Project: Future of reefs in a changing environment: an ecosystem approach to managing Caribbean coral reefs in the face of climate change (FORCE)

From January 2010
Project Leader(s): Prof. Nick Polunin (Ecology), Prof. Selina Stead (Social Science), Dr Clare Fitzsimmons (Integration)
Staff: Dr Steve Newman, Mr Charlie Dryden (Ecology), Dr Johanna Forster (Social Science)
Sponsors: European Commission FP7 research framework
Partners: University of Costa Rica (UCR), University of the West Indies (UWI), many local partners within the Caribbean, University of Queensland, Exeter University

The FORCE project aims to comprehensively analyse the ecological state of Caribbean coral reefs through empirical field and experimental work and modelling, and understand wider societal factors such as environmental governance that influence it.

Newcastle ecological role in the project is to establish a substantial data set on the ecological state of the coral reefs; completed in December 2011, these data include habitat structural complexity (Dryden), fish (Newman), algae (Sanchez, UCR) and benthos (Williams, UCR) in 116 sites across 10 countries (Bay Is, Honduras; Belize; Barbados; Bonaire; Curacao; Dominican Republic; Antigua; St Lucia; St Vincent & the Grenadines. We also conducted very detailed analyses at 3 locations (Bonaire, Puerto Rico, St Vincent & the Grenadines) of how reef biodiversity varies with reef habitat structural complexity. These data will be employed in models and detailed analyses of spatial variations in reef state and the factors contributing to it across the region.

Newcastle leads the social elements of the project, aiming to develop an understanding of reef users and resource dependent communities in the study countries, and the diversity and efficacy of current approaches to reef management in region.  This is achieved through legislative and policy reviews, and interviews during fieldwork with householders (community members and reef resource users), and key informants (local and national level individuals involved in reef management and decision-making). Newcastle and UWI are pioneering novel approaches to the study of natural resource governance, using social network analyses and futures methods. Governance and livelihoods work has been conducted in three communities in each of four countries Honduras; Belize; Barbados; St Kitts and Nevis (completed in August 2012). The overall objective is to identify societal and governance constraints to effective reef management and communicate these to communities, government policy-makers, international development agencies, and non-governmental organisations. The work is complemented by ongoing work in the UK Caribbean overseas territories (Defra).


Dr Clare Fitzsimmons

Professor Nick Polunin
Professor of Marine Environmental Science

Professor Selina Stead
Professor of Marine Governance and Environmental Science