Bridging the divide: social–ecological coherence in Marine Protected Area network design

Sian E. Rees*, Simon J. Pittman, Nicola Foster, Olivia Langmead, Charly Griffiths, Steve Fletcher, David E. Johnson, Martin Attrill

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and networks of MPAs are being implemented globally as a spatial management tool for achieving conservation objectives. There has been considerable progress in reaching the prescribed 10% protected area target for 2020, outlined in the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 11 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14. The application of MPA network design principles (e.g. Representative, ecological connectivity), which underpin ecological coherence, is still lacking or insufficient in many regions. Poor ecological coherence hinders the ecological performance of MPA networks, leading to dysfunction in the flow of ecosystem services and reduced ecosystem benefits, with potentially negative consequences for human well-being. This paper presents four pivotal focus points for future progress that can bridge the gap between ecological and social systems. The aim is to shift the discourse of ‘ecological coherence’ further into the social sphere, and hence support the alignment of the process of designating ecologically coherent MPA networks with the ‘triple bottom line’ of economic development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion, as described in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to achieve social–ecological coherence in MPA network design.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)754-763
    Number of pages10
    JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
    Issue number3
    Early online date23 Mar 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


    • coastal
    • ecosystem services
    • Marine Protected Areas
    • ocean


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