Experts establish performance indicators to evaluate marine protected areas
A paper recently published by experts from Portuguese institutions establishes a set of indicators that will help evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the preservation offered by marine protected areas (MPAs).
For the first time governance indicators were selected and prioritised for monitoring these areas in Portugal, in other words, a validated list of parameters and associated monitoring periodicity, agreed upon by researchers, area managers and governance experts.
The study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, is the result of a year of joint work by 67 experts who established a final list of 37 selected indicators, their appropriate survey methods and minimum monitoring frequencies.
Of the 37 indicators, 18 were considered priority, among them, 13 related to environmental criteria and that make it possible to obtain information on the biodiversity and recovery of target species and biological communities, as well as the ecological status of marine ecosystems.
The other 5 are governance and socio-economic indicators and assess the management and surveillance capacity of marine protected areas, the existence of an adequate legal framework for their effective protection and the effects of MPAs on the fisheries sector and on maritime and tourism activities (without resource extraction).
For the CCMAR researcher and first author of the article, Mariana Cardoso-Andrade, MPAs require "effective indicators to assess their performance", in accordance with the objectives of "relevant national and international commitments", being for this necessary to "ensure the efficiency" of MPA monitoring programs through the "optimization of resources available for their management".
"The minimum monitoring frequencies ensure the minimums for the assessment of the status of these ecosystems and their management, in compliance with the commitments established nationally and internationally," highlights.
The study recommends that management plans incorporate environmental monitoring procedures and survey methods, with a validated list of indicators and associated monitoring frequency agreed upon by researchers, MPA managers and governance experts.
The proposed methodology and lessons learned from it can support future processes aiming at defining and prioritizing MPA performance indicators.
This work was promoted by the Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e Florestas (ICNF), the Portuguese Coastal MPA management authority and 3 POSEUR funded projects (MARSW, Inforbiomares and Omare), with the aim to develop, test and validate a structured expert-based methodology to co-define a list of multidisciplinary MPA performance indicators within one year.