Selecting zones in a marine park: Early systematic planning improves cost-efficiency; combining habitat and biotic data improves effectiveness.
Malcolm HA, Foulsham E, Pressey RL, Jordan A, Davies PL, Ingleton T, Johnstone N, Hessey S and Smith SDA (2012) Selecting zones in a marine park: Early systematic planning improves cost-efficiency; combining habitat and biotic data improves effectiveness. Ocean & Coastal Management 54(1): 1–12.
SummaryConservation planning tools are being increasingly used to contribute to planning of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and have enabled a more systematic analysis of often competing planning objectives. Systematic planning, using algorithm tools, can improve biodiversity representation in ‘no take’ zones in a marine park while reducing the costs of meeting conservation targets. The current zoning plan for the 870 km2 Solitary Islands Marine Park (SIMP), designed without algorithm tools, provides an opportunity to compare the efficiency of pre- and post-establishment zoning scenarios and assess the utility of habitat and/or biotic data as a tool for planning.
The systematic planning software Marxan was used to compare representation of seabed habitat categories mapped across the entire SIMP and a selection of fish species at 120 sites, using 3 scenarios for ‘no take’ sanctuary zone: 1) clean slate (assumes no zoning plan in place); 2) building on the existing sanctuary zone; and 3) current sanctuary zone (2002 zone plan). Three target levels were considered (10%, 20% & 30% representation in sanctuary zone). The use of habitat and fish data combined was compared with results obtained using each data set separately. The clean slate option was the most cost-efficient. Extending the existing sanctuary zone to achieve the same level of representation required more area and longer boundaries. For both of these scenarios, a large cross-shelf sanctuary zone at the widest part of SIMP was an important requirement for achieving representation. Neither habitat categories nor reef fish assemblages were fully represented in the current zoning plan. Fish and habitat features combined were found to be more effective than habitat alone as some areas of known high conservation value were only selected by Marxan when both datasets were used. The fish data in isolation were too spatially constrained.
The use of the Marxan software in the SIMP has improved our understanding of where additional sanctuary zones could be placed to increase the representation of reef fish and seabed habitats. This will contribute to future reviews of zoning arrangements that are a statutory requirement under the NSW Marine Parks Act.