Drivers of coral reef marine protected area performance

Hargreaves-Allen, V.A.; Mourato, S.; Milner-Gulland, E.J.

Plos one 12(6): E0179394


ISSN/ISBN: 1932-6203
PMID: 28644890
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179394
Accession: 059631528

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Coral reefs are severely threatened and a principal strategy for their conservation is marine protected areas (MPAs). However the drivers of MPA performance are complex and there are likely to be trade-offs between different types of performance (e.g. conservation or welfare related outcomes). We compiled a global dataset from expert knowledge for 76 coral reef MPAs in 33 countries and identified a set of performance measures reflecting ecological and socio-economic outcomes, achievement of aims and reduction of threats, using spatial or temporal comparisons wherever possible. We wanted to test the extent to which distinct types of performance occurred simultaneously, understood as win-win outcomes. Although certain performance measures were correlated, most were not, suggesting trade-offs that limit the usefulness of composite performance scores. Hypotheses were generated as to the impact of MPA features, aims, location, management and contextual variables on MPA performance from the literature. A multivariate analysis was used to test hypotheses as to the relative importance of these "drivers" on eight uncorrelated performance measures. The analysis supported some hypotheses (e.g. benefit provision for the local community improved performance), but not others (e.g. higher overall budget and more research activity did not). Factors endogenous to the MPA (such as size of the no-take area) were generally more significant drivers of performance than exogenous ones (such as national GDP). Different types of performance were associated with different drivers, exposing the trade-offs inherent in management decisions. The study suggests that managers are able to influence MPA performance in spite of external threats and could inform adaptive management by providing an approach to test for the effects of MPA features and management actions in different contexts and so to inform decisions for allocation of effort or funds to achieve specific goals.