J. Service Science & Management, 2010, 3, 250-256
doi:10.4236/jssm.2010.32030 Published Online June 2010 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
Sustainable Tourism and Management for Coral
Reefs: Preserving Diversity and Plurality in a Time
of Climate Change
M. James C. Crabbe
LIRANS Institute of Research in the Applied Natural Sciences, Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies and Science, University of
Bedfordshire, Luton, United Kingdom.
Email: james.crabbe@beds.ac.uk
Received November 18th, 2009; revised March 1st, 2010; accepted April 18th, 2010.
Coral reefs throughout the world are under severe challenges from a variety of anthropogenic and environmental fac-
tors. In a period of climate change, where mobility and tourism are under threat, it is useful to demonstrate the value of
eco- and research-tourism to individuals and to cultures, and how diversity and pluralism in sustainable environments
may be preserved. Here we identify the ways in which organisations use research tourism to benefit ecosystem diversity
and conservation, show how an Earthwatch project has produced scientific information on the fringing reefs of North
Jamaica, and how a capacity-building programme in Belize developed specific action plans for ecotourism. We discuss
how implementation of those plans can help research tourism and preserve ecosystem diversity in times of climate
Keywords: Fisheries Policy, Belize, Global Warming, Jamaica, Ecosystems
1. Introduction
1.1 Coral Reefs
Coral reefs throughout the world are under severe chal-
lenges from a variety of anthropogenic and environmental
factors including overfishing, destructive fishing practices,
coral bleaching, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, algal
blooms, agricultural run-off, coastal and resort develop-
ment, marine pollution, increasing coral diseases, inva-
sive species, and hurricane/cyclone damage [1,2]. Most
reefs are thought of as open non-equilibium systems, [3]
with diversity maintained by disturbance and recruitment,
as well as by predation, competition and evolutionary his-
tory [4]. Interspecific competition [5,6] is pervasive among
coral communities, and is important in maintaining their
viability [7,8]. Heterospecific competition of corals with
algae reduces coral growth and survivorship [9,10]. In
corals, spatial arrangement, orientation and aggregation
may be a key mechanism contributing to species coexis-
tence on coral reefs [11,12]. Maintaining coral reef popu-
lations in the face of large scale degradation and phase-
shifts on reefs depends critically on recruitment [13,14],
maintenance of grazing fish and urchin populations [15],
clade of symbiotic zooxanthellae [16] and management
of human activities related to agricultural land use and
coastal development [17]. It is the generation of scientific
information and capacity-building with the help of eco-
and research-tourism that we wish to address here, par-
ticularly as such non-governmental oganisations come un-
der threat in a period of climate change.
1.2 Climate Change and the End of Tourism?
Tourism is a vital economic driver for many countries;
not least some of the poorest countries in the world. The
literature on climate change and sustainable tourism is
somewhat fragmented, largely consisting of individual
case-studies [18-20], although all agree on the cross-
border nature of tourism. Burns and Bibbings [21] in
their paper on socio-cultural aspects of tourism, discuss
the changes in demand that climate change brings to the
tourism agenda. They take a series of research questions
based around ethical consumption, sustainability, policies,
actions and communication, and indicate that social ben-
eficial behaviour for all concerned is the way forward;
simply sticking to adaptation as the default response to
climate change will hasten the ‘end of tourism’.
Sustainable Tourism and Management for Coral Reefs: Preserving Diversity and Plurality in a Time of Climate Change251
1.3 Ecotourism and Research Tourism
The ‘compulsive’ appetite for increasing mobility [22,23]
allied to a social desire for extraordinary ‘peak experie-
nces’ [24] has led to the modern ‘ethical consumer’ for
tourism services [22,25] derived from the ‘experiential’
and ‘existential’ tourist of the 1970s [26]. The model un-
derlying sustainability tourism is complex with contra-
dictory elements [27]for example irrefutable evidence
about the consequences of climate change yet a lack of
information on how to respond at a community level. Se-
veral organisations have taken the concept of ecotourism
further to research tourism, whereby the tourist gets to
work on research projects under the supervision of rec-
ognised researchers. Two organisations that have devel-
oped research tourism are Operation Wallacea, based in
the UK, and the Earthwatch Institute, based in the USA
but with global coverage and offices in several countries.
Here we identify the ways in which both organisations
use research tourism to benefit ecosystem diversity and
conservation. We then show how an Earthwatch progr-
amme on coral reefs generated scientific information to
inform management strategies in Jamica. This is followed
by a description of a capacity-building programme in
Belize, which developed specific action plans for tourism.
We discuss how implementation of those plans can help
preserve coral reef ecosystems in times of climate change.
1.4 Operation Wallacea
Operation Wallacea (OpWall; http://www.opwall.com) is
a series of biological and conservation management re-
search programmes that operate in remote locations across
the world. These expeditions are designed with specific
sustainable conservation aims in mindfrom identifying
areas needing protection, through to implementing and
assessing conservation management programmes. Uni-
versity academics, who are specialists in various aspects
of biodiversity or social and economic studies are con-
centrated at the target study sites giving volunteers the
opportunity of working on a range of research projects.
The research has resulted in several publications in peer-
reviewed journals (e.g., 14 papers published on coral reefs
in the Wakatobi Marine National Park, Indonesia, from
2003-2009details at: http://www.opwall.com/Library/
Indonesia/coral%20reefs.shtml), the discovery of 30 ver-
tebrate species new to science, 4 ‘extinct’ species being
re-discovered and $ 2 million levered from funding agen-
cies to set up best practice management examples at the
study sites.
A research and conservation strategy has been devel-
oped and is applied in 4 stages at each of the sites. This
includes an initial assessment of the biological value of
the site (stage 1). If the site is accepted into the OpWall
programme then an ecosystem monitoring programme is
established to determine the direction of change (stage 2).
If this reveals a continuing decline then a programme for
monitoring socio-economic change in adjacent communi-
ties is established to determine how these communities
interact with the study site (stage 3). Once these stage 2
and stage 3 data are obtained funding applications are
submitted to establish a best practice example of conser-
vation management and the success of these programmes
are then monitored (stage 4). There is obviously some
considerable overlap between these stages and stage 1
projects can still be running in addition to a stage 4 pro-
gramme in order to add data to understanding the eco-
system requirements of target species or adding to the
overall species lists for previously un-worked taxa.
Throughout these 4 stages of development, an addi-
tional objective of the programmes is to develop financial
benefits to local communities from protecting the studied
areas. Wherever possible the expeditions are organised in
close co-operation with the local communities and sub-
stantial benefits accrue to those communities through
providing accommodation, food, transport, manpower etc.
In addition to the direct economic input from the expedi-
tions though, emphasis is placed on the development of
businesses that can provide alternative incomes to local
communities (e.g., coral growing for the aquarists market
in Kaledupa, Wildlife Conservation Product prices for
cashews, chocolate and coffee in Indonesia and Honduras
etc.) in the additional funding applications made.
1.5 Earthwatch Institute
Earthwatch (http://www.earthwatch.org/) is an interna-
tional environmental charity which is committed to con-
serving the diversity and integrity of life on earth to meet
the needs of current and future generations. They work
with a wide range of partners, from individuals who work
as conservation volunteers on research teams through to
corporate partners (such as HSBC), governments and
institutions. Earthwatch has a global reach, with offices
in Oxford (UK), Boston (USA), Melbourne (Australia)
and Tokyo (Japan). Earthwatch engages people world-
wide in scientific field research and education to promote
the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable
environment. Research volunteers work with scientists
and social scientists around the world to help gather data
needed to address environmental and social issues. By
directly supporting field research and educating and en-
gaging thousands of people, Earthwatch has made a sig-
nificant contribution to achieving a sustainable environ-
ment over the past 35 years. Apart from many papers in
peer-reviewed journals, Earthwatch has had other suc-
cesses in sustainable ecosystems. These include securing
Ramsar status (see: http://www.ramsar.org/index_about_
ramsar.htm) for Lake Elmenteita in Kenya and diverting
shipping lanes to help dolphin conservation in the waters
around Spain. In 2008, Earthwatch Australia won an En-
vironment Award for supporting a research project on
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
Sustainable Tourism and Management for Coral Reefs: Preserving Diversity and Plurality in a Time of Climate Change
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
Forest Marsupials (see: http://www.earthwatch.org/about-
These individuals were chosen because they had direct
contact with both NGOs (Non-governmental organisa-
tions) and CBOs (Community-based organisations), and
the government Fisheries Department, thus maximising
exposure of capacity-building while keeping the numbers
of participants within workable limits [29]. Discussions,
led by the Facilitator employed a modified nominal group
technique [30] to identify priorities related to personal
action plans. Four rounds were employed; round one was
based on the Delphi technique and further rounds on the
nominal group technique approach [31]. Those rounds
resulted in a number of management proposals [32], and
an action plan for ecotourism.
Both these organisations have well evidenced strateg-
ies and outputs regarding community and ecosystem sus-
tainability. It is the long-term strategies of both organisa-
tions that underpin their successes in this area; they are in
for the long haul, and can effect conservation in a differ-
ent way to a standard 3 year research grant.
2. Methods
2.1 Jamaican Coral Reef Sites and Sampling
Studies were conducted using SCUBA at five sites [Rio
Bueno (18° 28.805' N; 77° 27.625' W), Dancing Ladies
(18° 28.369' N; 77° 24.802' W), M1 (18° 28.337' N; 77°
24.525' W), Dairy Bull (18° 28.083' N; 77° 23.302' W),
and Pear Tree Bottom (18° 27.829' N; 77° 21.403' W)] over
a seven year period (2002-2009) along the fringing reefs
surrounding Discovery Bay, Jamaica. GPS coordinates
were determined using a hand-held GPS receiver (Garmin
Ltd.). For all sites, four haphazardly located transects, each
15 m long and separated by at least 5 m, were laid at be-
tween 5-8.5 m depth, to minimise variation in growth
rates due to depth. Corals 2 m either side of the transect
lines were photographed and surface areas measured with
flexible tape as described previously using SCUBA [see
28]. To increase accuracy, surface areas rather than di-
ameters of live non-branching corals were measured.
3. Results
3.1 Corals on the Fringing Reefs of Jamaica
As the viability of small coral colonies over time can
indicate reef resilience [see 28], as part of an Earthwatch
project on coral reefs of Jamaica, Figure 1 shows the
annual changes in the colony numbers of the smallest size
class (0-250 mm2 surface area) each year from 2002-2008
for one massive species of coral, Diploria strigosa. There
was a reduction in the smallest size class at all the sites in
2006, with subsequent increases at all sites in 2007 and
2008. This behaviour was similar to that observed with
other coral species [28].
The only bleaching event that significantly impacted
the reef sites during the study period was the mass Car-
ibbean bleaching event of 2005. Analysis of satellite data
showed that there were 6 degree heating weeks (dhw) for
sea surface temperatures in September and October 2005
near Discovery Bay, data which was mirrored by data
loggers on the reefs [see 28]. Six dhw are equivalent to
six weeks of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) one degree
Celsius greater than the expected summer maximum.
This work was conducted at Discovery Bay during
March 26-April 19 in 2002, March 18-April 10 in 2003,
July 23-August 21 in 2004, July 18-August 13 in 2005,
April 11-18 in 2006, December 30 in 2006-January 6 in
2007, and July 30-August 16 in 2008.
2.2 Capacity Building Exercise in Belize for
Coral Reefs
Interestingly, in 2005, the year after hurricane Ivan, the
most severe storm to impact the reef sites over the study
period, there was a slight reduction in the numbers of the
smallest size classes, particularly notable at Dairy Bull.
The capacity building team consisted of one officer from
the Belize Fisheries Department, three senior officers
from NGOs involved in managing Belize MPAs (TIDE,
TASTE and Friends of Nature), and myself from the UK.
Figure 1. Graphs of annual changes in the colony numbers of the smallest size class (0-250 mm2 surface area) from 2002-2008
for Diploria strigosa at Rio Bueno (RB), M1 (M1), Dancing Ladies (DL), Dairy Bull (DB), and Pear Tree Bottom (PTB)
Sustainable Tourism and Management for Coral Reefs: Preserving Diversity and Plurality in a Time of Climate Change253
Figures 2(a)-2(b) show total colony numbers of me-
dium-large surface area corals (i.e., > 250 mm2 surface
area) during the same period, for the massive corals Dip-
loria strigosa and Colpophyllia natans.
These data show that while recruitment of small corals
is returning after the major bleaching event of 2005, lar-
ger corals are not necessarily so resilient, and so need
careful management if the reefs are to survive such major
extreme events.
3.2 Action Plan to Foster Ecotourism for Coastal
Zone Management of Coral Reefs
Table 1 illustrates a summary action plan developed for
ecotourism and coastal zone management. Implementa-
tion of that plan requires a series of tactics revolving
around a number of themes: organisation and managem-
ent, education, resources, and policy development. It is
important to have clear and disinterested leadership and a
decision-making process that links local stakeholders
with ecotourism organisations, and is widely respected to
reduce the possibility that differences do not deteriorate
into conflict. Surveys need to be conducted to evaluate
level of success and failure. Too often, programmes have
been formed and implemented but end results have not
been evaluated. Surveys should be carried back to stake-
holders for a presentation to establish further steps, and
communication is an essential feature of maintenance of
ecotourism and conservation. The capacity-building ex-
ercise helped in continuing the link between the Earth-
watch Institute and the Fisheries Department in the Be-
lize Government [29,32].
Colony numbers
Colony numbers
Figure 2. Graphs of annual changes in the total colony numbers of medium-large size corals (> 250 mm2 surface area) from
2002-2008 for: Diploria strigosa (a) and Colpophyllia natans (b) at Rio Bueno (RB), M1 (M1), Dancing Ladies (DL), Dairy
Bull (DB), and Pear Tree Bottom (PTB)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
Sustainable Tourism and Management for Coral Reefs: Preserving Diversity and Plurality in a Time of Climate Change
Table 1. Action plan for ecotourism and management of coral reefs from the capacity building exercise conducted in Belize
Objective Activity Output Outcome Impact
To improve networking
between local stakeholders
and ecotourism partners.
To improve awareness of
climate change issues for
local stakeholders
Organise meetings with
partners and share infor-
Hold meetings between
ecotourism partners and
distribute climate change
information among part-
ners and stakeholders
Distributing research
papers and informa-
tion among other
researchers and part-
ners and local stake-
Development of projects
linking ecotourism part-
ners with NGOs, CBOs
and local stakeholders
Improved conservation of
coastal zone species
Will create better awareness
and will assist in deci-
sion-making at local and
national levels.
4. Plurality and Communication
Research ecotourisism organisations such as those men-
tioned above are important in that they provide first hand
experience of living and working in pluralistic cultures,
and are a complement to the information available via
broadcasting and over the internet. In a digital age, where
anyone can gain access to opinions through the internet,
there is a worry that loss of plurality might be a problem
[15]. In order to foster the virtues of plurality and differ-
ence inherent in civil societies our cultures need at the
same time points of connection and mutual recognition,
where differences can be asserted, acknowledged and
accommodated. Can that public space for the common
recognition of difference be created in the internet age?
Must plurality be remodelled anew? Debate on these
questions is important, if we are to preserve diversity in
all its aspects.
Diversity and pluralisma problem or an answer
for policy development?
Isaiah Berlin defined negative liberty as the absence of
constraints on, or interference with, agents’ possible ac-
tion [33]. Greater “negative freedom” meant fewer re-
strictions on possible action. Berlin associated positive
liberty with the idea of self-mastery, or the capacity to
determine oneself, to be in control of one’s destiny. While
Berlin granted that both concepts of liberty represent
valid human ideals, as a matter of history the positive
concept of liberty has proved particularly susceptible to
political abuse [34].
Intimately connected with this pluralist thesis is a be-
lief in freedom from interference, especially by those
who think they know better, that they can choose for us
in a more enlightened way than we can choose for our-
selves. This is relevant to sustainability and tourism, as
under neoliberalism, everything can become commodi-
fied, from products and services to the environment. De-
velopment of policy by ‘participation’ is often far from
participatory and representative [35-36]. Instead of a spl-
endid synthesis there must be a permanent, at times
painful, piecemeal process of untidy trade-offs and care-
ful balancing of contradictory claims [e.g., 32,37].
New global rights discourses and international law poi-
nt towards sustainable relationships between different
cultural groups and the environment. The results from
research tourism can help to transform the development
of resources, for example in Jamaica and elsewhere in the
Caribbean [28,38-39] to the preservation of resources
[40]. Research being conducted by the Opwall and Ear-
thwatch research tourists can not only help immeasurably
in obtaining important scientific information, such as that
described in this paper for the coral reefs of Jamaica, but
also build bridges between stakeholder communities and
organisations. Examples of where this has been success-
ful, using protocols similar to those mentioned in Table 1,
are in Belize [32] and in Cayos Cochinos in Honduras
[41]. Ecotourism can help conserve both biological and
social diversity. As the political reality of climate change
becomes more evident, the valuable tools from research
tourism need to be preserved in the face of increasing
As Lois MacNiece wrote [42]:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
World is crazier and more of it than we think.
Incorrigibly plural.
5. Acknowledgements
I thank the Earthwatch Institute and the Oak Foundation
(USA) for funding, Mr. Anthony Downes, Mr. Peter
Gayle, and the staff of the Discovery Bay Marine Labo-
ratory, Jamaica, for their invaluable help and assistance,
and to volunteers for their help underwater measuring
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