Marine Protected Areas’ Effectiveness on Preserving Coral Reef Health
The coral reef ecosystem sustains some of the highest biodiversity in the world. However, many coral reefs around the world are in decline due to a multitude of factors. In particular, the Caribbean reefs face a variety of other threats, including coral bleaching associated with global warming, habitat destruction, overfishing, disease, invasive species, and microalgae overgrowth. This study aims to analyze if and how one type of marine reserve, marine protected areas (MPAs), affect the overall coral reef health in the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park located to the south of South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. Researchers used the AGRRA method to sample multiple sites inside and outside of the MPA to determine overall site dissimilarities as well as differences in coral, fish, and benthic species, diversity, and abundance. Reef sites located around the outside of MPAs were significantly different from MPA sites in multiple measure of reef biodiversity. Specifically, there was significantly higher species richness and diversity of coral inside the MPA and a higher abundance and species richness of macroalgae outside the MPA. Overall, these results suggest that the MPA is effective in protecting coral reef health, but it still remains threatened. Threats like global warming cannot be protected against using reserves, they require global action to protect the corals from bleaching.