Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Effective Are Marine Protected Areas?

Evidence about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is mixed (see good summaries here and here and here).  MLPA assumes that reserves of a certain size and spacing will cause regeneration of all California intertidal and marine areas.  According to a study published in Environmental Management (2008) 41:599–612) human visitation is more significant than harvesting in intertidal habitats.  Unfortunately, MLPA does nothing to prevent the intensity of human activity.

"At sites subjected to higher levels of human visitation, mussel populations were significantly lower than low-use sites. Comparisons of mussel populations inside and outside of regulatory MRs [marine reserves] revealed no consistent pattern suggesting that California no-take regulatory reserves may have limited effectiveness in protecting mussel communities. In areas where many people visit intertidal habitats for purposes other than collecting, many organisms will be affected by trampling, turning of rocks, and handling. In these cases, effective protection of rocky intertidal communities requires an approach that goes beyond the singular focus on collecting to reduce the full suite of impacts."

See Jayson R. Smith, Peggy Fong, Richard F. Ambrose: "The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities Along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting These Communities?"