Well-designed and effectively managed MPAs play a significant role in achieving sustainable use of marine resources at multiple scales. ref Increasingly, resilient networks of MPAs are being implemented to increase conservation benefits across broader areas and to spread the risks of potential loss of biodiversity in any one area. The scaling up from individual MPAs to resilient MPA networks allows for the protection of species and habitats in addition to the maintenance of ecological processes, structure, and function.

This section introduces coral reef managers to key resilience principles and recommendations to support the development of resilient MPA networks. These principles can help MPA networks achieve multiple objectives, including fisheries sustainability, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change and other stressors. These principles and recommendations can be applied to existing MPAs or used for planning future MPA networks, and can be applied at any scale. Incorporation of these recommendations provides the best chance that an MPA will survive disturbances and continue to provide essential goods and services to communities.

What are MPA Network Design Principles?

Principles of resilient MPA design provide guidance on how to design a resilient MPA or MPA network. Biophysical and socioeconomic principles are commonly used to inform MPA design and management. Biophysical principles are aimed at achieving biological objectives by taking key biological and physical processes into account; whereas socioeconomic principles are aimed at maximizing benefits and minimizing costs to local communities and sustainable industries.

The sections below describe principles of resilient MPA design that integrate fisheries, biodiversity and climate objectives.

Design Recommendations

It is recommended that managers aim to implement resilience principles as comprehensively as possible, and prioritize the prohibition of destructive activities and risk spreading through representation and replication of habitat types. Recommendations regarding minimum size and spacing of MPAs and protecting critical areas can often be implemented with less information.

There are often information gaps, cultural and political factors that prevent full application of all design recommendations. However, the application of those principles that are feasible increases the likelihood of protecting the entire range of unknown species habitats, and processes of importance; and thus, supporting resilience in response to disturbances.

Specific design recommendations are found in the following sections:

The design of a resilient MPA network can support and maintain healthy, diverse coral reef ecosystems. Photo © S. Summerhays

Well designed and effectively managed MPAs play a significant role in achieving sustainable use of marine resources at multiple scales.

Last updated December 22, 2015

Effective MPA Management

Effective management, including providing community benefits and reducing threats, is the core of resilience-based strategies. Learn more.

Representation and Replication

Climate change and other stressors will not impact marine species and habitats equally everywhere; therefore, strategies for spreading the risk must be built into MPA network design. Learn more.

Critical Areas

Full protection of critical areas that can serve as reliable sources of seed for replenishment and preservation of ecological function. Learn more.

Connectivity

Connectivity within and between protected areas is important for maintaining diversity, fish stocks, and especially important for maintaining ecological resilience. Learn more.

Socioeconomic Criteria

Social and economic considerations should be taken into account when designing and managing a resilient MPA or MPA network. Learn more.

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