Linking Social and Ecological Systems to Sustain Coral Reef Fisheries

Joshua E. Cinner*, Timothy R. McClanahan, Tim M. Daw, Nicholas A J Graham, Joseph Maina, Shaun K. Wilson, Terence P. Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

255 Citations (Scopus)


The ecosystem goods and services provided by coral reefs are critical to the social and economic welfare of hundreds of millions of people, overwhelmingly in developing countries [1]. Widespread reef degradation is severely eroding these goods and services, but the socioeconomic factors shaping the ways that societies use coral reefs are poorly understood [2]. We examine relationships between human population density, a multidimensional index of socioeconomic development, reef complexity, and the condition of coral reef fish populations in five countries across the Indian Ocean. In fished sites, fish biomass was negatively related to human population density, but it was best explained by reef complexity and a U-shaped relationship with socioeconomic development. The biomass of reef fishes was four times lower at locations with intermediate levels of economic development than at locations with both low and high development. In contrast, average biomass inside fishery closures was three times higher than in fished sites and was not associated with socioeconomic development. Sustaining coral reef fisheries requires an integrated approach that uses tools such as protected areas to quickly build reef resources while also building capacities and capital in societies over longer time frames to address the complex underlying causes of reef degradation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-212
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes




Dive into the research topics of 'Linking Social and Ecological Systems to Sustain Coral Reef Fisheries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this