Science for Successful Marine Managed Areas (MMAs)
During the past 20 years, the establishment of MMAs has become increasingly popular as a way to protect the ocean from human impacts. Now that many MMAs have been in place for several years, it is essential to assess their progress toward management objectives and to determine the characteristics that lead to successful MMAs.
The Science-to-Action partnership was established to answer these questions with recognition that success must be measured in terms of both ecosystem health and human well-being. Using natural and social sciences, we study MMAs to understand how to make them effective – and we put the science into action.
Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, and Human Well-being
The challenge of designing and implementing successful MMAs is multifaceted. It requires understanding the biology, ecology, oceanography and biogeochemistry of how the ecosystem functions. Equally, it requires understanding people’s culture, sociology, politics and economics in relation to the ocean and coast. Science-to-Action studies are organized in six themes that address biodiversity and human well-being.
Assessing the ecological and socioeconomic results of MMAs—and identifying the factors that contribute to success—is essential for reaching management and conservation goals.
If they are to sustain and improve ecosystem health, MMAs must be designed to accommodate ecological connections among habitats and populations.
||Climate Change Adaptation
We are investigating the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, and we are helping managers to understand the potential role of MMAs in reducing the negative effects.
To design and implement effective MMAs, managers and policy makers need to understand the human dimensions of MMAs, including the economic, social, and cultural significance.
Using data from MMAs around the world, the Science-to-Action partnership is developing practical management approaches to balance biodiversity conservation and economic development.
Effectiveness of a marine management area depends on sufficient compliance and enforcement.
Global Learning Network
The Science-to-Action partnership provides a worldwide perspective on key issues for MMAs. This perspective is made possible by conducting research at sites around the world, including four Focus Areas and numerous other locations. The partnership integrates research findings within and among geographic areas and thematic areas to provide powerful, reliable information for conservation. By integrating the findings from many sites, the Science-to-Action partnership develops global insights for management and policy that can be applied in any coral reef ecosystem.
At local to global scales, Science-to-Action partners work with managers, policy decision makers, and other stakeholders to identify the most critical information to improve management and the best ways to provide the information for maximum impact. Teams of scientists generate the needed information, working in close partnership with stakeholders, often including stakeholders in the research team.
The scientific findings are shared through one-on-one discussions with key decision makers, community workshops and meetings of stakeholders such as fishermen’s cooperatives, mass media such as radio and television, and informal ongoing communication. The long-term engagement of Science-to-Action Coordinators in each of the four Focus Areas ensures that scientific insights continue to feed into decision-making processes. To facilitate these discussions, partners produce Science-to-Action tools such as
Selected Science-to-Action Accomplishments
The Science-to-Action partnership has catalyzed the improvement of fishing regulations in Panama and the establishment of new marine management areas in Fiji, Brazil, and the southern Pacific Ocean. Similar Science-to-Action initiatives are under way in Belize and at a global level.
- Belize: In February 2010, 35 stakeholders and scientists met to discuss key messages from the 8 MMAS studies conducted in Belize to date. As next steps, the participants are developing a paper to Cabinet urging them to approve enhanced mangrove regulations, and they are engaging with the Belize Tourism Board to develop codes of conduct for tourists to prevent damage to coral reefs and fish spawning sites.
- Brazil: Our scientists discovered extensive areas of coral reefs with tremendous biodiversity offshore at Abrolhos Bank, and demonstrated key ecological connections between these areas and coastal habitats. Scientific discoveries such this contributed to the Ministry of Environment accelerating the creation of Cassurubá Extractive Reserve (100,000 ha), protecting mangroves as nursery sites for many fish species.
- Fiji: When leaders in Nagigi village heard our findings about the genetic uniqueness of Fiji’s fish and the intra-connectedness of the archipelago, they decided to create a marine management area in their local waters.
- Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape: Based in part on MMAS research in Coiba National Park, a partnership of scientists, fishermen, conservation organizations, and park managers agreed to pursue new fisheries regulations to ensure sustainable use.
- Global: We released the first global compilation of the economic values of reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses, and the first global assessment of socioeconomic conditions of the tropical coasts, which have already been used by World Bank staff, Asian Development Bank staff, and a U.S. Congresswoman to demonstrate the importance of coral reefs in areas they want to protect.