Marine Protected Area (MPA) management is more than just corals and fish

Fish larvae in the coral reefs of Calamianes Islands, Palawan, Philippines
Camillia Jane Bollozos | October 14, 2016

Despite conventional wisdom dictating law enforcement as a major factor for marine protected area (MPA) success, many factors influence MPA effectiveness. In the paper entitled “Larval dispersal and movement patterns of coral reef fishes, and implications for marine reserve network design” (Green et al., 2014) where two of the authors are from CCEF (i.e., Dr. Aileen Maypa and Dr. Alan White), it discusses how connectivity and fish movements as key ecological factors that must be considered when designing MPAs. Connectivity here pertains to the exchange of organisms (e.g. fish larvae, fish juveniles, or adults) between two or more habitats and how they are distributed. It is important to determine the source and where the organisms end up (sink) and, how the populations are replenished. MPA management is a holistic approach and it considers the following: (1) where the organism is commonly found, (2) where it feeds, (3) where it reproduces, and treats these as critical habitats.

Another important factor to consider is the size of the MPA, where knowing the home range, thus the movements of the organisms being protected is very important. Green et al. (2014) recommends that MPA size should be more than twice the size of the home range of the organisms.

MPAs are not limited to coral reefs. Other habitats such as seagrass beds and mangrove forests have ecological services that support coral reefs, particularly as nursery grounds for juvenile fish. The connectivity of these habitats is very important for an MPA to be effective. Marine conservation and protection therefore, are not only limited to coral reefs and fish.

Reference cited: Green, A.L., A.P. Maypa, G.R. Almany, K.L. Rhodes, R. Weeks, R.A. Abesamis, M.G. Gleason, P.J. Mumby, and A. White. (2014). Larval dispersal and movement patterns of coral reef fishes, and implications for marine reserve network design. Biological Reviews, 000-000.
doi: 10.1111/brv.12155

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