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BOX 9.3 WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
Resilience is the ability of reefs to absorb and recover from recurrent disturbances (e.g. from cyclones, outbreaks of predators, or coral bleaching events). Loss of resilience can lead to a sudden switch, known as a phase-shift, to an alternate assemblage of species that is typically dominated by fleshy seaweeds. Many reefs around the world have lost their resilience to routine disturbances, and instead of recovering as before are becoming more and more degraded. A resilience-based approach to reef management focuses on avoiding thresholds that lead to undesirable phase-shifts.
The traditional approach to management of marine fisheries is based on a flawed concept: the 'optimal' harvesting of single species in systems that are assumed to be reasonably stable. An emerging alternative approach recognises that ecosystems are characterised by complex dynamics and thresholds, and that disturbance and change are inevitable. Ecosystem-based management is replacing earlier single-species approaches, emphasising the broader array of ecological processes that sustain the delivery of harvestable resources. The traditional view of No-Take Areas as being primarily for managing fisheries is waning, with an increasing emphasis on their broader utility for managing biodiversity, restoring the structure of foodwebs, maintaining ecological functions, and building ecosystem resilience to future shocks.
Resilience Alliance: available at http://www.resalliance.org [Verified 21 February 2008].
Figure 9.9 Galaxea surrounded by algae. Macroalgal blooms can prevent recruitment by corals and smother adult colonies. (Photo: L. Anderson.)
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