Scientific and biodiversity values of marine reserves: a review

Trevor J Willis

Research output: Book/ReportScholarly edition

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New Zealand’s ‘Marine Protected Areas Policy’ is currently being implemented, and requires background information concerning the scientific and biodiversity values of marine reserves. This review determines the current state of knowledge, discusses the value of marine reserves for scientific research and biodiversity conservation, assesses trends in scientific productivity
in marine reserves, places New Zealand work into an international context, and suggests future research priorities. Marine reserves in New Zealand have the primary function of protecting spatially delimited areas from the effects of fishing. Their success is generally measured by the recovery of exploited species within their boundaries, which is reliant on consistently conducted monitoring time series. Estimates of recovery have now been obtained from several reserves, showing that snapper (Pagrus auratus), blue cod (Parapercis colias), and rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) all respond positively to protection, although the speed and magnitude of recovery tends to be variable and site-specific. Recovery of these predators has been linked to changes
in reef habitats through trophic cascades, effects on small cryptic reef fishes, and effects on assemblages in nearby soft-sediment habitats. New Zealand’s contribution to the study of marine reserves has slowed in recent years, reflecting reduced funding for marine ecological research nationwide, changes in composition and research emphasis in scientific personnel, but also reluctance in some regions to approve manipulative experimental work within marine reserves. Whilst direct effects of marine reserves on fisheries are uncertain and difficult to demonstrate, the use of unfished areas to act as controls for the effects of fishing on almost all aspects of marine ecological study is a potentially powerful, but as yet only partially realised, research
tool. In addition to providing unfished areas for estimating population parameters of fished species, marine reserves could provide spatial references for the state of fished stocks, controls for effects-of-fishing studies, inform models of ecosystem structure, and provide the opportunity for detecting previously unrealised linkages between habitats and species. Continued progress in this area will benefit from a unified approach to research involving long-term partnerships between management, researchers, and funding agencies. The review concludes with recommendations on how this may be achieved, and suggests priorities for future research to further utilise marine reserves in understanding the marine environment.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWellington
PublisherNew Zealand Department of Conservation
Number of pages74
ISBN (Electronic)9780478149999
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

Publication series

NameDOC research & development series
PublisherNew Zealand Department of Conservation
ISSN (Electronic)1177-9306


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