 30% of the inshore waters by 2020. Although challenges remain, we can inform conservation decisions around the globe by tackling the complex issues relevant to integrated land–sea planning.

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