Putting MPAs Where They’re Needed Most

Written by on December 9, 2015 in Other Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law

The first comprehensive assessment of the coverage marine protected areas (MPAs) provide for marine life around the world was recently completed by an international team of researchers.

Endangered green sea turtle.

Endangered green sea turtle.

The team examined the ranges of 17,348 species and found that many of them remain unprotected. A total of 97.4% of marine species have less than 10% of their range covered in MPAs.

“The increase in the number of MPAs in recent years is encouraging, but most of this increase has come from a few very large MPAs,” co-author and UC Santa Barbara professor Ben Halpern said in a news release. “Those very large MPAs provide important value, but they can mislead us into thinking that biodiversity is being well protected because of them. Species all around the planet need protection, not just those in some locations. Our results point out where the protection gaps exist.”

The areas with the most “gap species” (species whose entire range is outside of MPAs) include the United States, Canada, and Brazil.

Coral in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Coral in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: NOAA.

This study highlights the need for a systematic approach to creating new MPAs by accounting for areas that have already been protected, species whose habitat needs protecting, as well as the socioeconomic costs of implementation. It may also help scientists and conservation managers better achieve the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which says we should protect 10% of marine biodiversity by 2020.

“As most marine biodiversity remains extremely poorly represented, the task of implementing an effective network of MPAs is urgent,” said co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland. “Achieving this goal is imperative not just for nature but also for humanity, as millions of people depend on marine biodiversity for important and valuable services.”

To learn more:

Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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