Recent legislative drivers have set area-based conservation targets as a tool to preserve marine biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Target 11 set a preliminary target of 10% of coastal and marine areas, with an expansion to 30% by 2030 now under discussion. Area-based conservation targets for spatially explicit marine conservation areas (i.e. MPAs) are popular among policymakers as they are understandable and progress can easily be tracked.
However, science that can provide the evidence-basis that demonstrates that such management measures achieve their stated biodiversity objectives is required. There is a need to synthesize all the pathways through which MPAs can indirectly support increased ecosystem resilience and ecosystem function (e.g., biomass exportation), from expert knowledge and literature reviews. One focus of WGMPAS will be developing methods to evaluate how the contribution of MPAs to ecosystems is measured using both structural and functional indicators of ecosystem state through case studies.
Within the wider seascape, there are often multiple, competing human activities. For example, fisheries and other ocean uses (e.g., offshore wind farms and aquaculture). WGMPAS will focus on the tradeoffs between various human activities and the biodiversity benefits derived from MPAs and/or OECMs, to provide a framework on which decisions regarding overlap and conservation efficacy can be made.
Representativity, connectedness, and resilience are foundational design principles for networks of protected areas. However, key gaps remain in the implementation of these principles into 'real world' design (e.g., consideration of climate change and the need for adaptive planning).
Monitoring programmes and approaches that can provide information on both site- and network-level performance (e.g., information that reflects local biodiversity objectives in addition to information on network design efficacy) are required. These programmes must be scalable, with cross-regional applicability that provides the information basis for adaptive management, which will help ensure effectiveness both now and in a changing future. WGMPAS will develop assessment approaches and guiding principles with partners to inform optimal operational design and monitoring of networks of MPAs.
WGMPAS collaborates with various ICES groups, namely the Working
Group on Marine Habitat Mapping (WGMHM),
Working Group on Deep-water Ecology (WGDEC),
Working Group on Fisheries Benthic Impact and Trade-offs (WGFBIT), the Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy
(WGORE), and the Working Group on the value of Coastal
Habitats for Exploited Species (WGVHES).