Measuring the Effect of Marine Protected Areas on Coral Disease Prevalence Using a Meta-analysis Approach



Nguyen, Valerie T

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With corals threatened worldwide from multiple stressors, the evaluation of coral reef management strategies is critical to effectively manage and conserve these ecosystems. One management strategy is a marine protected area (MPA). This thesis endeavored to evaluate whether MPAs were effective in managing coral disease and describes a systematic review to collect data from independently researched sources of coral disease prevalence within and outside of MPAs and the synthesis of these data in meta-analysis models. Risk difference was calculated from prevalence data either as total averages per source, inside and outside MPAs, or by averaging prevalence based on MPA age or protection level. Random-effects, inverse variance weighted meta-analysis models were fit to these respective datasets. Ultimately, only the models with covariance estimates calculated by MPA age or protection level had significant probability values, but power analysis showed this significance to be a Type 1 error. The lack of significance and power for all models was best explained by highly significant heterogeneity for all models, due to variation at the data-collection level (survey methods and disease identification) at the data-reporting level (incomplete data) across all studies. Recommendations for resource managers and monitoring organizations include reporting usage or protection level of all MPAs surveyed for use as a factor in analysis, increasing raw data accessibility for other analysts, and reducing heterogeneity through consistency in data collection methods. By addressing heterogeneity in coral disease data, a meta-analysis of coral disease prevalence outside and inside MPAs may be possible, providing valuable insight for coral reef managers into the use of MPAs to mitigate disease as a stressor of declining reefs as outbreaks and disease emergence become more common.



Meta-analysis, Marine protected area, Marine resource management, Coral disease, Coral ref