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, 33 (6), 1350-1359

Quantifying Biases in Marine-Protected-Area Placement Relative to Abatable Threats


Quantifying Biases in Marine-Protected-Area Placement Relative to Abatable Threats

Caitlin D Kuempel et al. Conserv Biol.


Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a critical defense against biodiversity loss in the world's oceans, but to realize near-term conservation benefits, they must be established where major threats to biodiversity occur and can be mitigated. We quantified the degree to which MPA establishment has targeted stoppable threats (i.e., threats that can be abated through effectively managed MPAs alone) by combining spatially explicit marine biodiversity threat data in 2008 and 2013 and information on the location and potential of MPAs to halt threats. We calculated an impact metric to determine whether countries are protecting proportionally more high- or low-threat ecoregions and compared observed values with random protected-area allocation. We found that protection covered <2% of ecoregions in national waters with high levels of abatable threat in 2013, which is ∼59% less protection in high-threat areas than if MPAs had been placed randomly. Relatively low-threat ecoregions had 6.3 times more strict protection (International Union for Conservation of Nature categories I-II) than high-threat ecoregions. Thirty-one ecoregions had high levels of stoppable threat but very low protection, which presents opportunities for MPAs to yield more significant near-term conservation benefits. The extent of the global MPA estate has increased, but the establishment of MPAs where they can reduce threats that are driving biodiversity loss is now urgently needed.

Keywords: Aichi Target 11; Convenio sobre la Diversidad Biológica; Objetivo 11 de Aichi; conservation impact; conservation planning; conservation targets; contrafactual; convention on biological diversity; counterfactual; efectividad del área protegida; impacto de conservación; objetivos de conservación; planeación de la conservación; protected area effectiveness; 保护区有效性; 保护成效; 保护目标; 保护规划; 爱知目标 11; 生物多样性公约; 违实分析.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Ecoregion classification scheme and global establishment patterns of marine protected areas in relation to threat: (a) ecoregion classifications by threat and risk categories, (b) proportion of area protected within each protection strategy (avoiding or targeting threat) in 2 periods across International Union for Conservation of Nature protection categories of protection, and the relationship between proportion of area protected and the level of stoppable threat in (c) each global marine ecoregion in 2013 (n = 232 ecoregions) and (d) in ecoregions where protection rose from 2008 to 2013 (n = 124 ecoregions). Axes in (c) and (d) are cube‐root transformed.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The relative protection of high‐ and low‐threat marine ecoregions globally and in 20 countries: (a) observed and average random (95% CI, n = 1000 random simulations) impact metrics in the 20 countries with the largest marine‐protected‐area estates as of 2013 and (b) the proportion of area protected in 2013 in high‐ and low‐threat ecoregions (parentheses, number of ecoregions in each country; asterisk, random impact metrics significantly worse than random; no asterisk, impact metrics significantly better than random). Impact metric indicates potential of an MPA estate to have a meaningful conservation impact by mitigating stoppable threats and is calculated as the difference between the proportion of high‐threat areas protected and low‐threat areas protected (0, ecoregions of relatively high and low stoppable threat are proportionally protected; negative, ecoregion where relatively low stoppable threats receive greater levels of protection [avoiding stoppable threats]; positive, relatively high stoppable threat ecoregions receive relatively more protection [targeting stoppable threats]).
Figure 3
Figure 3
Spatial distribution of poorly protected marine ecoregions across 4 categories of risk from stoppable threats. Ecoregions below median proportion of area protected are divided by quartiles of stoppable threat into 4 risk categories (Fig. 1a): low risk (bottom quartile), moderate risk (second quartile), high risk (third quartile), and crisis (top quartile).

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