This past week Professor Allison co-authored not one, but two papers published in the journal Nature. The studies published represent two different aspects of his work: one takes a statistical approach to 'big data' in order to glean understanding from global patterns of reef health, while the other focuses on the role fish play in nutrition worldwide. Both are global in scale. 

 

1. 'Bright Spots' in Coral Reefs 

Lead by Joshua Cinner of James Cook University, the first paper is a truly collaborative effort with nearly 40 authors representing over 30 institutions. With a forward-looking approach, the gaggle of researchers champion the idea that outliers are not just anomalies, but sources of potential game-changing information. They apply this concept to the future of coral reefs by identifying and learning from both 'bright spots' and 'dark spots' - in other words, reefs that are doing better than might be expected and those that are doing worse than would typically be expected. After compiling data from more than 2,500 reefs worldwide, the authors identified 15 bright spots and 35 dark spots. The study revealed that bright spots are characterized by strong sociocultural institutions, high levels of local engagement in management, high dependence on marine resources and beneficial environmental conditions.

Bright and dark spot locations (b) and the extent to which they deviated from expected biomass levels (a). Almost all bright spots are located in the Pacific Ocean.

Bright and dark spot locations (b) and the extent to which they deviated from expected biomass levels (a). Almost all bright spots are located in the Pacific Ocean.

Other authors include Tim McClanahan of Wildlife Conservation Society, Stuart Sandin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jack Kittinger of Conservation International Hawaii, Larry Crowder of Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions and Rashid Sumaila of University of British Columbia's Fisheries Economics Research Unit.

 

2. Fish Catch and Human Health

The second paper is lead by Christopher Golden of Harvard University and Professor Allison and presents calculations suggesting that declining numbers of marine fish will lead to malnutrition for 11 percent of the global population, or 845 million people. The authors note that fish are an important source of micronutrients - such as zinc, vitamin-A, and iron - in addition to their more widely acknowledged role of providing protein. By combining data on fish catch and dietary nutrition, the study suggests that low-latitude developing nations, in which human health is most dependent on fish, will also be the most impacted by decreases in fish catch and availability.

Projected changes in marine catch globally.

Projected changes in marine catch globally.

The other authors on the study are William W.L.Cheung, Madan M. Dey, Douglas J. McCauley, Matthew Smith, Bapu Vaitla, Dirk Zeller and Samuel S. Meyers.

Read more about Allison’s work in the UW Today articles Bright spots’ shine light on the future of coral reefs & Falling fish catches could mean malnutrition in the developing world.

 

Comment