These recent articles or preprints on MPA-related science and policy are all free to access.

Article:Coral reef fishes exhibit beneficial phenotypes inside marine protected areas”, Fidler et al., PLOS ONE 13, e0193426 (2018)

Finding: Fishing effort is often size-selective, preferentially removing the largest individuals from harvested stocks. This preference can induce shifts toward smaller and earlier-maturing individuals in target stocks. In this study, a comparison of commercially targeted fish stocks on coral reefs in the Philippines indicated that fishes inside MPAs exhibited more advantageous life-history traits than the same species on fished reefs. Inside the MPAs, the fish were larger at maturity, a trait known to confer higher fecundity (i.e., larger fish produce more, larger, and more viable larvae). This suggests that MPAs may provide protection against the impacts of size-selective harvest on life-history traits in coral reef fishes.

Article:Biologically representative and well-connected marine reserves enhance biodiversity persistence in conservation planning”, Magris et al., Conservation Letters e12439 (2018)

Finding: Much of the current conservation planning literature applies a single set of goals at a time – either connectivity, or demographic persistence, or representation of species – but not all three simultaneously. This study applies all three goals in analyzing potential marine reserve plans for Mediterranean fish species. The findings: 1) combining species’ geographic distributions and connectivity modelling provides the best strategy for enhanced biodiversity persistence; 2) including connectivity in planning is fundamental for the persistence of small-ranged species; and 3) inclusion of connectivity does not necessarily increase the total area under protection but provides strong benefits for species over the long term. The study shows the relationships between objectives for representation and connectivity and the resulting demographic effects on species – a link that can help improve the biological effectiveness of future conservation practices and policies.

Article:On the ecological relevance of landscape mapping and its application in the spatial planning of very large marine protected areas”, Hogg et al., Science of The Total Environment 626, 384-398 (2018)

Finding: There is a disconnect between the global trend in designation of very large MPAs (>100,000 km2) and the data available to underpin their planning and zonation. Biological sampling, especially in isolated locations, is logistically difficult, time-consuming, and prohibitively expensive to conduct over large spatial scales. This study analyzes the use of landscape mapping – mapping the physical attributes of marine environments – as a cost-effective way to predict biological and community distributions across large areas, using the UK’s 1 million-km2 MPA in South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands as the test area.

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