NCEAS Product 25261

Brown, Christopher J.; Jupiter, Stacy D.; Albert, Simon; Klein, Carissa J.; Mangubhai, Sangeeta; Maina Mbui, Joseph; Mumby, Peter J.; Olley, Jon; Stewart-Koster, Ben; Tulloch, Vivitskaia J.; Wenger, Amelia. 2017. Tracing the influence of land-use change on water quality and coral reefs using Bayesian model. bioRxiv. (Abstract) (Online version)


Coastal ecosystems can be degraded by poor water quality. Tracing the causes of poor water quality back to land-use change is necessary to target catchment management for coastal zone management. However, existing models for tracing the sources of pollution require extensive data-sets which are not available for many of the world's coral reef regions that may have severe water quality issues. Here we develop a hierarchical Bayesian model that uses freely available satellite data to infer the connection between land-uses in catchments and water clarity in coastal oceans. We apply the model to estimate the influence of land-use change on water clarity in Fiji. We tested the model's predictions against underwater surveys, finding that predictions of poor water quality are consistent with observations of high siltation and low coverage of sediment-sensitive coral genera. The model thus provides a means to link land-use change to declines in coastal water quality.