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Does the global network of marine protected areas provide an adequate safety net for marine biodiversity?


Edgar, GJ, Does the global network of marine protected areas provide an adequate safety net for marine biodiversity?, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 21, (4) pp. 313-316. ISSN 1099-0755 (2011) [Letter or Note in Journal]

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DOI: doi:10.1002/aqc.1187


COMMENTARY As recognized in the 2020 Strategic Plan for the Conservation of Biological Diversity,1 which was recently agreed at the Convention of Biological Diversity in Kyoto, the global marine protected area (MPA) network is far from comprehensive. In a recent review,Wood et al. (2008) identified a globalMPA network covering 2.35million km2 (0.65% of the world’s oceans and 1.6% of the total marine area within Exclusive Economic Zones), but with only 0.08% of the world’s oceans highly protected within ‘no- take’ zones. With the recent declaration of large protected areas around the Phoenix Islands and Chagos Archipelago, the total area has increased since that review; nevertheless, no more than 1% of the sea surface is currently included within MPAs (Cullis-Suzuki and Pauly, 2010), with a much smaller proportion (probably <0.1%) included within the fully protected ‘no-take’ subset. The area of sea protected at the highest level for conservation – ‘no-entry’ zones – is minute (<0.001%). Moreover, a need for better protection of species’ populations extends to even the most highly reserved regions. For example, none of 13 recently declaredMPAswithin theBruny bioregion off south-eastern Tasmania contains individuals of the spotted handfish Brachionichthys hirsutus (Last et al., 2007), a Critically Endangered species confined to that bioregion and with a total population numbering less than 10 000 individuals. Populations of many marine species, particularly those with limited ranges, lack any overlap with well-protected MPAs. More debatable than the issue of comprehensiveness is the adequacy question: ‘Do existing MPAs adequately safeguard biodiversity within their boundaries’. Much of the difficulty in answering this question relates to a near absence of empirical studies specifically directed at the topic. In a recent (22 February 2011) literature search using SCOPUS with the search string (‘marine protected area’ or ‘marine reserve’) and ‘threatened species’, only 23 papers were identified, compared with a total of 951 papers identified for the search string (‘marine protected area’ or ‘marine reserve’) and ‘fisher’. Assuming that the primary indicator of declining biodiversity is loss of species, and that species recognized as threatened provide a predictive metric for species loss, then the ~40:1 ratio betweenMPApapers mentioning threatened species and those mentioning fishers or fisheries is broadly indicative of relative research effort on the two topics. In fact, the true situation is even more unbalanced given that the 23 MPA papers that mentioned ‘threatened species’ were largely review papers, and none used directed field data to specifically answer the question ‘Do MPAs benefit one or more threatened species?’

Item Details

Item Type:Letter or Note in Journal
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Coastal or estuarine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
ID Code:71222
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:40
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2011-07-11
Last Modified:2012-06-12
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