, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 209-231

Patterns and prediction of population recovery in marine reserves

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Abstract

Marine reserves (no-take zones) are widely recommended asconservation and fishery management tools. One potential benefitof marine reserves is that they can reduce fishing mortality.This can lead to increases in the abundance of spawners,providing insurance against recruitment failure and maintainingor enhancing yields in fished areas. This paper considers thefactors that influence recovery following marine reserveprotection, describes patterns of recovery in numbers andbiomass, and suggests how recovery rates can be predicted.Population recovery is determined by initial population size, theintrinsic rate of population increase r, and the degree ofcompensation (increases in recruits per spawner as spawnerabundance falls) or depensation (lower than expected recruitmentat low abundance, Allee effect) in the spawner-recruitrelationship. Within a reserve, theoretical recovery rates arefurther modified by metapopulation structure and the success ofindividual recruitment events. Recovery also depends on theextent of reductions in fishing mortality (F) as determined bythe relationship between patterns of movement, migration, anddensity-dependent habitat use (buffer effect) in relation to thesize, shape and location of the reserve. The effects ofreductions in F on population abundance have been calculatedusing a variety of models that incorporate transfer rates betweenthe reserve and fished areas, fishing mortality outside thereserve and life history parameters of the population. Thesemodels give useful indications of increases in production andbiomass (as yield per recruit and spawners per recruitrespectively) due to protection, but do not address recruitment.Many reserves are very small in relation to the geographicalrange of fish or invertebrate populations. In these reserves itmay be impossible to distinguish recovery due to populationgrowth from that due to redistribution. Mean rates of recoverycan be predicted from r, but the methods are data intensive. Thisis ironic when marine reserves are often favoured for managementor conservation in data-poor situations where conventional stockassessment is impossible. In these data-poor situations, it maybe possible to predict recovery rates from very low populationsizes by using maximum body size or age at maturity as simplecorrelates of the intrinsic rate of natural increase.