Marine conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean : an analysis of marine protected areas (MPAs) Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/gm80j079g

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  • Coastal and marine ecosystems in Latin America and the Caribbean are undergoing a rapid and drastic transformation. Dense human populations are concentrated in coastal areas, leading to increased coastal development, destruction of near-shore habitats, pollution, and overexploitation of marine resources. For most Latin American and Caribbean countries, the deterioration of coastal ecosystems is particularly critical due to the strong dependency of their economies on the quality of natural resources and ecosystems. Thus, the necessity of effectively conserving and managing marine ecosystems with a more integrative, ecosystem–based approach is urgent. Marine reserves constitute a powerful conservation tool for mitigating ocean degradation. Because they provide spatial refuges for fished populations, and protect important habitats and their associated ecological interactions, they are particularly beneficial for counteracting the harmful effects of overfishing. In Chapter 2 of this thesis, I present a comprehensive analysis of the status and progress of marine protected areas (MPAs), particularly no-take marine reserves in Latin America and the Caribbean. I also show that the number and area protected have increased through time, particularly since the 1980s; but the system of MPAs is still deficient in fully representing the whole array of marine biogeographic provinces. In addition, I demonstrate that no-take marine reserves are poorly utilized for conservation of marine biodiversity in this region. Finally, I highlight the need for strengthening the marine conservation initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean under a regional approach. In Chapter 3 using meta-analytic methods, I quantitatively estimate the magnitude of the conservation effects of marine reserves in Latin America and the Caribbean. I examine the species and reserve characteristics that contribute to explain the variation in responses to protection. These analyses demonstrate positive outcomes of reserve protection at assemblage and species levels, and confirm the effectiveness of marine reserves as a conservation tool to rebuild exploited populations. Less clear is the relationship between density responses to protection and species-specific characteristics. Species with different trophic levels, adult mobility, body size and resilience can benefit from protection. Nevertheless, when I examine the effects of protection on one habitat type (coral reefs) using biomass as the response variable different trophic groups show differential responses. Predators demonstrated higher positive responses compared to herbivores or producers. In addition some indirect effects were disclosed. Findings from this research have direct implications for the advancement of marine conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Chapter 2 provides an important tool for planning marine conservation strategies at a regional scale. Areas that need more protection are highlighted, especially networks of no-take marine reserves in the Eastern Pacific and Southern Atlantic. Additionally, this assessment can be used as a baseline to make future comparisons of the progress of marine biodiversity conservation in this region. Chapter 3 demonstrates the powerful effect of no-take marine reserves in restoring depleted populations and in some cases recovering ecological functions that have been lost due to overfishing in Latin American and the Caribbean.
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