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Assessing the contribution of established protected areas towards meeting MPA network objectives in the Northern Shelf Bioregion

Authors:
  • Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for NE Pacific - Tula Foundation

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As part of the marine protected area (MPA) network planning process in the Northern Shelf Bioregion of B.C. (NSB), the MPA technical team is reviewing 114 existing and 1 proposed marine protected areas to evaluate the degree to which each protected area meets ecological objectives for the network. • Because protected areas vary in their degree of protection, ongoing threats and pressures and biological composition, the capacity of the protected areas to effectively protect the ecological conservation priorities within their boundaries needs to be assessed. To take this variability into account, our team has developed a method that considers the potential cumulative effects of allowed and/or ongoing human activities on ecological conservation priorities within existing protected areas. • Using a set of ecological conservation targets that were developed for the network, we evaluate the proportion of the spatial area of each ecological conservation priority protected by the current and proposed MPAs, adjusted by the potential cumulative effects from allowable human activities within the planning area.
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... Incorporating the known stressors of the relevant conservation priorities during design and monitoring can increase the efficacy of MPA networks (Mach et al. 2017). Following CSAS guidance (DFO 2019), the potential cumulative impacts of allowed activities on each species or habitat within each site are assessed and the contribution of each MPA towards meeting each ecological conservation target is scaled accordingly, in an analysis termed the conservation gaps analysis (CGA) (Martone et al. 2018;Martone et al. in prep. 5 ). ...
... 5 ). Through the CGA, species richness can be assessed at a site or network scale and can be parsed out using attributes of the proposed MPAs, such as protection level or designation type, or characteristics of the ecological features, such as functional group or conservation status (Martone et al. 2018). For example, the representation and richness of habitat classes from the Pacific Marine Ecological Classification System (PMECS; Rubidge et al. 2016) or identified EBSAs can be assessed independently. ...
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Canada has committed to developing effective and representative marine conservation networks. Guidance for the development of these networks focuses on core design features, including the incorporation of ecologically and biologically significant areas, ecological representation, replication, connectivity, and adequacy/viability. Network planning using these design features is currently underway in five priority bioregions: the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Scotian Shelf, the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves, the Western Arctic, and the Pacific Northern Shelf. To ensure these networks achieve their biodiversity protection goals and objectives, the extent to which the design features are being achieved must be evaluated and monitored over time. Practical advice on how to monitor and evaluate Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks is critical for identifying the key elements of (future) successful management plans. This paper focuses on approaches for evaluating and monitoring the core design features of the Canadian MPA Network. We describe the importance of these design features and detail tools and approaches relevant for evaluation and monitoring at the network level. We then present a detailed case study to show how marine conservation network planning in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB) has incorporated the design features in evaluations of draft network designs and how those methods can direct future monitoring within the NSB and more broadly in the Canadian MPA Network.
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