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Marine protected areas (MPAs) can play a critical role in protecting marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and sustaining healthy coastal communities. However, MPAs globally face many challenges in achieving their objectives. For example, there may be insufficient financial and technical resources, lack of trained staff, or lack of data for management decisions. The management of MPAs must be effective in order to address these challenges and realize the benefits protected areas can provide. "Management effectiveness" is the degree to which a protected area achieves its goals and objectives. Performance evaluation plays a critical role in providing for and demonstrating long-term positive impacts on biodiversity and the human communities that depend on these resources. Evaluating management effectiveness should ultimately lead to improved project planning, accountability and adaptive management, including the ability to change management as needed due to unanticipated impacts and/or changes outside the scope of the MPA.
Evaluating MPA Effectiveness
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)-Marine, NOAA, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have developed "How is your MPA Doing?", a guidebook of natural and social indicators for evaluating MPA management effectiveness.
Effective MPA Networks
IUCN defines an MPA network as "a collection of individual marine protected areas operating cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels, in order to fulfill ecologically aims more effectively and comprehensively than individual sites could alone." Well planned networks of MPAs provide important spatial links to maintain ecosystem processes and connectivity. In recognition of these benefits, the World Summit on sustainable Development, the World Parks Congress, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)and the G8 Group of Nations have all called for the establishment of a global system of MPA networks by 2012. Although the U.S. is not a signatory to the CBD, the U.S. commitment to establish a representative national system of MPAs could help the U.S. contribute to this goal.
The publication "Establishing Resilient MPA Networks – Making It Happen", provides information to better understand the role of MPA networks to achieve marine conservation. It utilizes scientific knowledge, institutional experience and global case studies to present the most relevant lessons in building resilient and functional networks, and is useful in designing and implementing effective MPA networks.
In 2014, IUCN launched a new Green List of protected areas that sets out a regionally adaptable approach for identifying well managed protected areas and sharing successful practices with others. The project is in its pilot phase.
Establishing an Effective U.S. National System of MPAs
The U.S. has established a national system of MPAs to enhance the protection of the nation's natural and cultural marine resources through coordination and cooperative stewardship. A major emphasis of the national system is to provide support for the shared science, technical, education and other priority stewardship needs of partner MPA programs. To support such efforts, MPA Federal Advisory Committee has developed recommendations on an evaluation framework for the national system of MPAs that will help guide future performance evaluation efforts.
In addition, the MPA Federal Advisory Committee has developed recommendations on an evaluation framework for the national system of MPAs that will help guide future performance evaluation efforts.
Monitoring is a key component of an effective, adaptively managed national system. The MPA Center is working with the Integrated Ocean Observing System to better integrate the national system of MPAs with current and future monitoring efforts, including addressing the needs of MPA managers and tapping existing MPAs as potential reference sites.
Protect Planet Ocean's Resources Web Site
North American MPA Network
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