The Micronesia Challenge is an international conservation strategy initiated by the political leaders of 6 tropical island nations to conserve at least 30% of marine resources by 2020. Growing population and a shift towards cash-based economies have started to erode the traditional sources of sustainable reef management and have increased pressure upon marine resources. This study examined the effects of human populations on the diversity, function and status of coral reef ecosystems across Micronesia by assessing ecosystem condition to evaluate conservation goals of the Challenge, examining the distribution and variance of ecosystem condition as indicators of ecological stability and looking at the role of two stressors – fishing and pollution – in driving ecosystem metrics. Results showed that fishing pressure was a primary determinant of ecosystem condition across the majority of locations studied. Reef habitats that were most impacted by localized stressors also had the least stable ecosystem condition scores. In conclusion, habitats close to urban centers may require more management effort and may show less of a positive response to management than distant sites. Also, fish assemblages appeared to have a hierarchical influence upon coral-reef ecosystems compared with localized pollution. Prioritizing management upon herbivore size and diversity may best preserve the trophic relationships responsible for ecosystem services that coral reefs provide to the Micronesian island nations.

Author: Houk, P., R. Camacho, S. Johnson, M. McLean, S. Maxin, J. Anson, E. Joseph, O. Nedlic, M. Luckymis, K. Adams, D. Hess, E. Kabua, A. Yaon, E. Buthung, C. Graham, T. Leberer, B. Taylor, and R. van Woesik
Year: 2015
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PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130823/ doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130823

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