The University of Guam Marine Laboratory is leading the charge of marine conservation, as scientists are measuring the effectiveness of conservation to provide feedback to people managing resources.
This effort began in 2006, when five nations in Micronesia formed the Micronesia Challenge. Goals were:
• To effectively conserve at least 30% of marine resources by 2020
• To effectively conserve 20% of terrestrial resources by 2020
Scientists recently examined 78 coral reefs across eight islands in Micronesia. Concerns associated with coral reefs include climate change, unsustainable practices of fisheries and land-based pollution. It can be challenging to monitor health because marine ecosystems are continually evolving due to natural factors and human stressors alike.
But, scientists created a scorecard that measures individual metrics – similar to a doctor measuring a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol – and discovered that only 42% of the 78 reefs currently exceed the Micronesia Challenge metrics, more than halfway into the deadline of 2020. Not surprisingly, reefs near islands with low human populations are healthier than those with larger ones.
This study has served as the impetus of resource management strategies going forward. In Scientists Measure Effectiveness of Marine Conservation (published September 24, 2015), the executive director of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei was quoted as saying that, “We have to start thinking outside the box and managing fisheries from many approaches, not just no-take marine protected areas. Networks of scientists, community members, and the fishing community have begun coming together in Pohnpei and have together decided on new legislation that limits the harvesting and sizes of key predators and large herbivores.”
The University of Guam recently received a $6 million grant to update their marine lab. Funds will be used to “increase and streamline its collection of biological samples and upgrade the levels of equipment being used in the lab.”
Funds will also allow the marine lab to form partnerships with other top-level universities to help its students specialize in niche areas. Current partnerships include Stanford University and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
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