The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas has produced a document that represents a synthesis of the expertise, knowledge and views of world-leading experts in marine protected area network design and implementation. The following elements of best practice have been drawn from this document. To maximise its effectiveness, a network needs to include a group of marine protected areas that are carefully designed to function collectively and synergistically as an ecological network. This includes the following design considerations:
- Does the MPA network protect some of all the habitat types and habitats linked by species life cycle patterns found in a biogeographic region?
- Does the MPA network include both transition zones between biogeographic areas and core zones within each biogeographic region?
- Does the MPA network include representation of ecosystem processes as well as habitat types?
- Does each MPA include a variety of depths and transition zones and areas which cover the life-stage movements of species?
- Are the MPAs large enough to be effective, self-sustaining ecological units? Do they protect and maintain ecological processes such as nutrient flows and food-web interactions? Are they large enough for populations to be self-seeding?
- Does the MPA network include replicates of each representative habitat? It is recommended that at a minimum three replicates of each habitat type should be included.
- Does the MPA network include ecologically significant areas such as rocky reefs, oyster reefs, mussel beds, bryozoan reefs, salt marshes, seagrass beds and mangroves?
- Does the MPA network include unique habitats?
- Does the MPA network protect spawning aggregations of fish, egg sources and nursery areas?
- Does the MPA network protect roosting sites, foraging grounds, socialising areas and migratory routes for marine mammals and seabirds?
- Does the MPA protect source populations including larger, older individuals who have a greater reproductive capacity?
- Are the MPAs spaced so that larvae from as many species as possible can reach other MPAs with appropriate habitat?
- Are the MPAs in the network located so that they are connected by the exchange of eggs, larvae recruits, other propagules, juveniles and adults?
- Are individual MPAs large enough to cover a range of movement patterns of adults, juvenile fish and invertebrates and to include larval dispersal distances?
- Are MPAs located in a wide variety of places in relation to prevailing currents to facilitate larval dispersal?
These design considerations have been synthesised from IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (2008)
Last updated at 2:11PM on February 25, 2015