Russell Milne | Applied Math, University of Waterloo
Addressing Challenges for Coral Reef Conservation Using a Multi-Patch Difference Equation Model
Coral reefs, including coral species and the fish that live on them, currently face a variety of threats. Some of these, including overfishing, nutrient loading and sedimentation, are directly influenced by human behaviour. For instance, the fishing rate on a reef is affected by whether commercial or subsistence fishing is taking place there, and nutrient inflows into a coral reef system depend on agricultural and industrial chemical use in the watersheds that feed out onto the reef. Also, in order to protect coral reefs, the establishment of marine protected areas with minimal human interference has become popular, but the optimal configuration of these remains an open question. To address these issues, a spatially explicit coral reef model is adapted by adding a component based on human opinion, with feedback into the rest of the model, to represent anthropogenic effects on coral reefs. Discrete time is used in the model for the purposes of greater generalizability. This thesis aims to determine the best course of action for preserving coral reefs in the face of the mentioned threats, translating mathematical results on the robustness of coral and fish populations into concrete policy recommendations.