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Representativity and networks of Marine Protected Areas


J. Rice, Ecosystem Sciences Branch – Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 200 Kent Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0E6. E-mail:


  1. Through recent Decisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), States have agreed to establish networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and that representativity is a necessary feature of the networks.
  2. There is extensive literature on the intent of these commitments and scientific guidance on network design. The guidance specifies that to have representativity captured in a network requires that a suitable biogeographical classification exists and that areas which ‘represent’ the biogeographical subdivisions are included. However, no operational guidance has been provided on how to determine that a subdivision is adequately ‘represented’ by a protected area.
  3. This paper looks at the management and conservation functions expected to be served by representative MPAs, including an ‘insurance policy’ function, a ‘benchmark’ or natural control function, and a ‘seed stock’ function.
  4. The scales at which marine ecological processes typically operate are reviewed, as a basis for determining the scales of MPAs needed to provide these functions.
  5. It is concluded that representative MPAs at the spatial scales of the interactions of key top predators and forage fish generally should ensure spatial scales large enough to give protection to the other processes as well.
  6. To ensure the key functions are served, the representative MPAs also should have sufficient protection that human pressures do not alter the characteristics of these ecological processes.

    Copyright © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2011. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans