Environmental Modeling & Assessment

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 203–213 | Cite as

Efficiency, costs and trade-offs in marine reserve system design

  • Romola R. Stewart
  • Hugh P. Possingham


With marine biodiversity conservation the primary goal for reserve planning initiatives, a site's conservation potential is typically evaluated on the basis of the biological and physical features it contains. By comparison, socio-economic information is seldom a formal consideration of the reserve system design problem and generally limited to an assessment of threats, vulnerability or compatibility with surrounding uses. This is perhaps surprising given broad recognition that the success of reserve establishment is highly dependent on widespread stakeholder and community support. Using information on the spatial distribution and intensity of commercial rock lobster catch in South Australia, we demonstrate the capacity of mathematical reserve selection procedures to integrate socio-economic and biophysical information for marine reserve system design. Analyses of trade-offs highlight the opportunities to design representative, efficient and practical marine reserve systems that minimise potential loss to commercial users. We found that the objective of minimising the areal extent of the reserve system was barely compromised by incorporating economic design constraints. With a small increase in area (<3%) and boundary length (<10%), the economic impact of marine reserves on the commercial rock lobster fishery was reduced by more than a third. We considered also how a reserve planner might prioritise conservation areas using information on a planning units selection frequency. We found that selection frequencies alone were not a reliable guide for the selection of marine reserve systems, but could be used with approaches such as summed irreplaceability to direct conservation effort for efficient marine reserve design.


marine reserves decision theory trade-offs conservation planning reserve selection irreplaceability bioeconomics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ecology CentreThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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