Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have long been seen as one of the key tools in marine conservation. Policy and planning efforts, including international conservation agreements have, in turn, used measures of protected areas coverage as a means to set targets and assess progress.
This project will investigate an important new component of global protected areas targets – their role in safeguarding ecosystem services.
Previous efforts to assess progress towards protected areas targets have focused on biodiversity coverage (see the CCI funded project: Trends and gaps in protection of the world's biodiversity). Although biodiversity coverage remains a key metric for conservation progress, Aichi Target 11 also requires nations to ensure that protected areas support the conservation of ecosystem services.
This presents considerable new challenges. Fundamentally, there remains discussion as to how ecosystem services can be defined, quantified and mapped. Patterns of ecosystem service provision depend on the spatial distribution of both ecosystems and people, and are highly scale-dependent, so they are likely to differ from patterns of biodiversity distribution. Additionally, the role that protected areas might play in safeguarding such services may not always be fully apparent. For these reasons their assessment is likely to force a wider debate about progress and prioritisation in the development of protected area networks.
This project will utilize new and forthcoming global datasets on ecosystem services from mangrove forests and coral reefs, including measures of blue carbon, fisheries and coastal protection, to explore how current protected areas overlap, and may be supporting, multiple ecosystem services. The global MPA layer will be developed from the World Database on Protected Areas.
The findings are expected to highlight challenges and opportunities for future MPA planning and for the setting of marine conservation targets. Over time such work should serve to guide future investments for both conservation and social and economic benefits.
This project is funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation. Involvement by the Cambridge Conservation Forum is via their member organisation The Nature Conservancy, represented by Mark Spalding.