Solving the Mystery of Marine Protected Area (MPA) Performance

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Helen Fox, National Geographic
Robert Pomeroy, University of Connecticut
Michael Mascia, Conservation International

Marine ecosystem services, including fisheries, coastal protection, and marine tourism, play a critical role in the economies of many developing countries, contributing to livelihoods and food security for millions, even as threats to healthy oceans increase. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are key strategies for sustaining the delivery of critical marine ecosystem services, but recent reviews have revealed wide variation in ecological and social outcomes. Our SESYNC Pursuit is an interdisciplinary research initiative to compile, integrate, and analyze governance, biophysical, and social data from MPAs across the globe. We are piloting methods and approaches for this work as we collate and synthesize relevant social, ecological, and biophysical secondary data. Awareness of the importance of marine ecosystem services is growing, as is the recognition that better governance of social-ecological systems is critical to sustainability.

Our interdisciplinary collaborative research team (CRT) will uncover the links between MPA governance and ecosystem structure, function, and services. We will develop and widely distribute an open-source MPA monitoring database to MPA managers, who often struggle to effectively store, manage, process, and analyze monitoring data, especially in developing countries. Widespread adoption of this database would establish a new standard for increasingly rigorous monitoring of MPAs, empowering MPA managers and fostering adaptive management. Through the synthesis of existing information that links MPA governance, ecosystem services, and human well-being, novel insights will emerge that advance fundamental scientific knowledge and inform local-to-global policy and practice.

Our Pursuit participants span various professions, institutions, ethnicities, and career levels, including representatives from academic, governmental, non-governmental, and private sectors. Their diverse backgrounds include biologists and ecologists, anthropologists, economists and other social scientists, and database and decision support specialists.



Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan
Gabby Ahmadia, World Wildlife Fund
Megan Barnes, University of Queensland
Xavier Basurto, Duke University
Gonzalo Cid, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Ian Craigie, James Cook University
Emily Darling, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chris Free, Rutgers University
Ruth Gates, University of Hawaii
Jonas Geldmann, University of Copenhagen
David Gill, SESYNC
Louise Glew, World Wildlife Fund
Anne Henshaw, Oak Foundation
Nur "Ismu" Hidayat, Conservation International-Indonesia
Susie Holst, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Olaf Jensen, Rutgers University
Sarah Lester, University of California, Santa Barbara
Wen Liang, University of Michigan
Caleb McClennen, Wildlife Conservation Society
Patrick McConney, University of the West Indies
Peter Mumby, University of Queensland
Mateja Nenadovic, Duke University
Nasser Olwero, World Wildlife Fund
John Parks, Marine Management Solutions LLC
Maria Pena, University of the West Indies
Estradivari Sant, World Wildlife Fund
Carly Strasser, The California Digital Library
Hannah Thomas, World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Michael Webster, Coral Reef Alliance
Alan White, Coral Triangle Program
Sarah Whitmee, University College London
Stephen Woodley, International Union for Conservation of Nature
Carina Wyborn, World Wildlife Fund
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