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Papua New Guinea: Marine Protection Designed for Reef Resilience in Kimbe Bay

Provided by Susan Ruffo and Alison Green, The Nature Conservancy

<p>Kimbe Bay. Photo credit: Alison Green</p>

Kimbe Bay. Photo credit: Alison Green

Kimbe Bay is located off of West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. It is dominated by rainforest-covered volcanic peaks rising steeply from the water, some to over 2,000 meters. But it is its wealth of marine habitats that make it unique. Kimbe Bay lies within the Coral Triangle, an area referred to as the global center of marine biodiversity. The Coral Triangle contains 76 percent of the world’s coral species and is home to many rare and threatened species. In addition, it provides livelihoods for coastal communities and protection from storm surges. Communities rely on its resources for basic needs and income, and their cultural identity is rooted in the marine environment. However, the reefs of Kimbe Bay are at risk from coral bleaching, sedimentation, and overfishing of commercially-important invertebrates.

To help ensure that the reefs of Kimbe Bay are protected, The Nature Conservancy is working with communities and the government to design and implement one of the first climate-resilient Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks.12 The goal is to conserve the bay’s biodiversity, natural resources, and address local marine resource management needs.

The scientific design of the MPA network is based on biodiversity and socioeconomic assessments and principles for climate change-resilient MPAs.3 The criteria for designing the MPA network includes: selecting sites that represent and replicate major habitats; protecting unique sites (e.g., for fish spawning); incorporating biological patterns of connectivity to ensure sites can replenish each other and facilitate recovery after a disturbance; and reducing other threats (particularly unsustainable fishing and runoff from poor land use practices).

The implementation process commenced in 2007 and is expected to take approximately five years, relying heavily on partnerships with local communities, industry, NGOs, and all levels of government. To date, locally managed marine areas have been established with management plans and agreements in place in four sites and are underway in three others.

A program for monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of Kimbe Bay’s resilient MPA network is currently being developed and implemented.4 The lessons learned from this pilot MPA network will help to give coral reefs and associated ecosystems around the world a better chance to survive climate change, and help them to continue to provide critical ecosystem services to local communities.

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  1. Green, A., S. Smith, G. Lipsett-Moore, C. Groves, N. Peterson, S. Sheppard, P. Lokani, R. Hamilton, J. Almany, J. Aitsi and L. Bualia. Designing a Resilient Network of Marine Protected Areas for Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Oryx 43, 488-489 (2009). 

  2. Sheppard, S., J. Almany, S. Keu, J. Aitsi, J. Warku Karvon, R. Hamilton and G. Lipsett-Moore. Scientific Design of a Resilient Network of Marine Protected Areas. TNC Pacific Island Countries Report No. 2/07. (Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea, 2007). 

  3. Grimsditch, G. D. and R. V. Salm. Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching. (IUCN, 2006); West, J. M. and R. V. Salm. Resistance and Resilience to Coral Bleaching: Implications for Coral Reef Conservation and Management. Conservation Biology 17, 956–967 (2003); McLeod, E., R. Salm, A. Green and J. Almany. Designing Marine Protected Area Networks to Address the Impacts of Climate Change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7, 362-370 (2009). 

  4. Green, A. et al. Measuring Success of Establishing a Resilient Network of Marine Protected Areas in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Draft Technical Report by the Nature Conservancy. (in prep.). 

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