Situated in the coral triangle, the Philippines hosts some of the world's most diverse coral reefs. Yet there are few national marine protected areas (MPAs) in place that coincide with these reefs. Municipal MPAs partially alleviate this issue but a controlled comparison of the effects of different small-scale management strategies on coral reefs is lacking. Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries (DIMRS) is one of these community-based MPAs that encompasses a collection of small (0.3–0.34 km2) marine reserves situated in a larger MPA where fishing is regulated through permits. The unique juxtaposition of different management strategies within DIMRS was used as a model system to test whether reserves are better for corals than limited fishing permits by comparing ecosystem indicators (coral cover, bleaching, disease, and morphological diversity). Total and live hard corals were 169% and 204% more abundant inside than outside no-take zones in 2016. This distinction increased between 2002 and 2016 as a result of a more marked decrease in coral cover over time in the partially protected zones. A 70% higher coral community evenness outside the reserves further suggests that scleractinian coral communities on fished reefs are more disturbed. Live coral cover within the MPAs of DIMRS in 2016 (39 ± 4%) is above the current mean for Philippine reefs (23%) and is comparable with the long-term average for reefs situated within Philippine MPAs (36%). This study suggests that exceptionally small reserves may benefit hard corals more than regulation via fishing permits.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems|
|Early online date||4 Apr 2022|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2022|