Here’s three new papers that caught our eye:


Recovery potential of the world’s coral reef fishes

Alex Mustard/naturepl.com
Alex Mustard/naturepl.com
Aaron MacNeil & colleagues’ analysis of fish declines in coral reefs shows that simple fishing limits and implementation of marine protected areas can be enough to support recovery of coral ecosystem resilience.The authors studied remote and highly protected areas to estimate how much fish there would be on coral reefs without fishing, and how long it should take newly protected areas to recover. After examining more than 800 reefs worldwide, the authors found that 83% of fished reefs have less than half of the biomass found on pristine reefs. Coral reefs in Oceania appeared on both ends of the spectrum, from heavily degraded (Papua New Guinea, Guam) to those doing relatively well (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). After developing a mathematical model that determines the recovery potential of a reef, the team found most fished reefs would take about 35 years of protection to recover, while the most depleted areas would take almost 60 years. Whilst no-take areas are required for large predatory fish to recover, reefs that had some form of management, such as restrictions on fishing equipment, species or access, had 27% more fish biomass than reefs open to fishing.

MacNeil, M. A., Graham, N. A. J., Cinner, J. E., Wilson, S. K., Williams, I. D., Maina, J., et al. (n.d.). Recovery potential of the world’s coral reef fishes. Nature, advance online publication SP – EP . doi:10.1038/nature14358

More on this paper here.


Spatial mismatch between marine protected areas and dugongs in New Caledonia

Photo: Christophe Cleguer
Photo: Christophe Cleguer
Christophe Cleguer’s study retrospectively assessed the capacity of the New Caledonia Marine Protected Area network to protect dugongs (Dugong dugon) from anthropogenic threats. Cleguer and colleagues developed a spatially explicit model of dugong distribution and relative density based on information collected from 10 years of aerial surveys in New Caledonia. By quantifying the amount of overlap between areas supporting high densities of dugongs and MPAs, he found that most of the important dugong habitats of New Caledonia had a low coverage of MPAs that provide high levels of restriction on anthropogenic activities. Dugongs were not an explicit target in the design of the network of MPAs in the lagoons of New Caledonia, despite being one of the region’s World Heritage values.

Cleguer, C., A. Grech, C. Garrigue, and H. Marsh. 2015. Spatial mismatch between marine protected areas and dugongs in New Caledonia. Biological Conservation 184:154-162. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2015.01.007


Carbon farming via assisted natural regeneration as a cost-effective mechanism for restoring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes

Photo: Dr John Dwyer
Photo: Dr John Dwyer
Megan Evans and colleagues found that assisting vegetation to grow back naturally could be a far more profitable way for farmers to lock in carbon than the more commonly considered method of planting trees and shrubs. Carbon farming provides landholders an opportunity to earn carbon credits by restoring or establishing vegetation on their properties. Investigating the economics of carbon farming in Queensland, the authors found that farmers could earn carbon credits for little to no cost, while also helping Australia curb carbon emissions, attributed to global warming. Assisted natural regeneration of land can produce environmental benefits for less than half the cost of planting trees, which has a much higher up-front cost.

Evans, M. C., Carwardine, J., Fensham, R. J., Butler, D. W., Wilson, K. A., Possingham, H. P., & Martin, T. G. (2015). ScienceDirect. Environmental Science and Policy, 50, 114–129. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2015.02.003


If you’ve read a great paper that should be featured here, tweet at us!