Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 2539–2558 | Cite as

GIS-Based Multicriteria Evaluation and Fuzzy Sets to Identify Priority Sites for Marine Protection

  • Louisa J. WoodEmail author
  • Suzana Dragicevic
Original Paper


There is an increasing momentum within the marine conservation community to develop representative networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) covering up to 30% of global marine habitats. However, marine conservation initiatives are perceived as uncoordinated at most levels of planning and decision-making. These initiatives also face the challenge of being in conflict with ongoing drives for sustained or increased resource extraction. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop large scale theoretical frameworks that explicitly address conflicting objectives that are embedded in the design and development of a global MPA network. Further, the frameworks must be able to guide the implementation of smaller scale initiatives within this global context. This research examines the applicability of an integrated spatial decision support framework based on geographic information systems (GIS), multicriteria evaluation (MCE) and fuzzy sets to objectively identify priority locations for future marine protection. MCE is a well-established optimisation method used extensively in land use resource allocation and decision support, and which has to date been underutilised in marine planning despite its potential to guide such efforts. The framework presented here was implemented in the Pacific Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) using two conflicting objectives - biodiversity conservation and fisheries profit-maximisation. The results indicate that the GIS-based MCE framework supports the objective identification of priority locations for future marine protection. This is achieved by integrating multi-source spatial data, facilitating the simultaneous combination of multiple objectives, explicitly including stakeholder preferences in the decisions, and providing visualisation capabilities to better understand how global MPA networks might be developed under conditions of uncertainty and complexity.


Fuzzy sets GIS Marine protected areas Multicriteria evaluation Multiple objectives Protected area siting Spatial analysis  Spatial decision support 



Exclusive Economic Zone


Geographic Information System


Multicriteria Evaluation


Marine Protected Area


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This study is part of a global marine protected area research project that is supported by: the Sea Around Us Project, University of British Columbia (UBC), an activity initiated and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts; World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and the United Nations Environment Program—World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Suzana Dragicevic was partially supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada under the Discovery Grant Program. The authors would like to thank Daniel Pauly for his comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of the paper, and to Jackie Alder, Shivanand Balram, Chris Bone, and Brian Klinkenberg, for suggestions on the analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sea Around Us Project, Fisheries CentreUniversity of British Columbia, Aquatic Ecosystems Research LabVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Spatial Analysis and Modeling Laboratory, Department of GeographySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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