Marine Protected Areas


Human‐induced disturbance can affect the ecological functioning of coastal areas and reduce the associated goods and services required for human welfare. Major concerns are rising over observed declines in the abundance of particular species as well as reductions in functional diversity and changes in food web structure. As a result, the conservation and restoration of marine biodiversity and functions is a major concern. Marine protected areas are a useful management tool to mitigate some of the human‐induced changes in marine ecosystems. If properly managed and enforced, they can have several ecological, fisheries and socio‐economic benefits. Effects of marine protected areas are variable and context‐dependent but main drivers of change are now known. In recent years, MPA research made several important advances but some questions still remain unresolved.

Key Concepts:

  • Marine protected areas are a useful management tool.

  • Marine protected areas can have ecological, fisheries and socio‐economic benefits.

  • Partial protection confers less ecological benefits than full protection.

  • Effects of marine protected areas mainly depend on their design and age, on the socio‐cultural context in which they are established and on the life history traits of the species targeted by protection.

  • Effective marine protected areas need to be well enforced.

  • The global coverage of marine protected areas is still very low.

Keywords: marine reserve; ecology; economy; fisheries; coastal management; network; ecosystem‐based management; conservation; protection; impact assessment

Figure 1.

Generic zoning in a multiple‐use MPA. Modified from Agardy et al., ; Claudet et al., .

Figure 2.

Role of enforcement levels on the ecological effectiveness of marine protected areas. Response ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) of fish biomass from inside to outside Italian MPAs. At the Italian regional level, no overall positive response in terms of biomass increase is detected in the system of MPAs (n=15). The positive response existing in some well‐enforced MPAs (n=3) is masked by the poor effectiveness of MPAs with medium (n=6) or low (n=6) levels of enforcement. Modified from Guidetti et al., and Claudet et al., .



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Further Reading

Agardy TS (1997) Marine Protected Areas and Ocean Conservation. Sand Diego, CA: R.G. Landes Company & Academic Press.

Claudet J (ed.) (2011) Marine Protected Areas – A Multidisciplinary Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Côté IM and Reynolds JD (eds) (2006) Coral Reef Conservation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gaines SD, Lester SE, Grorud‐Colvert K et al. (2010) Evolving science of marine reserves: new developments and emerging research frontiers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107: 18251–18255.

Grorud‐Colvert K, Lester SE, Airamé S et al. (2010) Communicating marine reserve science to diverse audiences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107: 18306–18311.

Guidetti P and Claudet J (2010) Co‐management practices enhance fisheries in marine protected areas. Conservation Biology 24: 312–318.

Marinesque S, Kaplan DM and Rodwell LD (2012) Global implementation of marine protected areas: Is the developing world being left behind? Marine Policy 36: 727–737.

Mora C, Myers RA, Coll M et al. (2009) Management Effectiveness of the World's Marine Fisheries. PLoS Biology 7: e1000131.

Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans. (2011) The Science of Marine Reserves (2nd edn, Europe),

Sale P, Cowen R, Danilowicz B et al. (2005) Critical science gaps impede use of no‐take fishery reserves. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20: 74–80.

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How to Cite close
Claudet, Joachim(Nov 2012) Marine Protected Areas. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023605]