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The Role Of Marine Protected Areas Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3126 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Among different ecosystem in the world coral reef ecosystem is one of the most important ecosystem which benefits millions of people around the whole world by buffering coastal communities against ocean storms, supply of animal protein, pharmaceuticles product made from harbor organisms and also provide esthetic values for tourists, support tourism based economies and also act as a living laboratory for scientists.

Coral reefs are threatened by human activities like, sedimentation, pollution, overfishing and other factors (Dirk & Lauretta, 1998). Destructive fishing practices with the use of poisons, expolsives, fine mesh nets reduces entire reefs ecosystems. Among all the marine environment, coral reefs are home to more than a quarter of all known marine fish species (M. Don, 1995).

Coral reefs occupy less than one percent of the Earth’s marine environment, but are home to more than a quarter of all known marine fish species and tens of thousands of other species found nowhere else on earth. The degradation of coastal ecosystems not only results in a loss of biodiversity but also a loss of revenue, depleted fish stocks and increased exposure of communities to storms.

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Marine protected areas is a protected areas of ocean covering a wide range of marine areas with some level of restriction to protect living, non-living, cultural and historic resources. World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines marine protected areas as, “any area of the intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environments”.

In the world there are now 1300 marine protected areas and many more are in planning stage (Kelleher et al. 1995). Conservation and sustainable provision for human uses are the main objectives for marine protected areas.

Marine protected areas can include: coral reefs, seagrass beds, tidal lagoons, mudflats, saltmarshes, mangroves, rock platforms, shipwrecks, archeological sites, underwater areas on the coast, and seabeds in deep waters (Australian Government).

Marine protected areas are mainly dedicated to protect the biodiversity rich areas, like coral reefs. Among the most diverse ecosystem on the planet coral reefs are one of them. Coral reefs are important asset for biological and natural heritage, which serves as sea food, medicinal materials, income from tourism, buffering coastal cities and protect from storm damage (Dirk & Lauretta, 1998).


Coral reefs have structural complexity with high biodiversity and densities. Globaly there are approximately 93,000 coral species are recorded and suggested estimates of reef associated species between one and three million which covers 284,000km2 or 0.09% of the total surface area of the ocean. Though these complex ecosystems are rare, 4000 worldwide fish species use these ecosystem as their home (Steven, 2008).

Humans are increasingly rely on coral reefs because of their proximity to shore, fisheries support and recreational opportunities. But unfortunately these ecosystems are in greate threat due to overfishing, destructive fishing practices, land based pollution, agriculture, deforestation and global climate change (Wilkinson,1998).

Coral reefs have biological, socioeconomic, scientific and aesthetic values (Smith,1978; Salm& Kenchinton, 1984; Clark et al., 1989) and there are many ways to conserve or manage coral reef resources through the establishment of marine protected areas (Bohnsack,1990; Polunin,1990; Rowley,1994)

The majority of world’s coral reefs are situated in the waters of developing nations which is a big challenge for conservation of these ecosystems (Souter &Linden, 2000), because of poverty, hunger, political instability and economic development, where coral reef preservation is not the top priorities for the governments (McManus,1997).

Many coral reef fishes and invertebrates are relatively site attached and target fish species moved to greater distances and also play intra-reefal movements between reefs across channels (Davies, 1995; Chapman & Kramer, 2000).

Now a days coral reefs are in serious trouble in the whole world by combination of stresses which are threatening their survival, and also by the following facts

overexploitation of resources and commercial fishing;

degradation and destroy the habitat by destructive fishing practices

increasing coastal populations, which are expected to double in the next 50 years;

poor and unauthorized uses of land and runoff of nutrients, sediments and pollutants.

disease outbreaks, poor water quality and pollutants;

coral bleaching with seawater temperatures increasing and global change; and

deforestation of coastal mangrove.

Even apparently transient fish such as the blue trevally show strong site fidelity (Holland et al. 1996). This has huge implications for MPA design. Though many species like coral trouts move long distance (Davies 1995; Kramer & Chapman 1999), within the reefs but their densities will increases within the MPA area which can only protect part of an island (Russ & Alcala 1996a; Evans & Russ in press). MPAs established to protect the whole reefs or part of the island to get the best result for conservation and larval export objectives (ISRS, 2004).

