Benefits and challenges of scaling up expansion of marine protected area networks in the Verde Island Passage, Central Philippines

Vera Horigue, Robert L. Pressey, Morena Mills, Jana Brotánková, Reniel Cabral, Serge Andréfouët

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Locally-established marine protected areas (MPAs) have been proven to achieve localscale fisheries and conservation objectives. However, since many of these MPAs were not designed to form ecologically-connected networks, their contributions to broader-scale goals such as complementarity and connectivity can be limited. In contrast, integrated networks of MPAs designed with systematic conservation planning are assumed to be more effective-ecologically, socially, and economically-than collections of locally-established MPAs. There is, however, little empirical evidence that clearly demonstrates the supposed advantages of systematic MPA networks. A key reason is the poor record of implementation of systematic plans attributable to lack of local buy-in. An intermediate scenario for the expansion of MPAs is scaling up of local decisions, whereby locally-driven MPA initiatives are coordinated through collaborative partnerships among local governments and their communities. Coordination has the potential to extend the benefits of individual MPAs and perhaps to approach the potential benefits offered by systematic MPA networks. We evaluated the benefits of scaling up local MPAs to form networks by simulating seven expansion scenarios for MPAs in the Verde Island Passage, central Philippines. The scenarios were: uncoordinated community-based establishment of MPAs; two scenarios reflecting different levels of coordinated MPA expansion through collaborative partnerships; and four scenarios guided by systematic conservation planning with different contexts for governance. For each scenario, we measured benefits through time in terms of achievement of objectives for representation of marine habitats. We found that: in any governance context, systematic networks were more efficient than non-systematic ones; systematic networks were more efficient in broader governance contexts; and, contrary to expectations but with caveats, the uncoordinated scenario was slightly more efficient than the coordinated scenarios. Overall, however, coordinated MPA networks have the potential to be more efficient than the uncoordinated ones, especially when coordinated planning uses systematic methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0135789
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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