A Cause for Optimism

Paper presented by Helen R Sykes and Edward R Lovell at The 11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress

“A Cause for Optimism”

Identification of threats and resiliency on Pacific Reefs through establishment of a long term reef monitoring network in Fiji: The Fiji Coral Reef Monitoring Network (FCRMN)

Helen R Sykes and Edward R Lovell

11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress
11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress

A Cause for Optimism

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The Fiji Coral Reef Monitoring Network (FCRMN), a node of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) includes scientists, tourism operators, and community members. Long term monitoring of reefs across the Fiji Islands for nine years included mass temperature-related coral bleaching events, cyclones, and Crown-of-thorns seastar (COTS) outbreaks.

Survey protocols used variants of Point-Intercept Transects for coral cover, and Belt Transects for indicator fish and invertebrate populations. Percentage hard coral cover was used for regional and time-line comparisons. More detailed protocols allowed comparisons by coral life-form category.

Data was compiled through the Coral Reef Initiative for the South Pacific (CRISP). Coral cover fell dramatically in 2000 – 2002 after two mass bleaching events, plus regional COTS outbreaks, but recovered to pre-bleaching levels by 2005. Cyclones affected localised coral health in shallow waters, but caused no large scale or permanent damage, and in some cases served coral recovery by lowering water temperatures and clearing new substrate for settlement.

Overall, Fiji’s reefs appear to be remarkably resilient to sudden catastrophic events, a cause for optimism. Major “chronic” continual impacts on coral reef health:

  • Eutrophication
  • Siltation (deforestation / coastal development)
  • Over fishing

Occasional or sporadic “acute’ impacts on coral health:

  • Temperature-related bleaching
  • Predation and disease
  • Cyclones

Features contributing to coral resilience:

  • Geographically remote from industrialised land masses
  • Large physical reef diversity
  • Connectivity of habitats and genetic stocks
  • Few overtly destructive fishing practices
  • Network of locally managed marine protected areas

The Inter-Congress Theme

“Pacific Countries and Their Ocean Facing Local and Global Changes”

The PSI2009 theme centered on current regional and international concerns, in which science can help inform policy makers and the public.

The program was divided into five sub-sessions to address this theme in a way that facilitates multidisciplinary approaches that encompass scientific, human, socio-economic and cultural aspects.

  • Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development
  • Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
  • Health Challenges in the Pacific: Infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and health workforce
  • Culture and Politics: The stakes of modernity
  • Governance and the Economy: Future challenges for the Pacific.

The goals of the Inter-Congress were to:

  • Assess problems and issues related to local and global changes in countries and territories in the Pacific, and how these changes are both geographically based and inter-linked.
  • Gather together scientists from across the Asia-Pacific region, based on recognition that all countries and territories in the Pacific Rim and Basin face similar or linked problems.
  • Provide an opportunity for young scientists in the Pacific to garner important experience and take part in stimulating intellectual exchanges.
  • Develop productive exchanges between participants from the countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region and the communities in French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia
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