Increased connectivity and depth improve the effectiveness of marine reserves

Jordan S. Goetze, Shaun Wilson, Ben Radford, Rebecca Fisher, Tim J. Langlois, Jacquomo Monk, Nathan A. Knott, Hamish Malcolm, Leanne M. Currey-Randall, Daniel Ierodiaconou, David Harasti, Neville Barrett, Russell C. Babcock, Nestor E. Bosch, Danny Brock, Joachim Claudet, Jock Clough, David V. Fairclough, Michelle R. Heupel, Thomas H. HolmesCharlie Huveneers, Alan R. Jordan, Dianne McLean, Mark Meekan, David Miller, Stephen J. Newman, Matthew J. Rees, Kelsey E. Roberts, Benjamin J. Saunders, Conrad W. Speed, Michael J. Travers, Eric Treml, Sasha K. Whitmarsh, Corey B. Wakefield, Euan S. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Marine reserves are a key tool for the conservation of marine biodiversity, yet only ~2.5% of the world's oceans are protected. The integration of marine reserves into connected networks representing all habitats has been encouraged by international agreements, yet the benefits of this design has not been tested empirically. Australia has one of the largest systems of marine reserves, providing a rare opportunity to assess how connectivity influences conservation success. An Australia-wide dataset was collected using baited remote underwater video systems deployed across a depth range from 0 to 100 m to assess the effectiveness of marine reserves for protecting teleosts subject to commercial and recreational fishing. A meta-analytical comparison of 73 fished species within 91 marine reserves found that, on average, marine reserves had 28% greater abundance and 53% greater biomass of fished species compared to adjacent areas open to fishing. However, benefits of protection were not observed across all reserves (heterogeneity), so full subsets generalized additive modelling was used to consider factors that influence marine reserve effectiveness, including distance-based and ecological metrics of connectivity among reserves. Our results suggest that increased connectivity and depth improve the aforementioned marine reserve benefits and that these factors should be considered to optimize such benefits over time. We provide important guidance on factors to consider when implementing marine reserves for the purpose of increasing the abundance and size of fished species, given the expected increase in coverage globally. We show that marine reserves that are highly protected (no-take) and designed to optimize connectivity, size and depth range can provide an effective conservation strategy for fished species in temperate and tropical waters within an overarching marine biodiversity conservation framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3432-3447
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number15
Early online date20 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • fully protected areas
  • marine conservation
  • marine protected areas
  • marine reserve design
  • marine reserve effectiveness
  • meta-analysis
  • sanctuaries


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