Vulnerability to collapse of coral reef ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean

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  • David Obura
    CORDIO East Africa, Mombasa
  • Mishal Gudka
    CORDIO East Africa, Mombasa
  • Melita Samoilys
    CORDIO East Africa, Mombasa
  • Kennedy Osuka
    CORDIO East Africa, Mombasa
  • James Mbugua
    CORDIO East Africa, Mombasa
  • David A. Keith
    University of New South Wales
  • Sean Porter
    Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban
  • Ronan Roche
  • Ruben van Hooidonk
    University of Miami
  • Said Ahamada
    AIDE, Moroni, Comoros
  • Armindo Araman
    Administração Nacional das Áreas de Conservação (ANAC), Maputo
  • Juliet Karisa
    Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Mombasa
  • John Komakoma
    Marine Parks and Reserves Unit (MPRU), Dar es Salaam
  • Mouchtadi Madi
    Moheli Marine Park, Nioumachoua, Comoros
  • Isabelle Ravinia
    Seychelles National Parks Authority
  • Haja Razafindrainibe
    Centre National de Recherches Océanographiques (CNRO), Nosy Be, Madagascar
  • Saleh Yahya
    Institute of Marine Science (IMS), Zanzibar
  • Francisco Zivane
    National Institute of Fisheries Research, Maputo
Ecosystems worldwide are under increasing threat. We applied a standardized method for assessing the risk of ecosystem collapse, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems, to coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), covering 11,919 km2 of reef (~5% of the global total). Our approach combined indicators of change in historic ecosystem extent, ecosystem functioning (hard corals, fleshy algae, herbivores and piscivores) and projected sea temperature warming. We show that WIO coral reefs are vulnerable to collapse at the regional level, while in 11 nested ecoregions they range from critically endangered (islands, driven by future warming) to vulnerable (continental coast and northern Seychelles, driven principally by fishing pressure). Responses to avoid coral reef collapse must include ecosystem-based management of reefs and adjacent systems combined with mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our approach can be replicated across coral reefs globally to help countries and other actors meet conservation and sustainability targets set under multiple global conventions—including the Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-113
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number2
Early online date6 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

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