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A data-limited modeling approach for conserving connectivity in marine protected area networks

Abstract

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of marine ecosystems that have some level of protection to support one or more conservation objectives. One characteristic of MPA networks is that MPAs are spatially configured such that they provide the greatest protection possible for multiple species. Yet, it can be difficult to determine optimal MPA network arrangement due to insufficient information on multi-species habitat use and their dispersal abilities as larvae and adults. Here, we propose a modelling approach that involves determining the optimal MPA network configuration for multiple species assemblages, located at different depths and having differing dispersal abilities. As a case study, we applied this methodology in Pacific Canada where we identified optimal MPA configurations to protect 40 species having different pelagic larval duration (proxy for dispersal) at 3 different depth class groupings (proxy for habitat use). Taken together, we found dispersal ability had a larger impact on optimal MPA network configuration for species spending a long time as larvae compared to species spending a short time as larvae. We identify which 10% of this area is most important to conserve to maintain connectivity for a multi-species MPA network and show that half of these sites remain important to conserve in the future as climate change alters connectivity patterns. This model for MPA network design is feasible with limited data which is beneficial for application to other regions and ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by funding for the CHONeII Grant to Fortin and Guichard; NSERC Discovery Grants to Fortin and Krkosek, and Canada Research Chairs to Fortin and Krkosek.

Funding

This work was supported by funding for the CHONeII Grant to Fortin and Guichard; NSERC Discovery Grants to Fortin and Krkosek, and Canada Research Chairs to Fortin and Krkosek.

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Contributions

CB and MJF developed the research questions. CB performed the analyses. CB, MK, and MJF wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher Blackford.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

There was no field work or animal collections involved in this study. All species data referenced in this paper was either collected by previous research or analysed through computer simulation.

Data/code availability

As referenced in the manuscript, code describing the biophysical modelling parameters and the model outputs can be found in Daigle (2015a, b, 2016). Code used in this paper to generate results can be found at: https://www.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4639808

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Blackford, C., Krkošek, M. & Fortin, MJ. A data-limited modeling approach for conserving connectivity in marine protected area networks. Mar Biol 168, 86 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-021-03890-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-021-03890-3