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Marine conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean : an analysis of marine protected areas (MPAs)  [2007]

Guarderas, A. Paulina; Hacker, Sally D. [Corporate Author] Lubchenco, Jane [Corporate Author] Eric, Seabloom [Corporate Author] Clare, Reimers [Corporate Author]

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Coastal and marine ecosystems in Latin America and the Caribbean areundergoing a rapid and drastic transformation. Dense human populations areconcentrated in coastal areas, leading to increased coastal development, destruction ofnear-shore habitats, pollution, and overexploitation of marine resources. For mostLatin American and Caribbean countries, the deterioration of coastal ecosystems isparticularly critical due to the strong dependency of their economies on the quality ofnatural resources and ecosystems. Thus, the necessity of effectively conserving andmanaging marine ecosystems with a more integrative, ecosystem–based approach isurgent. Marine reserves constitute a powerful conservation tool for mitigating oceandegradation. Because they provide spatial refuges for fished populations, and protectimportant habitats and their associated ecological interactions, they are particularlybeneficial for counteracting the harmful effects of overfishing.In Chapter 2 of this thesis, I present a comprehensive analysis of the status andprogress of marine protected areas (MPAs), particularly no-take marine reserves inLatin America and the Caribbean. I also show that the number and area protected haveincreased through time, particularly since the 1980s; but the system of MPAs is stilldeficient in fully representing the whole array of marine biogeographic provinces. Inaddition, I demonstrate that no-take marine reserves are poorly utilized forconservation of marine bio
diversity in this region. Finally, I highlight the need forstrengthening the marine conservation initiative in Latin America and the Caribbeanunder a regional approach.In Chapter 3 using meta-analytic methods, I quantitatively estimate themagnitude of the conservation effects of marine reserves in Latin America and theCaribbean. I examine the species and reserve characteristics that contribute to explainthe variation in responses to protection. These analyses demonstrate positive outcomesof reserve protection at assemblage and species levels, and confirm the effectivenessof marine reserves as a conservation tool to rebuild exploited populations. Less clear isthe relationship between density responses to protection and species-specificcharacteristics. Species with different trophic levels, adult mobility, body size andresilience can benefit from protection. Nevertheless, when I examine the effects ofprotection on one habitat type (coral reefs) using biomass as the response variabledifferent trophic groups show differential responses. Predators demonstrated higherpositive responses compared to herbivores or producers. In addition some indirecteffects were disclosed.Findings from this research have direct implications for the advancement ofmarine conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Chapter 2 provides animportant tool for planning marine conservation strategies at a regional scale. Areasthat need more protection are highlighted, especially networks of no-take marinereserves in the Eastern Pacific and Southern Atlantic. Additionally, this assessmentcan be used as a baseline to make future comparisons of the progress of marinebiodiversity conservation in this region. Chapter 3 demonstrates the powerful effect ofno-take marine reserves in restoring depleted populations and in some casesrecovering ecological functions that have been lost due to overfishing in LatinAmerican and the Caribbean.