[Coral-List] Connectivity Handbook for Coral Reef Managers now available

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Tue Sep 7 23:04:40 EDT 2010

Connectivity Handbook is now available

Reef areas that support the well-being of over half the world?s population 
are compromised by management practices that fail to recognize ecosystem 
interconnections, according to the authors of ?Connectivity Handbook.  A 
Guide for Marine Protected Area Managers?, a practical guide for reef 
managers published by the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building 
for Management Project (CRTR).  The Connectivity Handbook is based largely 
on the results of research at sites in the Caribbean and Pacific by 
members of the CRTR?s international Connectivity Working Group. 

Printed copies are available from UNU-INWEH, and the Handbook is available 
for download from both the CRTR (www.gefcoral.org) and UNU-INWEH (
www.inweh.unu.edu) sites.  A Spanish version is in preparation.

Understanding connectivity patterns is vital for effective reef 
management. To effectively sustain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, 
as well as coastal fisheries, management actions must be designed to 
ensure that the larvae are able to disperse successfully from spawning 
sites to the reefs where they will settle and grow.  While the authors 
acknowledge major knowledge gaps, they outline tools and techniques to 
assess connectivity for coral, fish, lobster and other coral reef species. 
 Although the handbook has been written mainly for coral reef managers, 
the science discussed is relevant to managers of coastal waters in all 

Some 40% of all people on Earth live within 50 km of a coast, and our 
enthusiasm for coastal living is creating ever more environmental damage. 
The decline of coastal environments is a critical problem for many 
tropical countries with coral reefs.  Unfortunately, current management 
practices in most coastal regions are ineffective, and to continue them 
endangers coastal economies and ecosystems. Today, climate change is 
adding to the pressures on coastal ecosystems.  This practical handbook is 
one useful step to help better manage some of the planet?s most critically 
important resources.

?No-take fishery reserves? and other Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and are 
characteristically established without foreknowledge of the connectivity 
of key species, nor use of techniques for acquiring such information at 
sites of interest, even though the fundamental importance of such data is 
broadly recognized.  Dispersive pelagic larvae do not drift aimlessly in 
the ocean.  They use their varying behavioral and sensory capabilities to 
minimize the extent of dispersal, and in many species, are active agents 
in ensuring successful return to reef habitat, and to specific 
microhabitats that will be suitable for juvenile life.  MPAs should be 
established in ways that take deliberate advantage of these patterns of 
use of space.  Our relative lack of scientific information on matters such 
as the correct size, spacing or placement of no-take reserves limits our 
ability to predict the effects that a proposed no-take reserve will have 
on surrounding fisheries or biodiversity conservation.  The Handbook 
offers rules of thumb about connectivity that can help estimate patterns 
of larval dispersal and exchange, noting that some taxa disperse over 
limited distances, while others disperse more widely.  It also 
demonstrates ways to identify likely patterns of dispersal and track them, 
and to measure the relatedness of populations of a species across 

The Handbook also attempts to answer other questions reef managers 
commonly struggle with, such as:
?       Are MPAs in a network adequately connected?
?       What is the maximum geographic distance at which they will remain 
ecologically connected? 
?       Are populations within MPAs self-sustaining? 
?       What is the output of an MPA to surrounding exploited areas? 

The authors also urge scientists and managers to work more closely 
together in an adaptive management context to build and apply new 
knowledge and insights to decision-making.  We have to put in place the 
best possible local management if we are to provide coral reefs with the 
capacity to weather global threats.  In a world in which climate is 
changing rapidly, with consequences that are not yet fully apparent, it 
will be more important than ever to ensure that coral reef and other 
coastal ecosystems are managed as effectively as possible.  Understanding 
connectivity is an important step to building this effective management.

The Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management 
Program (CRTR) is an international development project funded by the 
Global Environment Facility (GEF), World Bank, and the University of 
Queensland.  CRTR addresses fundamental gaps in understanding of coral 
reef ecosystems in order to strengthen global management and policies. The 
Connectivity Working Group, one of six in the project, included 16 leading 
experts in this technically challenging field, drawn from research and 
teaching institutions across seven countries, together with collaborators 
and graduate students.

UNU-INWEH, the United Nations University?s Institute for Water, 
Environment and Health, which managed the Connectivity Working Group, was 
established in 1996 to strengthen water management capacity, particularly 
of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support. 
With core funding from the Government of Canada through CIDA, it is hosted 
by McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.

Peter F. Sale
Assistant Director
United Nations University
Institute for Water, Environment and Health

UNU-INWEH  The United Nations Think Tank on Water

More information about the Coral-List mailing list