Coral Reef Community Changes in Karimunjawa National Park, Indonesia: Assessing the Efficacy of Management in the Face of Local and Global Stressors

Karimunjawa National Park is one of Indonesia’s oldest established marine parks. Coral reefs across the park are being impacted by fishing, tourism and declining water quality (local stressors), as well as climate change (global pressures). In this study, we apply a multivariate statistical model to detailed benthic ecological datasets collected across Karimunjawa’s coral reefs, to explore drivers of community change at the park level. Eighteen sites were surveyed in 2014 and 2018, before and after the 2016 global mass coral bleaching event. Analyses revealed that average coral cover declined slightly from 29.2 ± 0.12% (Standard Deviation, SD) to 26.3 ± 0.10% SD, with bleaching driving declines in most corals. Management zone was unrelated to coral decline, but shifts from massive morphologies toward more complex foliose and branching corals were apparent across all zones, reflecting a park-wide reduction in damaging fishing practises. A doubling of sponges and associated declines in massive corals could not be related to bleaching, suggesting another driver, likely declining water quality associated with tourism and mariculture. Further investigation of this potentially emerging threat is needed. Monitoring and management of water quality across Karimunjawa may be critical to improving resilience of reef communities to future coral bleaching.

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