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Keywords:

  • Evidence-based conservation;
  • marine protected areas;
  • meta-analysis;
  • no-take zones;
  • systematic review

Abstract

Marine reserves, areas closed to all fishing and other extractive activities, provide a refuge for species of commercial and conservation importance. Given the considerable resources committed to designing temperate reserve networks, we synthesized data from temperate reserves worldwide to determine their ecological effects. In common with other studies, we found higher density, biomass, and species richness in temperate marine reserves compared to adjacent exploited areas. However, there was considerable heterogeneity in magnitude of effect among reserves, variability which was largely unexplained by species or reserve characteristics. Our analytical approach allowed for formal power analyses, indicating that detection of large reserve effects in temperate systems globally requires monitoring at least 37 reserves. These results must be qualified by the limitations of data available and will undoubtedly vary at different spatio-temporal scales and for different focal species, but provide guidance for the design and monitoring of future marine conservations plans. International commitments toward establishment of multiple reserves offer a unique opportunity to assess reserve effectiveness; this opportunity can only be realized if reserves are designed to achieve clear and quantifiable objectives and are adequately monitored before and after establishment, based on appropriate power analyses, to assess how well those objectives are achieved.