Biodiversity Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (3): 286-294.doi: 10.17520/biods.2018005

• Reviews • Previous Article     Next Article

Evaluation of the effectiveness of marine protected areas: Methodologies and progress

Ruiling Song1, 3, Jinxian Yao1, 2, *(), Kaiyue Wu1, Xiaochuan Zhang1, 3, Zhi Lü1, 3, Zhengguang Zhu4, Lijie Yin1, 3   

  1. 1 School of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    2 Institute of Ocean Research, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    3 Center for Nature and Society, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    4 National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center, Dalian, Liaoning 116023
  • Received:2018-01-09 Accepted:2018-03-19 Online:2018-05-05
  • Yao Jinxian
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

The continued decline of global biodiversity presents a huge challenge for biodiversity conservation, especially for marine biodiversity conservation. As an effective way to protect biodiversity, evaluating the effectiveness of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) is becoming a critical issue. However, only limited assessment methodologies were specially designed for MPAs so far. Moreover, evaluation indicators have mainly focused on management effectiveness. Recently, the establishment of global biodiversity monitoring networks and databases and the application of new technologies (including remote sensing, sonar system, satellite tracking, and genomics) have provided available data and information for quantified conservation effectiveness evaluations at multiple levels from ecosystems to genes. Future evaluation should be based on long-term scientific monitoring with the assistance of new technologies, promoting the establishment of the biodiversity monitoring database and information sharing, and developing integrated and interdisciplinary evaluation systems to evaluate conservation effectiveness.

Key words: marine protected area, conservation effectiveness, biodiversity monitoring

Fig. 1

The number and area of marine protected areas in China have been growing since 1980. Data from 1980 to 2011 refer to Zeng (2013). Data from 2012 to 2017 refer to the website of State Oceanic Administration"

Table 1

Comparison of main methodologies for assessing management effectiveness of marine protected area"

Tracking Tool
Marine Tracking Tool
How is your MPA doing
Manual for the Rapid Evaluation of Management Effectiveness in Marine Protected Areas of Mesoamerica
WWF/World Bank
WWF/World Bank
IUCN/WWF/NOAA 中美洲大堡礁系统
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System
保护区管理者、工作人员Managers and staff 保护区管理者、工作人员、专家
Managers, staff and experts
保护区管理者 、工作人员、专家、相关官员、社区居民
Managers, staff, experts, relevant officials, and local communities
低 Low 低 Low 高 High 高 High
Human cost
低 Low 低 Low 高 High 较低 Lower
好 Good 好 Good 不好 Bad 较好 Better
Effect of
较小 Smaller 较大 Larger 较小 Smaller 较小 Smaller
无 None 弱 Weak 强 Strong 强 Strong
Applied in 1,150 protected areas across over 86 countries
Widely applied in
protected areas of
Applied in over 200
protected areas
Applied in Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System
Best for repeat evaluation and monitoring
Reference for
integrated indicators
Best for a snapshot in performance
and general progress
Number of
30 34 42 47
Legislation and law enforcement, management planning, research projects, staff management and training, budget, equipment and maintenance, education and awareness
保护区规章、目标、边界、资源普查信息和管理、当 地居民收入、访客设施和收费
Regulations, objectives, boundary, resource
inventory, local income, visitor facilities
Practices and intensity of local use of marine resources, employment in activities related to marine resources, state of service infrastructure, biophysical indicators

利益相关者的参与、与管理者的沟通、满意度, 环境教育、守法情况
Participation, communication with managers, satisfaction of stakeholders, environment education, law compliance
Protected area design, land and water use, local investment, and commercial tourism
Integration of MPA in a larger coastal management plan, products and services, and community welfare
Values of marine resources, local health, market, spread of scientific knowledge, level of community organization, and historical sites
Threat recognition, signs/labels, and volunteer program
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