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Spatial population dynamics and the design of marine reserves


Per Lundberg Department of Theoretical Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden. E-mail:


The failure of many fisheries world-wide, and the concern about marine biodiversity, has sparked a growing interest in the spatial aspects of harvested populations. If a population conforms to the Ideal Free Distribution and that one of the habitats is set aside as a reserve free from harvesting, the design of reserves may be problematic. If a substantial proportion of the unharvested population is to be preserved, then the reserve area must be unrealistically large, or have a much higher expected fitness than the unprotected area. Interestingly, the optimal harvest rate will be unaffected by both the size of the reserve and the quality of it relative to the harvested area. Even if the Ideal Free Distribution model is extended to include simple age-structure and “spillover” of recruits from the reserve, these conclusions largely remain intact. In a model that also includes spillover, the habitat quality of the reserve may also affect the catch.

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