The Value of Marine Reserves
In many cases, and whenever applicable, a hugely successful factor in promoting the recovery of coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity is the establishment of marine reserves and marine protected areas (MPAs).
For example, a comprehensive study found that, on average, coral cover remained stable or slightly increased in areas that were covered by MPAs, while it continued to decline in areas that did not. Recovery of coral cover and size distribution after bleaching and hurricane disturbance was significantly enhanced inside a marine reserve in the Bahamas compared to outside. There is evidence also that protecting species inside a reserve’s boundaries can have ‘spillover’ effects that result in increases in fish outside those boundaries, leading to economic benefits for local fisheries. In Kenya, fishers’ catches and income strongly increased after the establishment of closed areas in conjunction with the aforementioned beach seine bans.
Far less area has been set aside as a reserves in marine and coastal waters than on land. Whereas approximately 13 percent of the world’s land surface area is protected in reserves, in marine environments that figure is a little over one percent. However, progress is being made, and the Convention on Biological Diversity has established a target of 10 percent of all coastal and marine waters being protected in reserves by 2020.
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