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Effect of marine protected areas on distinct fish life-history stages

Félix-Hackradt, Fabiana C., Hackradt, Carlos W., Treviño-Otón, Jorge, Pérez-Ruzafa, Ángel, García-Charton, José A.
Marine environmental research 2018 v.140 pp. 200-209
adults, biomass, coasts, economic valuation, fish, habitats, juveniles, larvae, marine protected areas, postlarvae, Spain
The role of Marine Protected Areas on distinct life stages of Mediterranean reef fish species (classified on the basis of their economic value and mobility categories) was assessed in a network of marine reserves in SE Spain. Only abundance and biomass of adult of both commercial and demersal species were positively affected by protection. Gradients across reserve boundaries (as a clue to the occurrence of spillover) were observed for fish abundance but not for biomass, indicating a protected fish assemblage with a predominance of small-sized individuals. Also, post-larvae of commercial species were negatively related to protected zones. Active selection of settlement preferred habitats, larval accumulation favoured by the geomorphological configuration of the coast or mixed effects has been proposed as possible explanations. Juveniles showed high spatial variability resulting in a lack of response to fishing protection measures. We highlight the need of including early life stages and overall suitable habitats for them when designing MPA networks due to the crucial importance of these stages to successful fulfillment of MPA objectives.