Marine reserves are traditionally thought to be able to protect fish from exploitation;however,“top down” management preventing the exploitation of reef fishes may not be enough. This 8-year study conducted in Papua New Guinea documents dramatic declines in fish populations, beyond predicted levels based on obligate coral reef associations. Declines in fish diversity occurred in approximately 75% of fish species surveyed and no difference was seen between the marine reserve areas and those lacking protection. Because few fish species are exploited in this area, these declines are likely due to habitat degradation. This paper is a call to arms for not just “top down” protection against human predators but the need for management strategies to address “bottom-up” processes (e.g. global warming, habitat change due to terrestrial run-off).

Author: Jones, G.P., M.I. McCormick, M. Srinivasan, and J.V. Eagle
Year: 2004
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PNAS 101(21): 8251-8253. doi:10.1073 pnas.0401277101

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