Comparison of outcomes of permanently closed and periodically harvested coral reef reserves

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Journal Article
Conservation Biology, 2009, 23 (6), pp. 1475 - 1484
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In many areas of the developing world, the establishment of permanent marine reserves is inhibited by cultural norms or socioeconomic pressures. Community conserved areas that are periodically harvested are increasingly being implemented as fisheries management tools, but few researchers have empirically compared them with permanently closed reserves. We used a hierarchal control-impact experimental design to compare the abundance and biomass of reef fishes, invertebrates, and substrate composition in periodically harvested and permanent reserves and in openly fished (control sites) of the South Pacific island country of Vanuatu. Fished species had significantly higher biomass in periodically harvested reserves than in adjacent openly fished areas. We did not detect differences in substratum composition between permanent reserves and openly fished areas or between permanent reserves and periodically harvested reserves. Giant clams (tridacnids) and top shells (Trochus niloticus) were vulnerable to periodic harvest, and we suggest that for adequate management of these species, periodically harvested community conservation areas be used in conjunction with other management strategies. Periodic harvest within reserves is an example of adaptive and flexible management that may meet conservation goals and that is suited to the social, economic, and cultural contexts of many coastal communities in the developing world. © 2009 Society for Conservation Biology.
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