Great Barrier Reef No-Take Areas Include a Range of Disturbance Regimes

Jeffrey A. Maynard, Roger Beeden, Marjetta Puotinen, Johanna E. Johnson, Paul Marshall, Ruben van Hooidonk, Scott F. Heron, Michelle Devlin, Eric Lawrey, Jen Dryden, Natalie Ban, David Wachenfeld, Serge Planes

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Exposure to disturbance is rarely considered in marine protected area planning. Typically, representing and replicating the habitat types present within protected areas is used to spread the risk of protecting frequently disturbed sites. This was the approach used during the 2004 re-zoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) via the Representative Areas Program. Over 10 years later, we examine whether the risk was spread by mapping exposure of coral reefs in the GBRMP to four disturbances that cause coral mortality: bleaching, tropical cyclones, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, and freshwater inundation. Our objectives were to: (1) assess whether no-take areas include a range of disturbance regimes, and (2) identify coral reef areas with lower relative exposure. At least 13% and an average of 31% of reef locations in each of 11 exposure classes are included within no-take areas. A greater proportion of low-exposure areas are within no-take areas than high-exposure areas (34.2% vs. 28.3%). The results demonstrate the value of risk spreading when exposure data are not available while also showing that regularly assessing exposure increases capacity for adaptive, resilience-based reef management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-199
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Coral reefs
  • climate change
  • exposure
  • management
  • marine protected areas
  • spatial planning
  • vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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