Date of Completion

Spring 5-6-2012

Thesis Advisor(s)

Peter Auster


Marine Biology


Use of marine protected areas (MPA) as a tool for conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity is increasing worldwide. However, the geographic extent of MPA designation varies, as does a full understanding of the ecological utility of such designations. Progress towards marine conservation goals needs to be evaluated in order to determine areas lacking effective MPA designation. The goal of this study is to evaluate the representation (in terms of communities and habitats) and performance of marine protected areas in the Northwestern Atlantic and Northeastern Pacific across a latitudinal gradient. Presence or absence of MPAs in specific ecological settings was used to examine the completeness of representative networks of sites across the study region. Specific post-designation studies were then examined to determine what effects designation and management had on community structure across habitats.

Results suggest that despite widespread use of MPAs as a management tool and the desire to utilize MPAs to sustain multiple functions while conserving diversity, much work still needs to be done to establish MPAs in poorly represented habitats, and to assess the outcomes of designation, both immediately following closure, as well as over time. The ultimate goal of MPA studies should be to develop a capability to predict with a high degree of certainty the outcome of management measures in various ecological settings within the context of achieving global conservation goals.