As climate changes and population and consumption expand, marine life faces many of the same challenges as terrestrial species. Marine protected areas (MPAs) act like oceanic national parks, but most marine habitats and organisms lie outside these areas.
Charlotte Moritz, of IUCN Maldives, and colleagues wondered whether tourist resorts could provide complementary oases for coral reef species. Focusing on the North Ari Atoll, Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, the authors modeled the effect of three management regimes, one based on tourist-resort approaches, on the diversity and abundance of commercial fish species, echinoderms, benthic cover, and coral disease. They found a positive “resort effect”, with better results for less mobile species, such as sessile benthic ones. In theory and as their name suggests, eco-friendly resorts have the potential and obvious incentive to provide small, de facto protected areas for marine species. Complementary strategies for sustaining marine ecosystems in the face of growing and more-intensive threats are welcome, even if they are no substitute for extensive set asides and coordinated efforts.
photo: arvid97, CCO