Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are at the core of management and conservation plans aimed at counteracting the ongoing widespread degradation of marine ecosystems. Although the outcomes of protection in enhancing marine biodiversity and restoring populations of exploited species are widely recognized, the putative effect of MPAs in increasing the resilience of marine communities and ecosystems is still underexplored. In this study, long-term data from a no-take area of a Mediterranean MPA and unprotected locations were used to investigate the effects of full protection on the temporal stability of sessile assemblages on shallow subtidal rocky reefs. Results highlighted that assemblages within the no-take area exhibited a more consistent structure over 20 years of study, whereas a significantly larger temporal variability characterized assemblages at the unprotected locations. Reduced levels of human pressure and stabilizing processes related to the re-establishment of the integrity of trophic networks within the MPA could underlie the observed patterns. Assessing whether MPAs may improve the ability of marine communities to absorb disturbance, from local to large scale sources, is essential to ascertain their contribution to future adaptive conservation strategies in the face of global change. This study provided evidence that MPAs, if well managed, can represent an effective tool to smooth fluctuations in the structure of marine communities, thus potentially reducing their vulnerability to natural and human-driven environmental changes.

Multidecadal monitoring highlighted long-term stability of protected assemblages within a Mediterranean marine reserve

Bevilacqua, Stanislao
;
Vellani, Verdiana;Fabbrizio, Paolo;Falace, Annalisa;
2022-01-01

Abstract

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are at the core of management and conservation plans aimed at counteracting the ongoing widespread degradation of marine ecosystems. Although the outcomes of protection in enhancing marine biodiversity and restoring populations of exploited species are widely recognized, the putative effect of MPAs in increasing the resilience of marine communities and ecosystems is still underexplored. In this study, long-term data from a no-take area of a Mediterranean MPA and unprotected locations were used to investigate the effects of full protection on the temporal stability of sessile assemblages on shallow subtidal rocky reefs. Results highlighted that assemblages within the no-take area exhibited a more consistent structure over 20 years of study, whereas a significantly larger temporal variability characterized assemblages at the unprotected locations. Reduced levels of human pressure and stabilizing processes related to the re-establishment of the integrity of trophic networks within the MPA could underlie the observed patterns. Assessing whether MPAs may improve the ability of marine communities to absorb disturbance, from local to large scale sources, is essential to ascertain their contribution to future adaptive conservation strategies in the face of global change. This study provided evidence that MPAs, if well managed, can represent an effective tool to smooth fluctuations in the structure of marine communities, thus potentially reducing their vulnerability to natural and human-driven environmental changes.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3023671
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