Assessing ecological changes in and around marine reserves using community perceptions and biological surveys
- Well-enforced partial or total no-fishing zones (collectively known as marine protected areas, or MPAs) can help restore degraded coral reefs and enhance fish populations.
- A comparison was made of community perceptions of ecological changes in an MPA with concurrent scientific data on these changes in the same MPA. Such analyses are particularly important in community-based MPAs where local support is a key determinant of ecological success.
- The no-take MPA in question was initially launched in partnership with the community in 1995 and formalized in 1998. The perceptions data come from interviews with community members in 1999 and 2004, the biological data come from underwater visual censuses of the MPA from 1998 to 2004.
- Community members perceived more fish within the MPA and slight increases in catch outside the MPA. In contrast, fish censuses showed a high degree of stochastic variation and only minor increases in fish abundance, size and diversity in and around the MPA between 1998 and 2004.
- Possible explanations for these discrepancies include different temporal, spatial or species frames of reference and/or limitations to the biological survey technique. Other options include wishful thinking, external influences, a desire to please, or confounding with other benefits.
This study demonstrates some of the strengths and weaknesses of community perceptions and biological data. In order to improve our understanding about the changes that occur over time in an MPA and engender community support for the long-term viability of MPAs, it is important to develop diverse and efficient monitoring schemes.
Yasué, M., L. Kaufman and A.C.J. Vincent. 2010. Assessing ecological changes in and around marine reserves using community perceptions and biological surveys. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20(4):407-418. https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.1090