Understanding how no-take zones (NTZs) shape the population dynamics of key herbivores is crucial for the conservation and management of temperate benthic communities.

This study assessed the recovery patterns of sea urchin populations following a high-density storm inside and outside an NTZ in the NW Mediterranean Sea (Montgrí, Illes Medes and the Baix Ter Natural Park).

The authors found significant differences in the recovery trends of Paracentrotus lividus abundance and biomass in the five years following the storm. The P. lividus populations outside the NTZ recovered faster than the populations inside the NTZ, revealing that predation was the main factor controlling the sea urchin populations inside the NTZ during the study period.

The authors highlight that the obtained results confirm the important potential role of protected zones, those areas fully protected from fishing, in the structure of benthic communities. Additionally, it is underlined that the contrasting patterns regarding different levels of protection observed in this study show the relevance of well-designed long-term monitoring to better understand the natural variability of sea urchin populations and to discern the underlying mechanisms when mass mortality events occur.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141113618307918

Medrano et al. (2019) No-take marine reserves control the recovery of sea urchin populations after mass mortality events. Marine Environmental Research 145:147-154.