Abstract: The continuing and rapid global decline of coral reefs calls for new approaches to sustain reefs and the millions of people who depend on them. In this talk, I present ongoing work by my research group aimed at rethinking reef conservation along two lines. First is directly confronting key drivers of change. In addition to environmental factors, there are socioeconomic drivers that influence the condition of coral reef ecosystems, though reef governance rarely focus on explicitly managing these. My colleagues and I analysed data from >2500 reef sites worldwide to quantify how key socioeconomic and environmental drivers are related to reef fish biomass, the presence of top predators, and trait diversity. Our global analysis reveals that the most consistent driver of reef fish assemblages is our metric of potential interactions with urban centres (market gravity). These results highlight underutilized policy levers that could help to sustain coral reefs, such as dampening the negative impact of markets. Second, drawing on theory and practice in human health and rural development, we use a positive deviance (bright spots) analysis to systematically identify coral reefs that have substantially higher biomass than expected, given their socioeconomic and environmental conditions. We then do a “deep dive” into one bright spot where I have been working for 16 years and describe some of the challenges and opportunities of the adaptive reef management system they employ.
Biography: Joshua Cinner began his work as an environmental social scientist while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica in the mid 1990s. He has since completed a Master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2000 and a PhD from James Cook University in 2006. Josh’s research explores how social, economic, and cultural factors influence the ways in which people use, perceive, and govern natural resources. His background is in human geography and he often works closely with ecologists to uncover complex linkages between social and ecological systems. He has worked on human dimensions of marine conservation in Australia, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Seychelles, Indonesia, Mozambique, and the USA. He has published >145 peer-reviewed journal articles and a book published by Oxford University Press. Josh is a Full Professor at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, holds an ARC Future Fellowship, and is a recipient of the 2015 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, the 2017 Elinor Ostrom Award on collective governance of the commons, the 2018 Mid-career Award from the International Coral Reef Society, and is a Clairvate Analytics “Highly Cited Author” (2018).