A number of fish and invertebrate stocks have been depleted by overexploitation in recent years. To address this, marine protected areas (MPAs) are often established to protect biodiversity and recover stocks. We analyzed the potential impact of establishing MPAs on marine ecosystems using mathematical models. We demonstrate that establishment of an MPA can sometimes result in a considerable decline, or even extinction, of a species. We focus on a prey-predator system in two patches, one exposed to fishing activity and the other protected (MPA). Our analyses reveal that the establishment of the MPA can cause a reduction in prey abundance, and even extinction of the prey. Such unintended consequences are more likely to occur if the predator species is a generalist and if the MPA is intended to protect only the predatory species. Further, a mobile predator that migrates adaptively rather than randomly is associated with a greater reduction in prey abundance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics