Ocean Refuges, Bonus Benefits

shark-in-bagWe appreciate Anthropocene’s ongoing efforts to summarize important scientific findings related to the environment, conservation and related topics.  Earlier this week Emma Bryce offered “The invisible boundaries of ocean refuges protect even wide-roaming creatures” — a worthy read about these spaces providing more benefit than expected:

In recent years, we’ve preserved several million square kilometers of ocean inside Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the wildlife reserves of the sea. By cordoning these areas off from commercial fishing, undersea mining, and development, we hope to protect the species within them. But does it actually work?

The answer to that question is disputed—especially when it comes to roaming species like sharks and turtles that lose the protection of an MPA the moment they stray outside its boundaries. Now a novel study has enriched the debate, showing via satellite-tracking technologies that even for roving sea creatures, MPAs might hold unexpected promise.

Penned by researchers from several different institutions including Stanford University, and published in the journal Biological Conservation, the study looks at the prevalence of grey reef sharks in the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, a 54,000 square-kilometer MPA in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Grey reef sharks were historically abundant in these tropical waters—but they’re on a decline, largely due to fishing pressures and habitat degradation…

…By 2020, dozens of countries have already pledged to conserve 10 percent of the world’s oceans. On that note, the researchers caution that the establishment of protected areas in the sea “has far outpaced research on the ecological effectiveness of these MPAs.” Perhaps satellite surveillance will hasten the research on these ocean refuges, to better protect the species they contain.

Source: White et al “Assessing the effectiveness of a large marine protected area for reef shark conservationBiological Conservation. 2017.

Read the whole summary here.

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