Marine Reserves Have Rapid and Lasting Effects

Marine reserves have rapid and lasting impacts on organisms inside reserves, according to scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In a paper published in the current issue of ECOLOGY LETTERS, the researchers reviewed 80 studies from `no-take` reserves, where it is illegal to extract organisms in any way. These showed that density, biomass, average size and diversity of organisms inside these reserves reach much higher levels within a short period of time, usually one to three years.

“This is an exciting result,” said Ben Halpern, a graduate researcher in biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of the study. “You can put a reserve into place and rapidly see a dramatic response by the species in the reserve to that protection. While reserves remove some areas from fishing pressure, the idea is that increased production inside reserves will eventually benefit consumers outside reserve boundaries. We now can say with increased confidence that `eventually` is a relatively short period of time.”

Furthermore, Halpern explained, the response is not only quick but lasts for decades. “It`s great from a management, political and conservation perspective to know that biological responses inside marine reserves appear to develop quickly and last through time.”

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