Reexamining the science of marine protected areas: Linking knowledge to action


Marine protected areas (MPAs) are often implemented to conserve or restore species, fisheries, habitats, ecosystems, and ecological functions and services; buffer against the ecological effects of climate change; and alleviate poverty in coastal communities. Scientific research provides valuable insights into the social and ecological impacts of MPAs, as well as the factors that shape these impacts, providing useful guidance or "rules of thumb" for science-based MPA policy. Both ecological and social factors foster effective MPAs, including substantial coverage of representative habitats and oceanographic conditions; diverse size and spacing; protection of habitat bottlenecks; participatory decisionmaking arrangements; bounded and contextually appropriate resource use rights; active and accountable monitoring and enforcement systems; and accessible conflict resolution mechanisms. For MPAs to realize their full potential as a tool for ocean governance, further advances in policy-relevant MPA science are required. These research frontiers include MPA impacts on nontarget and wide-ranging species and habitats; impacts beyond MPA boundaries, on ecosystem services, and on resource-dependent human populations, as well as potential scale mismatches of ecosystem service flows. Explicitly treating MPAs as "policy experiments" and employing the tools of impact evaluation holds particular promise as a way for policy-relevant science to inform and advance science-based MPA policy. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.






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Publication Info

Fox, HE, MB Mascia, X Basurto, A Costa, L Glew, D Heinemann, LB Karrer, SE Lester, et al. (2012). Reexamining the science of marine protected areas: Linking knowledge to action. Conservation Letters, 5(1). pp. 1–10. 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2011.00207.x Retrieved from

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Xavier Basurto

Truman and Nellie Semans/Alex Brown & Sons Associate Professor

I am interested in the fundamental question of how groups (human and non-human) can find ways to self-organize, cooperate, and engage in successful collective action for the benefit of the common good. To do this I strive to understand how the institutions (formal and informal rules and norms) that govern social behavior, interplay with biophysical variables to shape social-ecological systems. What kind of institutions are better able to govern complex-adaptive systems? and how can societies (large and small) develop robust institutions that provide enough flexibility for collective learning and adaptation over the long-term?

My academic and professional training is based on a deep conviction that it is through integrating different disciplinary perspectives and methods that we will be able to find solutions to challenging dilemmas in natural resources management, conservation, and environmental policy. Trained as a marine biologist, I completed a M.S in natural resources studying small-scale fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Realizing the need to bring social science theories into my work on common-pool resources sustainability, I earned an MPA and a Ph.D. in Management (with a minor in cultural anthropology) from the University of Arizona and under the supervision of Edella Schlager. Following I spent two years working with Elinor Ostrom, 2009 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, at the Workshop for Political Theory and Policy Analysis of Indiana University. Methodologically, I am familiar with a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches and formally trained to conduct Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA or more recently fsQCA), that allows among other things, systematic comparisons of middle range N sample sizes and address issues of multiple-causality.

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