Planning for more than no-take marine reserves
Spatial planning for conservation and fisheries management focuses almost exclusively on the design of no-take marine reserves. However, in many regions there exists a local tradition or preference for alternative strategies. Conservation plans that employ locally preferred management strategies are likely to have greater compliance, and subsequently increased effectiveness for a range of objectives, including conservation. My research aims to better understand fishers’ preferences for different management strategies such as no-take areas, periodically harvested closures (see below) or gear restrictions. Drawing upon diffusion of innovation theory, I will explore whether fishers’ preferences are influenced more by their objectives for undertaking management (which often differ from those of conservation NGOs), perceptions of the effectiveness of different strategies, or by other cultural factors. Outcomes from this research will help conservation organisations to design management strategies that will achieve local buy-in, or, conversely, to identify local communities that will be most receptive to implementing strategies that benefit conservation objectives.
Connectivity & Conservation planning
An ongoing focus of my research is investigating how spatial information on larval dispersal can be used to inform the design of marine reserve networks. I will further develop this area of research in 2016, working with colleagues in the Philippines. Using empirical data on larval dispersal, we will determine whether existing marine reserves are likely to be connected via larval dispersal, and then develop novel methods to prioritise sites for new reserves using information on larval connectivity. The Philippines is an excellent study region for this research, as the last few decades have seen a huge increase in the number of marine reserves, and the emergence of local government “alliances” for coastal resource management. We can thus combine our models of ecological connectivity with new data on collaborative governance networks, to determine whether these local alliances are likely to resolve social-ecological scale mismatches brought about by decentralised management. This will be the case only if collaboration occurs between municipalities whose reefs are connected via larval dispersal, and is of a nature that promotes effective management of connectivity processes.
Research priorities for conservation in Oceania
Understanding the information that decision-makers need to inform conservation policy and natural resource management can help to direct scientific research effort and funding toward questions of greatest relevance to policymakers and practitioners. Previous studies have sought to identify priority areas for research globally, for the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. As an initiative from the Society for Conservation Biology in Oceania, I'm running this project, which aims to identify critical research needs specifically for conservation and natural resource management in the Pacific Islands. We have three goals: (1) to identify research questions that, if answered, will increase the effectiveness of policies related to conservation and management of natural resources in the Pacific Islands within the next 10 years; (2) to identify where information that practitioners need exists in the scientific literature, but has not been made accessible to end-users; and (3) to compare research priorities among conservation scientists, policymakers and practitioners. It will also be interesting to see whether and how priority research areas identified for this region differ from the global study. More here.
Assessing The Effectiveness Of Periodically Harvested Closures
For the last few years, I have been involved with a collaborative research project investigating the effectiveness of periodically harvested fisheries closures. Widely implemented by local communities across Melanesia, periodically harvested closures restrict fishing activities for specified periods of time. Their design is highly variable, ranging from mostly open with short closures, to predominantly closed, with harvests permitted once per year or even less often. PHCs evolved primarily to serve social and cultural objectives. For example in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, communities traditionally closed areas of fishing ground for 100 days following the death of a respected community member - the area would then be opened to harvest fish for a funeral. In contemporary use however, PHCs are often expected to achieve a wide range of objectives, including maximising yields in the short-term, boosting fisheries sustainability in the long-term, and contributing towards biodiversity conservation goals. There are few empirical data measuring the effectiveness of PHCs, and it remains unclear whether they can achieve any or all of these objectives simultaneously, or what factors might be critical to their success. Our research team has been working towards a better understanding of the effectiveness of PHCs against different objectives, using both modelling and empirical approaches and data from PHCs in Fiji. The next phase will focus on taking what we’ve learnt from modelling and empirical studies of PHCs back to the people who are using them, to learn how our new understanding might inform decision-making and help communities to better achieve their objectives.