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TESS Seminar - Uncovering bright spots among the world’s coral reefs

When Aug 23, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where D3.054 Cairns, 145.030 Townsville
Contact Name
Contact Phone 07 4232 1427
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Professor Joshua CinnerJoshua_Cinner
James Cook University


The continuing and rapid global decline of coral reefs calls for new approaches to sustain reefs and the millions of people who depend on them. In this talk, I present ongoing work by my research group aimed at rethinking reef conservation along two lines. First is directly confronting the drivers of change.  In addition to environmental factors, there are socioeconomic drivers that influence the condition of coral reef ecosystems, though reef governance rarely focus on explicitly managing these. My colleagues and I analysed data from >2500 reef sites worldwide to quantify how key socioeconomic and environmental drivers are related to reef fish biomass, a key indicator of ecosystem condition and resource availability. Our global analysis reveals that the strongest driver of reef fish biomass is our metric of potential interactions with urban centres (market gravity), with important, but smaller, roles of local management, human demographics, socioeconomic development, and environmental conditions. These results highlight multiple underutilized policy levers that could help to sustain coral reefs, such as dampening the negative impact of markets. Second, drawing on theory and practice in human health and rural development, we use a positive deviance (bright spots) analysis to systematically identify coral reefs that have substantially higher biomass than expected, given their socioeconomic and environmental conditions. Importantly, bright spots were not simply comprised of remote areas with low fishing pressure- they include localities where human populations and use of ecosystems resources is high, potentially providing novel insights into how communities have successfully confronted strong drivers of change. Uncovering the mechanisms that underpin the ability of bright spots to confront high pressures may form a basis for novel policy approaches. 


Prof. Cinner’s research explores how social, economic, and cultural factors influence the ways in which people use, perceive, and govern natural resources.  His background is in human geography and he often works closely with ecologists to uncover complex linkages between social and ecological systems. He has worked on human dimensions of resource management in  Australia, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, Indonesia, Mozambique, and the USA and has published >115 peer-reviewed journal articles. Prof. Cinner is an ARC Future Fellow, a recipient of the 2015 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, and the 2017 Elinor Ostrom Award on collective governance of the commons.

Centre for Tropical Environmental & Sustainability Sciences

Twitter (@TESSJCU)