Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been implemented as a spatial management tool throughout the world in order to meet targets for marine biodiversity conservation. The success of MPAs in achieving biodiversity conservation objectives is strongly dependent on effective management. However, evaluation frameworks for MPA management measures are often procedurally or governance focused with limited consideration of biological criteria. Here we review guiding ecological principles of MPA network design and how they can be applied to the evaluation of MPA management measures for effective biodiversity conservation. We have developed a Qualitative Statement Framework that makes recommendations for applying ecological principles to MPA management measures, using the Scottish nature conservation MPA network as a case study. Our statements to guide MPA management measure evaluation relate to principles: representation, ecologically significant areas, rare, threatened or declining features replication, connectivity, adequacy/viability and resilience. We suggest that using the ecological principles for MPA design in management measure evaluation addresses a gap in current management evaluation tools. This approach would be particularly useful in situations where management measures are applied to MPAs post-designation and where MPAs are managed as zoned or multi-use sites. Future MPA management evaluations should incorporate criteria to demonstrate how management measures meet each of the ecological principles.
- Ecological principles
- MPA management
- Marine Protected Area network