Marine reserves connectivity and global warming

Reef in Gulf of CaliforniaASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber and Faculty Associate Maria del Mar Mancha-Cisneros recently co-authored a publication led by Jorge Alvarez Romero and other conservation scientists around the world titled “Designing connected marine reserves in the face of global warming.” Larval connectivity between marine reserves is instrumental in providing a healthy network of habitats for some of the world’s most protected species — including fish, which is the most traded food commodity in the world and primary source of income for fishing communities. Larval connectivity allows exchanges between species and facilitates recolonization after local habitat disruptions occur. Global warming disrupts this connectivity by altering larval physiology. Using the Gulf of California as a case study, the authors provide a framework for redesigning these networks and maximizing connectivity. They present benefits and costs, considering current and anticipated warmer ocean temperatures. To date, larval connectivity as affected by global warming has not been considered in marine conservation planning initiatives. This research provides a more comprehensive understanding of the topic, hoping to inform decision-making and prioritization in the region and elsewhere. This project was coordinated by Comunidad y Biodiversidad, known as COBI. COBI, one of the center’s partners, is a civil Mexican association established in 1999 to reverse marine ecosystem degradation caused by non-sustainable use of its resources. Jorge works in the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. They collaborate with conservation NGOs, natural resource management groups and research institutions in Australia and globally. For a more comprehensive review of this research project, including a photo gallery, visit the Conservation Planning Group’s website here. Photo: Rocky Reefs in the Midriff Island Region, Gulf of California, Mexico by Octavio Aburto.