Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are key tools to mitigate human impacts in coastal environments, promoting sustainable activities to conserve biodiversity. However, the designation of MPAs alone may not result in the lessening of some human threats, which is highly dependent on management goals and the related specific regulations that are adopted.

This study develops and operationalizes a local threat assessment framework. For this purpose, the authors develop indices to quantify the effectiveness of MPAs in reducing anthropogenic extractive and non-extractive threats operating at local scale, focusing specifically on threats that can be managed through MPAs. The developed framework was applied to 15 Mediterranean MPAs to assess their threat reduction capacity.

The obtained results show that fully protected areas effectively eliminate extractive activities, whereas the intensity of artisanal and recreational fishing within partially protected areas, paradoxically, is higher than that found outside MPAs, questioning their ability at reaching conservation targets.

The authors highlight that both fully and partially protected areas attract non-extractive activities that are potential threats. And state that only 3 of the 15 MPAs had lower intensities for the entire set of threats considered, in respect to adjacent control unprotected areas.

The study suggests that the threat assessment framework could be incorporated into monitoring programs and underline that monitoring threat evolution over time would help identify management actions directed to reduce threats.

The authors conclude that understanding the intensity and occurrence of human threats operating at the local scale inside and around MPAs is important for assessing MPAs effectiveness in achieving the goals they have been designed for, informing management strategies, and prioritizing specific actions.

Zupan et al. (2018) How good is your marine protected area at curbing threats? Biological Conservation 221:237-245