Reefs at Risk: A Map-Based Indicator of Threats to the World’s Coral Reefs, is the first global assessment of coral reefs to map areas at risk from overfishing, coastal development, and other human activity. The study finds that nearly 60 percent of the earth’s coral reefs are threatened by human activity – ranging from coastal development and overfishing to inland and marine pollution – leaving much of the world’s marine biodiversity at risk. Key findings of the report –

Coral reefs of Southeast Asia, the most species-rich on earth, are the most threatened of any region. More than 80 percent are at risk, primarily from coastal development and fishing- related pressures. Most United States reefs are threatened. Almost all the reefs off the Florida coast are at risk from a range of factors, including runoff of fertilizers and pollutants from farms and coastal development. Close to half of Hawaii’s reefs are threatened, while virtually all of Puerto Rico’s reefs are at risk. Nearly two-thirds of Caribbean reefs are in jeopardy. Most of the reefs on the Antilles chain, including the islands of Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica and other vacation favorites, are at high risk. Reefs off Jamaica, for example, have been ravaged as a result of overfishing and pollution. Many resemble graveyards, algae-covered and depleted of fish.

Reefs at risk revisited (2010) include the same local and regional threats as previous reefs at risk with two new components: (a) an assessment of threats related to climate change (coral bleaching and ocean acidification), and (b) an evaluation of the social and economic implications of reef degradation on the world’s coastal populations.

The establishment of most marine reserves have two main objectives: conservation and sustainable provision for human uses. Marine protected areas are important for their biological dimensions, such as, productivity, importance as habitat. Breeding and migration, and biodiversity.

Marine protected areas used as tool for the marine environment to meet management objectives which reflect political and social views and reconcile fishery and conservation concerns. The success of MPA depends on the quality of governance and the social and economic situation how people use marine goods and services (Jennings, 2009).

The report done by fisheries doctorines summarize the role of marine protected areas are; small MPA can lead the increase of number and size of molluscan and crustacean with low mobility, reduction in fishing mortality and changes in habitates, increases in spawning, evidence of spil over, protecting juveniles, spin-off benefits for commercial species (Defra, 2006).

MPAs can provide great role for coral reefs, for example, the world’s biggest Great Barrier Reef one of the largest protected area allowing sustainable utilization of the reef with numerous uses often conflicting needs by providing support for the economic, social, and political arguments to protect coral reefs.

Reefs are tremendously high dynamic and open ecosystem, depends on currents carrying nutrients, water and oxygen, transporting larvae and other materials and also carry pollutants and sediments which inhibit new recruitment of coral and fish in the reefs community.

MPAs are established as a conservation tool, play significant role in tourism, positive effects on abundances, biomass, sizes and reproductive outputs of many reef species.

The use of MPAs to manage the long distance migrating species by the protection of the habitats by a small portion of certain species population thought to have high site fidelity (Gell & Roberts, 2003). Many coral reef fish species use different habitats like, sea grasses, estuaries, and mangrove swamps (Nagelkerken et al. 2002; Mumby et al. 2004), and MPAs can protect these representative habitats on their life stages for management purposes.

Ecological linkages

The marine ecosystem controlled by bottom-up such as variable recruitment (Doherty & Williams, 1988) or top-down processes through predation (Grigg et al. 1984). A wide range of species coral reef fish shows high variable recruitment (Newman et al. 1996; Meekan et al. 2001) which may impact on the ecosystem. Both coral reef fish abundances and assemblage structure affected by recruitment and predation. Predation on the other hand may serve to control outbreaking species such as crown-of-thorns starfish (Dulvy et al. 2004b), MPA size potentially influencing the ability of a MPA on part of an island or reef to control such outbreaks.

Role of marine protected areas:

Protection of different species which are very sensitive for fishing is the main role of marine protected area, such as fragile benthichabitat-forming organism like, gorgonians are protected by MPAs. Reef biodiversity also improved their habitat quality by MPAs. MPAs also play improtant role for those species which are not doing well under any sort of fisheries management system. In reef MPAs can become more valued for divers due to increase in abundance, size and diversity of reef associated fish species (Williams and Polunin, 2000). It also recover the stocks of different species and ecosytem functioning within the area. Another important role is reducing or eliminating fishing mortality. Coral reef fish also based on increases in fish density and size (Russ, 2002). The size of MPA depends upon the goal and ecology of the relevant species. Smaller MPA’s provide local fisheries benefits and larger MPA’s provide more regional benefits through larval production and recruitment (Robert, 2000).


MPA’s are not the best solution for fisheries management but its a useful tools for preservation and enhancement for certain critical habitats, but in specific condition MPAs may be benifited for commercial mobil species (Defra, 2006).

Last three decades MPAs used as a management framework for coral reef conservation but rarely achieved their goals due to lack of regulation enforcement. From the 1300 MPAs management only 383 MPAs are effective which is only 29% (Russ, 1999). Among the parks only 9% are high management level that generally achieves their management objectives (McClanahan, 1999) and only 660 MPAs contained coral reefs by 2000 (Spalding, 2001).

Sometimes the design and the implimentation of MPAs differ between developed and non-developed countries, because people much more dependent on resource exploitation. In most cases community involvement and support during MPA establishment are most important for MPA success (ISRS, 2004).


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