Although much of our research focuses on the MMAS Program’s four Focus Areas – Belize, Brazil, Fiji, and the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS) – we address the Program’s six research themes using data from all over the world. We integrate findings from the Focus Areas, obtain data from other places, and conduct Science-to-Action activities at the global scale.
Core Ecological Monitoring. In our Focus Areas, we use standardized protocols to track ecological changes inside and outside marine management areas (MMAs). We compare results among Focus Areas and identify global patterns in the effectiveness of MMAs. View the Work Plan >>
Core Socioeconomic Monitoring. Using standardized methods, we monitor the effects of socioeconomic conditions on MMA success and the impacts of MMAs on socioeconomic parameters. Because we conduct socioeconomic and ecological monitoring in parallel, we can identify linkages between human and natural systems. View the Work Plan >>
Global Analysis. We are investigating the effects of MMAs on people and ecosystems, and the factors that cause those effects. Preliminary results from eight MMAs indicate that people living near MMAs perceive improvement in livelihoods, food security, and conflict resolution after MMA establishment. Scientists from the WorldFish Center, University of Connecticut, and Perry Institute of Marine Science are leading this research. View the Work Plan >>
Predictive Model. Based on field research findings and workshops, we are developing a predictive decision-support tool to be used by governments and other stakeholders to plan management actions. The model will predict the outcomes of MMAs based on ecological, socioeconomic, and governance conditions. View the Work Plan >>
Diagnostic System for Ecosystem Health. We are developing a diagnostic tool for evaluating the health of coral reefs. The tool is a set of ecological indicators that can be used to assess a reef’s condition and to track changes caused by human activities. We will compare MMAs to identify successful management approaches. View the Work Plan >>
Connectivity Among Populations and Habitats
Role of Deepwater Habitats. In Indonesia, we are studying the degree of ecological linkage between shallow and deepwater areas to evaluate the need to extend MMAs offshore. View the Work Plan >>
Climate Change Adaptation
Early-Warning Indicators. We are identifying genes and proteins that corals activate when experiencing stress from disease or warmer seawater due to climate change. The goal is to produce a tissue-sampling kit that managers can use to assess coral health, providing early detection before bleaching or visible disease is apparent. In addition, we are studying shifts in the microbial ecology of coral reefs as the ecosystem degrades. Measuring these shifts represents a powerful new approach to determining ecosystem health. View the Work Plan >>
Potential for MMAs to Boost Corals’ Resilience. We are developing techniques to measure the resiliency of corals to stresses associated with climate change, and we are using the protocols to compare resiliency inside and outside MMAs. View the Work Plan >>
Recovery of Coral Reefs After Bleaching. We are assessing the ecological health of coral reefs in the Line Islands that suffered severe damage during a period of unusually warm water. View the Work Plan >>
Economic, Social, and Cultural Significance of Marine Resources
Value of Natural Resources. We are assessing the monetary value of natural resources from marine management areas. The study will provide estimates of changes in resource values expected under different management scenarios. Resource managers, educators, and conservationists can use the findings to build support for marine conservation and to prioritize among management options. View the Work Plan >>
Cultural Roles. We are conducting focus groups and interviews to learn how cultural practices and values influence the outcomes of marine management areas. View the Work Plan >>
- Building on preliminary results from our Global Management Effectiveness study, we facilitated an interactive session with 100 MMA practitioners at the World Conservation Congress. The group concluded that MMAs can increase and diversify economic opportunities; be implemented with a recognition of traditional fishing and other user rights; enhance community empowerment; and resolve user conflicts. Participants identified several key challenges in MMA implementation: unequal opportunities for economic benefits; loss of access to fishing grounds; increased dependence on project assistance; and unmet expectations. We organized the session with Fond Francais pour l’Environment Mondial, NOAA, and the University of Washington.
- Our research in the Line Islands was instrumental in the designation in January 2009 of the 195,000-square-mile Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Ecological monitoring by our interdisciplinary team of scientists revealed that the Line Islands have the most pristine coral reefs on the planet. MMAS-sponsored scientists communicated closely with the White House, providing data and photographs, as President George W. Bush made the decision to establish the new national monument. Underwater photographs from the expedition showed a devastating loss of reef biodiversity at the more populated islands.
- We released the first global compilation of the economic values of reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses, and the first global assessment of socioeconomic conditions of the tropical coasts. The publications have been used already by World Bank staff, Asian Development Bank staff, and a U.S. Congresswoman to demonstrate the importance of coral reefs in areas they want to protect.
- After discussions about our global research results, the Kiribati Minister of Environment proposed a halt to all land development projects in Kiribati, a strategic exercise to examine environmental impacts, and a revision of the Kiribati World Heritage proposal to include the Line Islands.
- Based on a session including 27 expert speakers, we published Lessons on Connectivity and Conservation in Coral Reef Habitats: A Summary from the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium. The document provides guidance for managers thinking about ecological connectivity in their marine conservation work.
- We published A User’s Guide to the Coral Resiliency Assay: A Protocol for Assessing Coral Response to Stress and presented it at the International Coral Reef Symposium.
- Workshops in the MMAS Program’s four Focus Areas brought together MMAS researchers and the relevant stakeholders – government agencies, user groups, businesses, NGOs, and academics – to discuss how MMAS research can contribute to existing and planned conservation efforts.
- Through the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas-Marine, and in collaboration with WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Nature England, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we developed a virtual marine protected area (MPA) library for MPA practitioners worldwide that was launched at the World Conservation Congress. The library is a portal to the most widely acclaimed resource materials on key MPA issues, such as guidebooks, toolkits, and peer-reviewed publications.