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Assessment of management practices regarding genetic biodiversity in Baltic Sea marine protected areas

Sandström, Annica, Lundmark, Carina, Jansson, Eeva, Edman, Mari, Laikre, Linda
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.6 pp. 1187-1205
biodiversity, conservation areas, environmental factors, international agreements, interviews, issues and policy, managers, Baltic Sea, Finland, Sweden
The aim of this study is to examine, and tentatively explain, how genetic biodiversity is handled in the management of Baltic Sea Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Genetic biodiversity is critical for species’ adaptation to changing environmental conditions and is protected by international agreements. Nevertheless, recent research indicates that genetic biodiversity is neglected in marine environments and in the management of MPAs. This study focuses on Sweden and Finland, which together govern a substantial part of Baltic Sea MPAs, and builds on in-depth interviews with regional conservation managers that are responsible for establishing and managing these areas. The empirical findings confirm that genetic biodiversity is absent, or plays a minor role, in contemporary MPA management. The findings also provide several possible explanations to this situation: unclear understandings of formal policy, lack of resources, deficient knowledge base, and the managers’ own policy beliefs. Policy makers and high-level managers need to consider these aspects in their efforts to protect biodiversity.