First Advisor

Elise F. Granek

Date of Publication

Summer 7-25-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources


Environmental Sciences and Resources




Coral reef management, Coral reef conservation, Coral reef ecology, Marine parks and reserves -- Management, Marine parks and reserves -- Recreational use



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 216 pages)


This dissertation investigates social and ecological factors that facilitate effective management of coral reefs as social-ecological systems. Meta-analytical and field-based methods were employed to examine current management challenges and identify strategies that improve management effectiveness and coral reef health. A meta-analysis was used to evaluate biological indicators of reef health in relation to the types of fishing regulations in place (no-take areas, gear restriction areas, and periodic closures) and the actor groups (community-based, co-management, state, private) involved in management efforts for coral reef fisheries throughout the world. Other than enhancement of fish biomass within no-take areas that was significantly greater than in gear restriction areas, most biological indicators benefitted similarly from management techniques of no-take areas and gear restriction areas. Community-based and co-management were the best performing management arrangements for some biological outcomes but require further case studies to verify findings. Investigation of management effects by region indicated that previously degraded reefs received fewer benefits from management implementation than did relatively healthier reefs. For field investigations, the Comoros islands in the Western Indian Ocean served as a model for tropical coral reefs with challenging socioeconomic contexts, high biodiversity, and high vulnerability to coral reef degradation. Empirical study at 21 sites was used to identify the relative effects of natural and anthropogenic threats to coral reefs of the Comoros. Most previous studies of reef health focus on primarily natural factors or a single anthropogenic threat. This study examined suites of natural factors and human activities to identify the relative importance of each on reef health. Human activities including fishing, sand extraction, and beachfront housing and development were the best predictors of reef health status.

Most notably, human population and fishing predicted fish richness, abundance, and biomass with seasonal variation in the effects, while site orientation strongly predicted benthic cover. Field studies in the Comoros were also used to investigate the roles of community and state actors in co-management and compare effectiveness of comanagement across sites with varying levels of actor participation. Effective management was found to occur with community or `meta-community' (in this case, a Marine Protected Area in which the efforts of several communities were organized) participation in governance and support of state or external agents, while resilient management that overcame considerable challenges was found to occur only with strong community participation and leadership in governance. External agents were found to contribute to development of meta-community governance structure and initiation of community participation through education and capacity building. The findings from these studies reveal that coral reef management can be improved through context appropriate regulations that address detrimental human activities and through wide acceptance and participation in governance with cooperation among states, communities, and external agents.


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