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. 2016 Jun 29;7:12000.
doi: 10.1038/ncomms12000.

Marine Reserves Lag Behind Wilderness in the Conservation of Key Functional Roles

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Marine Reserves Lag Behind Wilderness in the Conservation of Key Functional Roles

Stéphanie D'agata et al. Nat Commun. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Although marine reserves represent one of the most effective management responses to human impacts, their capacity to sustain the same diversity of species, functional roles and biomass of reef fishes as wilderness areas remains questionable, in particular in regions with deep and long-lasting human footprints. Here we show that fish functional diversity and biomass of top predators are significantly higher on coral reefs located at more than 20 h travel time from the main market compared with even the oldest (38 years old), largest (17,500 ha) and most restrictive (no entry) marine reserve in New Caledonia (South-Western Pacific). We further demonstrate that wilderness areas support unique ecological values with no equivalency as one gets closer to humans, even in large and well-managed marine reserves. Wilderness areas may therefore serve as benchmarks for management effectiveness and act as the last refuges for the most vulnerable functional roles.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Location of study areas in New Caledonia.
Sites were located at the outer reef, back reef, lagoon reef or fringing reef depending on the locations and configurations of the reefs. Reef fishes and habitats were surveyed at each transect. Transects (1833) were performed between 1986 and 2013 in areas without legislation (black dots), in marine reserves (green dots) and in traditionally managed areas (orange dots).
Figure 2
Figure 2. Partial dependence plots for six fish community metrics along a gradient of travel time from the market.
(a) Total biomass (B), (b) species density (S), (c) herbivores biomass (B Herb.), (d) functional richness (FRic), (e) apex predator biomass (B APEX) and (f) biomass-weighed functional diversity (Rao Entropy). Fish community metrics were predicted using eight to nine environmental and human explanatory variables depending of the community metrics (Methods, Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary Figs 1 and 2). The y axis is the percentage of variation from the maximum value for each community aspect. The decrease between this maximum value (asymptote) and the bottom line is expressed as a percentage. Inflection point estimates (in hours) are indicated with a dotted vertical line.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Human influence on six fish community metrics for six different categories of areas.
Boxplot distributions of (a) total biomass (B), (b) species richness (S), (c) herbivores biomass (B Herb.), (d) functional richness (FRic), (e) apex predator biomass (B APEX) and (f) biomass-weighed functional diversity (Rao Entropy) for fish communities in fished areas at <3 h from the main market (red), in the small no-take marine reserves at <1 h from the main market, in the large, old and no-entry marine reserve at <2 h from market, in traditionally managed areas at <5 h travel time, isolated traditionally managed areas (19 h travel time) and in areas located at >20 h from the main market (blue) (Supplementary Fig. 4). Biomasses were log transformed. The median values across fish communities sampled in wilderness areas (>20 h) for these metrics were considered as benchmarks and were set at the maximum possible value (100%) (right y axis). Coloured horizontal bars indicate the clusters of areas after a post-hoc Kruskal–Wallis test, the red bars indicate areas with fish community metrics similar to those in exploited areas (<3 h), blue bars indicate areas with fish community metrics similar to those in wilderness areas (>20 h) and grey bars indicate areas with similar intermediate values for fish community metrics (Supplementary Table 3).
Figure 4
Figure 4. Breadth of functional roles played by fish communities in different categories of areas.
Functional space filled by fish communities in (a) areas at <3 h of travel from the market, (b) areas at >20 h from the market, (c) no-take small marine reserves, (d) no-entry, old and large marine reserve, (e) traditionally managed areas at <5 h from the market and (f) traditionally managed areas at 19 h from the market. The 50% contour lines represent the functional space filled by fishes in >50% of the communities for a given category of area. The ecological meaning of the functional space is given in g. The percentage of the total functional space filled by fish communities is given in Supplementary Table 4 and the details on the traits are provided in Supplementary Fig. 6.

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