The number of marine protected areas (MPAs) has grown exponentially worldwide over the past decade in order to meet international targets. Most of these protected areas allow extraction of resources and are therefore designated as “partially protected areas” (PPAs). However, the effectiveness of PPAs remains unclear due to the high variability of use types permitted.

This study carried out a global meta-analysis of PPAs using a regulation-based classification system for MPAs to assess their ecological effectiveness.

The results of the study show that highly and moderately regulated areas exhibited higher biomass and abundance of commercial fish species, whereas fish abundance and biomass in weakly regulated areas differed little from unprotected areas.

The authors state that the effectiveness of moderately regulated areas can be notably enhanced by the presence of an adjacent fully protected area and conclude that limited and well-regulated uses in PPAs and the presence of a fully protected area confer ecological benefits, from which socioeconomic advantages are derived.

It is underlined that these results can assist policy makers and managers in determining the appropriate levels of protection to reach specific goals by accounting for the type of regulations adopted in each MPA.

Zupan M et al. (2018) Marine partially protected areas: drivers of ecological effectiveness. Frontiers in Ecology ant the Environment 16:381-387.