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Integrated conservation planning for coral reefs: Designing conservation zones for multiple conservation objectives in spatial prioritisation

Magris, Rafael A., Pressey, Robert L., Mills, Morena, Vila-Nova, Daniele A., Floeter, Sergio
Global ecology and conservation 2017 v.11 pp. 53-68
biodiversity, coral reefs, cost effectiveness, decision making, ecosystems, fauna, global warming, marine protected areas, planning, prioritization, zoning, Brazil
Decision-makers focus on representing biodiversity pattern, maintaining connectivity, and strengthening resilience to global warming when designing marine protected area (MPA) systems, especially in coral reef ecosystems. The achievement of these broad conservation objectives will likely require large areas, and stretch limited funds for MPA implementation. We undertook a spatial prioritisation of Brazilian coral reefs that considered two types of conservation zones (i.e. no-take and multiple use areas) and integrated multiple conservation objectives into MPA planning, while assessing the potential impact of different sets of objectives on implementation costs. We devised objectives for biodiversity, connectivity, and resilience to global warming, determined the extent to which existing MPAs achieved them, and designed complementary zoning to achieve all objectives combined in expanded MPA systems. In doing so, we explored interactions between different sets of objectives, determined whether refinements to the existing spatial arrangement of MPAs were necessary, and tested the utility of existing MPAs by comparing their cost effectiveness with an MPA system designed from scratch. We found that MPAs in Brazil protect some aspects of coral reef biodiversity pattern (e.g. threatened fauna and ecosystem types) more effectively than connectivity or resilience to global warming. Expanding the existing MPA system was as cost-effective as designing one from scratch only when multiple objectives were considered and management costs were accounted for. Our approach provides a comprehensive assessment of the benefits of integrating multiple objectives in the initial stages of conservation planning, and yields insights for planners of MPAs tackling multiple objectives in other regions.