Another day, another milestone

Lessons from coral reef “bright spots”

Publication specs

Title: Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs

Authors: Joshua E. Cinner, Cindy Huchery, M. Aaron MacNeil et al.

Journal: Nature

Year: 2016

Millions of people depend on healthy coral reef ecosystems for food security and their livelihoods. This study analyzed data from 2514 coral reefs from 46 countries to understand how reef fish biomass is related to socioeconomic drivers and environmental conditions. “Bright spots” and “dark spots” were compared. Bright spots are not simply remote areas with low fishing pressure. These authors determined that bright spots can also be areas with high human population densities and resource use. Likewise, dark spots can be remote relatively untouched coral reefs. So what’s working in these bright spots and what are communities living near bright spots doing right?

After surveying local experts near bright spots, the authors discovered what maintains these healthy coral reef ecosystems:

  • cultural practices such as customary taboos (e.g. customs prohibiting the extraction of certain species) and marine tenure
  • a high level of local engagement in management
  • high dependency on marine resources
  • deep water refuges

Alternatively, researchers found what characterized dark spots:

  • intensive fishing using capture and storage technologies such as nets, motorized boats, and freezers
  • recent environmental shock such as coral bleaching events and cyclones

Learning lessons from bright spots will be essential for protecting these areas and improving the health of coral reef dark spots. Policies should be focusing on socioeconomic drivers of dark spots like market forces. Focusing on such drivers will help identify sustainable practices that could aid conservation efforts in these areas.