Recovery trajectories of kelp forest animals are rapid yet spatially variable across a network of temperate marine protected areas

Sci Rep. 2015 Sep 16;5:14102. doi: 10.1038/srep14102.


Oceans currently face a variety of threats, requiring ecosystem-based approaches to management such as networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). We evaluated changes in fish biomass on temperate rocky reefs over the decade following implementation of a network of MPAs in the northern Channel Islands, California. We found that the biomass of targeted (i.e. fished) species has increased consistently inside all MPAs in the network, with an effect of geography on the strength of the response. More interesting, biomass of targeted fish species also increased outside MPAs, although only 27% as rapidly as in the protected areas, indicating that redistribution of fishing effort has not severely affected unprotected populations. Whether the increase outside of MPAs is due to changes in fishing pressure, fisheries management actions, adult spillover, favorable environmental conditions, or a combination of all four remains unknown. We evaluated methods of controlling for biogeographic or environmental variation across networks of protected areas and found similar performance of models incorporating empirical sea surface temperature versus a simple geographic blocking term based on assemblage structure. The patterns observed are promising indicators of the success of this network, but more work is needed to understand how ecological and physical contexts affect MPA performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms*
  • Biomass
  • California
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fishes
  • Kelp*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Oceans and Seas*