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Marine reserve recovery rates towards a baseline are slower for reef fish community life histories than biomass

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number20151938
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>22/12/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1821
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Ecological baselines are disappearing and it is uncertain how marine reserves, here called fisheries closures, simulate pristine communities. We tested the influence of fisheries closure age, size and compliance on recovery of community biomass and life-history metrics towards a baseline. We used census data from 324 coral reefs, including 41 protected areas ranging between 1 and 45 years of age and 0.28 and 1430 km(2), and 36 sites in a remote baseline, the Chagos Archipelago. Fish community-level life histories changed towards larger and later maturing fauna with increasing closure age, size and compliance. In high compliance closures, community biomass levelled at approximately 20 years and 10 km(2) but was still only at approximately 30% of the baseline and community growth rates were projected to slowly decline for more than 100 years. In low compliance and young closures, biomass levelled at half the value and time as high compliance closures and life-history metrics were not predicted to reach the baseline. Biomass does not adequately reflect the long-time scales for full recovery of life-history characteristics, with implications for coral reef management.