A Healthy Sense of Closure:
Facilitating Important Research for Sanctuary Management
When attempting to protect any marine natural resource, information on the status and natural variability of ecological systems is essential for informed management. For Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, this was a confounding situation because there was no control area for comparison of natural processes with human‐induced change. In December 2011, a research area where human impacts are limited was designated in the "south 40" of the sanctuary.
The research area allows investigations to evaluate possible impacts from recreational fishing on sanctuary resources. As an important sentinel site, the research area also allows investigation of the effects of natural events and cycles (e.g., hurricanes and droughts), as well as the impacts of climate change. With a better understanding of the factors that influence ecosystem health and function, managers can better protect the resources and respond rapidly and appropriately to natural or human‐induced events.