Marine reserves are implemented to achieve a variety of objectives, but are seldom rigorously evaluated to determine whether those objectives are met. When evaluations take place, they often face shortcomings like focusing on ecological indicators, while ignoring other relevant objectives such as socioeconomics and governance. On the other hand, regardless of the objectives, the diversity of locations, monitoring protocols, and analysis approaches hinder the ability to compare results across case studies.

To overcome these challenges, this study presents a framework and tool called MAREA. The purpose of MAREA is to evaluate the extent to which any given reserve has achieved its stated objectives. The authors state that MAREA provides specific guidance on data collection and formatting, and then conducts rigorous causal interference analysis based on data input by the user, providing real-time outputs about the effectiveness of the reserve.

It is suggested that MAREA’s ease of use, standardization of state-of-the-art inference methods, and ability to analyze marine reserve effectiveness across ecological, socioeconomic, and governance objectives could dramatically further our understanding and support of effective marine reserve management.

The first release of MAREA is now available and the authors write that it will continue to be developed and maintained to keep up to date with the literature. This process will incorporate new features and enhance current ones.

Villaseñor-Derbez JC, Faro C, Wright M, Martínez J, Fitzgerald S, et al. (2018) A user-friendly tool to evaluate the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves. PLOS ONE 13(1): e0191821