Despite increasing recognition of the importance of including aspects of ecological functioning in protected area (PA) design, the physical characteristics of habitats and simple measures of species diversity inform most PA designations. Marine and terrestrial ecologists have recently used biological traits to assess community dynamics, functioning, and vulnerability to anthropogenic impacts.

This paper explores potential trait-based marine applications to advance PA design and recommends strategies to integrate biological traits into: a) conservation objectives (e.g., by assessing and predicting impacts and vulnerability), b) PA spatial planning (e.g., mapping ecosystem functions and functional diversity hot spots), and c) time series monitoring protocols (e.g., using functional traits to detect recoveries).

The authors conclude by emphasizing the need for pragmatic tools to improve the efficacy of spatial planning and monitoring efforts.

Miatta et al. (2021)Incorporating biological traits into conservation strategies. Annual Reviews in Marine Science 13:14.1-14.22.