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How to Meet New Global Targets in the Offshore Realms: Biophysical Guidelines for Offshore Networks of No-Take Marine Protected Areas

12 Aug 2021

This paper describes detailed biophysical guidelines that managers can use to design effective networks of no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in offshore environments. We conducted a systematic review of existing biophysical design guidelines for networks of MPAs in coastal seas, and found consistent elements relating to size, shape, connectivity, timeframes, and representation of biophysical features. However, few of the guidelines are tailored to offshore environments, and few of the large offshore MPAs currently in place were designed systematically. We discuss how the common inshore design guidelines should be revised to be responsive to the characteristics of offshore ecosystems, including giving consideration of issues of scale, data availability, and uncertainty.

We propose 10 biophysical guidelines that can be used to systematically design offshore networks of MPAs which will also contribute to the global goal of at least 30% protection globally. Finally, we offer three priority guidelines that reflect the unique conservation needs of offshore ecosystems: emphasising the need for larger MPAs; maximising the inclusion of special features that are known and mapped; and representing minimum percentages of habitats, or, where mapped, bioregions. Ultimately, MPA guidelines need to be embedded within an adaptive management framework, and have the flexibility to respond to emerging knowledge and new challenges.

Tags: marine marine environment

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