Study led by Steneck finds marine protected areas help coral reefs, media report

Business Standard, The Times of India, and Environmental News Network (ENN) reported on research led by Robert Steneck, a professor of marine biology at the University of Maine, that found marine protected areas can help protect coral reefs from the damaging effects of global climate change. Steneck, who has spent much of his 40-year career studying coral reefs, led the study that spanned 700 kilometers of the eastern Caribbean. According to the findings published in the journal Science Advances, local fisheries management resulted in a 62 percent increase in the density of young corals, which improves the ecosystem’s ability to recover from major impacts like hurricanes and coral bleaching, The Times of India reported. “MPAs can help coral reefs, but studies to the contrary just were not measuring the right things at the right scales,” Steneck said. “The idea behind MPAs is that, by reducing fishing pressure, you increase the number of seaweed-eating fish, and they decrease the amount of harmful seaweed, which makes it easier for baby corals to get started and thrive on the reef. But coral reefs are complicated, and lots of other things can affect fish numbers, their ability to control the growth of algae and the ability of corals to take advantage of this.”