A user-friendly tool to evaluate the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves

The benefits of no-take marine reserves – where all extractive activities are prohibited – are well known. While previous work has provided indicators to evaluate performance of marine protected areas, they do not provide guidelines to analyze these indicators, nor a user-friendly tool to conduct the evaluation. A group of graduates from The Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California Santa Barbara have collaborated with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad A.C. over the past couple of years to provide managers and fishers with tools to evaluate marine reserves taking into account biophysical, socioeconomic, and governance dimensions.

The result of this work is a new open access paper published by the graduates, other colleagues and I in the journal PLoS ONE titled: “A user-friendly tool to evaluate the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves“. The group also developed an open-source user-friendly web application called MAREA (Marine Reserve Evaluation App), which automates the evaluation of the effectiveness of marine no-take reserves and produces a color-coded scorecard.


Citation: Villaseñor-Derbez JC, Faro C, Wright M, Martínez J, Fitzgerald S, Fulton S, et al. (2018) A user-friendly tool to evaluate the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves. PLoS ONE 13(1): e0191821. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191821

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Marine reserves are implemented to achieve a variety of objectives, but are seldom rigorously evaluated to determine whether those objectives are met. In the rare cases when evaluations do take place, they typically focus on ecological indicators and ignore other relevant objectives such as socioeconomics and governance. And regardless of the objectives, the diversity of locations, monitoring protocols, and analysis approaches hinder the ability to compare results across case studies. Moreover, analysis and evaluation of reserves is generally conducted by outside researchers, not the reserve managers or users, plausibly thereby hindering effective local management and rapid response to change. We present a framework and tool, called “MAREA”, to overcome these challenges. Its purpose is to evaluate the extent to which any given reserve has achieved its stated objectives. MAREA provides specific guidance on data collection and formatting, and then conducts rigorous causal inference analysis based on data input by the user, providing real-time outputs about the effectiveness of the reserve. MAREA’s ease of use, standardization of state-of-the-art inference methods, and ability to analyze marine reserve effectiveness across ecological, socioeconomic, and governance objectives could dramatically further our understanding and support of effective marine reserve management.

Citation: Villaseñor-Derbez J.C.,Faro, C., Wright, M., Martínez, J., Fitzgerald, S., Fulton, S., Mancha-Cisneros, M.M., McDonald, G., Micheli, F., Suárez, A., Torre, J., Costello, C. 2018. A user-friendly tool to evaluate the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves. PLoS ONE 13(1): e0191821.