Effects of marine reserve characteristics on the protection of fish populations: a meta-analysis

  • Published source details Côté I.M., Mosqueira I. & Reynolds J.D. (2001) Effects of marine reserve characteristics on the protection of fish populations: a meta-analysis. Journal of Fish Biology, 59, 178-189.


Marine reserves have been established, mostly in coastal localities, in an attempt to provide a safe haven for fishes and other wildlife, and to protect or restore valuable marine habitats. A review was undertaken to assess the effectiveness of establishing marine reserves as a means of enhancing fish species richness and abundance and to ascertain if effectiveness was correlated with reserve characteristics (e.g. area and years since protection).

A literature search of relevant published research was undertaken and data extracted for the purposes of meta-analysis to address the question of the effects of marine reserve characteristics on the protection of fish populations.

A meta-analyses of published data for 19 marine reserves revealed that marine protected areas enhance species richness consistently but their effect on fish abundance was more variable. Overall, there was an 11% increase in fish species number inside marine reserves, with all reserves sharing a common effect. There was also a substantial (but non-significant) increase in overall fish abundance inside reserves compared to adjacent, non-reserve areas. When only species targeted by fisheries were considered, fish abundance was 28% higher within the reserves. Marine reserves vary significantly in the extent and direction of their response. This variability in relative abundance was not attributable to differences in survey methodology among studies, nor correlated with reserve characteristics such as reserve area, years since protection, latitude nor species diversity. The effectiveness of marine reserves in enhancing fish abundance may be related to the intensity of exploitation outside their boundaries and to the composition of the fish community within boundaries.

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