Marine reserves lag behind wilderness in the conservation of key functional roles

Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 29;7:12000. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12000.


Although marine reserves represent one of the most effective management responses to human impacts, their capacity to sustain the same diversity of species, functional roles and biomass of reef fishes as wilderness areas remains questionable, in particular in regions with deep and long-lasting human footprints. Here we show that fish functional diversity and biomass of top predators are significantly higher on coral reefs located at more than 20 h travel time from the main market compared with even the oldest (38 years old), largest (17,500 ha) and most restrictive (no entry) marine reserve in New Caledonia (South-Western Pacific). We further demonstrate that wilderness areas support unique ecological values with no equivalency as one gets closer to humans, even in large and well-managed marine reserves. Wilderness areas may therefore serve as benchmarks for management effectiveness and act as the last refuges for the most vulnerable functional roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Coral Reefs*
  • Fisheries*
  • Fishes / classification*
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Humans
  • New Caledonia
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Wilderness*