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Evaluation of MPA Designs That Protect Highly Mobile Megafauna Now and Under Climate Change Scenarios

June 01, 2022

We study how large-scale marine protected area designs can be improved by taking animal time and space movement into consideration.

Marine protected area (MPA) designs may offer different benefits to species and could enhance protection by encompassing space and timel scales of animal movement. We sought to understand how well LSMPAs (large-scale MPAs) could benefit nine highly-mobile marine species in the tropics now and into the future by: 

1) evaluating current range overlap within a LSMPA
2) evaluating range overlap under climate change projections
3) evaluating how well theoretical MPA designs benefit these nine species

We focused on Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef, a 2000 km2 area within the 1.2 million km2 U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) that contains marine megafauna (reef and pelagic fishes; sea turtles; seabirds; cetaceans) reflecting different behaviors and habitat use. 

Our approach is useful for evaluating the effectiveness of the Palmyra-Kingman MPA and PRIMNM in protecting these species, and tropical LSMPAs in general, and for informing future MPA design. 

All species had capacity to travel to nearby reef systems, illustrating potential benefits of MPA networks and protected corridors. Suitable habitats will likely contract for all species as warm water expands under climate change scenarios and MPAs may not protect suitable habitats into the future. Species habitat requirements and movement ecologies are critical aspects of marine spatial planning, especially with respect to dynamic ocean processes and a changing climate.

Gilmour ME, Adams J, Block BA, Caselle JE, Friedlander AM, Game ET, Hazen EL, Holmes ND, Lafferty KD, Maxwell SM, McCauley DJ, Oleson EM, Pollock K, Shaffer SA, Wolff NH, Wegmann A. 2022. Evaluation of MPA designs that protect highly mobile megafauna now and under climate change scenarios. Global Ecology and Conservation. Volume 35:e02070.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 05/04/2022

Habitat Protection Marine Protected Areas