Marine reserve design and monitoring across life stages

To inform scientific guidelines for establishing marine protected areas that account for the early life stages of organisms, I am active in research to evaluate the survival and spatial distribution of larval and juvenile fishes in networks of marine reserves. My work has shown that environmental conditions experienced during the larval stage can influence future survival of juvenile fish settling to the reef and recruitment dynamics (Grorud-Colvert & Sponaugle 2011, Grorud-Colvert & Sponaugle 2006, Sponaugle & Grorud-Colvert 2006, Johnson et al. 2012, 2014). For example, new research shows that rockfish settling to a marine reserve are related (Ottmann et al. in press, , research of co-supervised Masters student). Early life history attributes of fishes are relevant for the design and monitoring of marine reserves, especially when larval supply and juvenile recruitment of fishes is highly variable across marine reserves and non-protected areas (Grorud-Colvert & Sponaugle 2009, Grorud-Colvert et al. in prep, Ottmann et al. in prep). Documenting this spatial variability, as well as the importance of post-settlement survival for determining densities of fish recruits, helps to complete the picture as greater numbers of adult predators in marine reserves potentially prey on juvenile fishes (Sponaugle et al. 2012).

Contact me

                     Kirsten Grorud-Colvert

                        Department of Integrative Biology

                        Oregon State University

                        3029 Cordley Hall

                        Corvallis, OR 97331

Photo credits: E. D’Alessandro, John Meyer, Tully Rohrer


Case studies of marine reserve science, policy, and management

As part of my work to synthesize data from marine reserves around the globe, I recently co-authored a Policy Forum (Lubchenco & Grorud-Colvert 2015) and book chapter (Grorud-Colvert et al. 2015) highlighting the progress still needed to meet international targets to protect 10% or more of the ocean. I continue to actively evaluate marine reserve case studies from diverse protected areas, spanning a range of marine protected areas with the intention of covering sites with both top-down and bottom-up approaches to management, integration and exclusion of local community members and resource users, and use of scientific data and/or collaboration between scientists, managers, and local stakeholders. This policy- and management-level information is evaluated in the context of scientific data showing the ecological effects of protection in these marine reserves. Sites include Lundy Island and Flamborough Head in the United Kingdom, Torre Guaceto Protected Area in Italy, the marine reserves of the Western Mediterranean, Florida’s Dry Tortugas, Anacapa Island in California’s Channel Islands, and coastal California in connection with the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. With the goal of informing policy makers, stakeholders, and managers about the ecological effects and policy framework of these marine reserves, these case studies are currently presented in a non-technical format geared towards non-scientists via educational booklets (PISCO 2007, 2008, 2010, 2016). The MLPA case study also provides a discussion framework for a publication about science communication (Grorud-Colvert et al. 2010; please see below).

Recruitment of fishes to Oregon’s marine reserves

This project provides some of the first insights into the supply of young fishes to the Oregon nearshore and baseline data on the fish species settling to the Otter Rock Marine Reserve, Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, and nearby areas (Ottmann et al. in prep). Early juvenile fishes are sampled using Standard Monitoring Units for Recruitment of Fish (SMURFs), an efficient and cost-effective tool for estimating recruitment to Oregon’s high-energy nearshore and a promising method for monitoring Oregon’s new marine reserves. In partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Marine Reserves Team, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and collaborators from OSU, this study lays the groundwork for informing adaptive management, providing information about fishes settling to marine reserves during their earliest life stages.

Ecological effects of marine protected areas

We have been assessing the ecological effects of marine reserves in the Upper Florida Keys in terms of predator communities and their indirect effect on recruitment of coral reef fishes. Greater densities of larger and smaller predators in marine reserves may contribute to variability in fish recruitment (Sponaugle et al. 2012) and therefore influence area-based management to protect species across life stages. These data on the direct and indirect effects of marine reserves contribute to a growing body of peer-reviewed literature about the ecology of communities in marine protected areas. To synthesize this information and inform discussions of marine reserves and other marine protected areas as key components of ecosystem-based management around the globe, I have worked collaboratively on meta-analyses investigating the effects of marine reserves around the world. For example, I and my colleagues assessed the effects of 124 marine reserves around the world and found consistent increases in species density, biomass, and diversity as well as organism size (Lester et al. 2010). This meta-analysis also forms the basis for a European meta-analysis (project of supervised post-doc; Fenberg et al. 2012) and a Mediterranean meta-analysis (Giakoumi et al. in review), which identify the ecological effects of marine reserves across these regions and links these to policy-related issues including regional distribution of no-take areas, contribution to regional and global conservation targets, and remaining gaps in regional marine reserve science . I also co-edited, along with Drs. Steve Gaines and Sarah Lester, a Sustainability Science Special Feature on Marine Reserves in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and published a paper about the importance of connected networks of MPAs (Grorud-Colvert et al. 2014).

Communicating the science of marine reserves

The links among marine reserve data, policy implementation, and effective marine management remain at the core of my work. As we seek to bridge the gaps between these often disparate conversations, the effective communication of marine reserve and other policy-relevant marine science has become a major focus. The growing scientific information about marine reserves must be conveyed to non-scientists in a nontechnical, credible, and neutral format, but scientists often lack the training and experience for effectively sharing their scientific knowledge. To aid in the development of communication strategies for scientists, a recent paper outlines the steps taken to communicate marine reserve science to diverse stakeholders involved in the process to establish marine protected areas in the Channel Islands and along California’s mainland coast (Grorud-Colvert et al. 2010). The presented communication strategy, which draws on key concepts such as the identification of audiences and main messages as well as measuring the success of communication, is widely applicable to scientists approaching any dialogue about natural resource management.