IAS currently has a number of students undertaking postgraduate (Master of Science) level research and is engaged in on-going monitoring of management effectiveness. This research aims to be ‘needs driven’ and respondent to the questions that communities that are engaged in Community Based Natural Resource Management are asking. The projects currently underway include the following:
- Herbivory-algal-coral cover interaction. There has been much research in Fiji on the role of herbivorous fish in keeping in check algal overgrowth of reefs and thereby restoring the coral dominated balance of resistant and resilient reef ecosystems. A Masters student is expanding this work to four sites across Fiji that have well-established community-based managed areas. They are looking to prove the results chain of increased herbivorous fish leading to increased algal grazing rate leading to decreased biomass of algae in situ on the reef and finally to increased live coral cover. Fieldwork is now complete and initial analysis is showing some clear relationships between these parameters at each of the sites investigated. There is a paper in preparation from this study.
- Spill-over of mature fish from community based marine protected areas. Whilst hypothesised extensively in the scientific literature, spill-over from ‘mature’ marine protected areas has been documented in only a few cases; and none in the case of the small community based protected areas in Fiji. The Masters student conducting this research has undertaken experimental fishing in a controlled manner inside, on the border of and at increasing distances from the no-take marine protected areas. Data collection is now complete and initial analysis being conducted in partnership with the University of Queensland, Australia is showing that spill over is clearly evident; with increased fish catches near the boundary of the no-take zone but decreasing with distance from the MPA. There is a paper currently in preparation for this study. This is an important result as it demonstrates the social and economic value of establishing community-based no take areas. The study also has the additional benefit of collecting both catch-data and underwater visual census of fish from the same site at the same time. We plan on examining and comparing these two methods for collecting in-situ data on the health of the fishery.
- Scaling up community-based management. Under this project we undertook a reserve design planning process to scale up from an existing network of community based marine protected areas to an island-wide functional network following many of the protected area networking principles. This study used the latest reserve design planning tools (Marxan) in a participatory manner with the communities in question and resulted in modification of the configuration of the MPA network. We intend to expand the use of this approach to other coastal provinces under other projects we are implementing.
- Examining the effects of watershed disturbance on small stream flora and fauna. As community-based resource management spreads beyond just the inshore marine areas, we recognised a need to examine the impacts of watershed disturbance through differing land use on the biodiversity of Fijian streams. A Masters student is working in 6 small catchments and data collection is now complete with analysis of results expected in early 2013.
- Catch per Unit Effort (CPUE) monitoring is and continues to be done across around 14 of the more mature FLMMA sites including 8 IAS-partnered sites. There now exists an extensive dataset spanning several years. Quarterly reports in Fijian are prepared for the communities engaged in this work and we intend to undertake some longitudinal analysis over time for selected sites in 2013.