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A meta-analysis reveals edge effects within marine protected areas
Nature Ecology & Evolution  (IF15.46),  Pub Date : 2021-07-05, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01502-3
Sarah Ohayon, Itai Granot, Jonathan Belmaker

Marine protected areas (MPAs) play a leading role in conserving and restoring marine environments. MPAs can benefit both marine populations within their boundaries and external populations owing to a net export of organisms (spillover). However, little is known about variation in performance within MPAs. For example, edge effects may degrade populations within MPAs close to their boundaries. Here we synthesize empirical estimates of 72 taxa of fish and invertebrates to explore spatial patterns across the borders of 27 no-take MPAs. We show that there is a prominent and consistent edge effect that extends approximately 1 km within the MPA, in which population sizes on the border are 60% smaller than those in the core area. Our analysis of cross-boundary population trends suggests that, globally, the smallest 64% of no-take MPAs (those of less than 10 km2 in area) may hold only about half (45–56%) of the population size that is implied by their area. MPAs with buffer zones did not display edge effects, suggesting that extending no-take areas beyond the target habitats and managing fishing activities around MPA borders are critical for boosting MPA performance.