The main objective of the Biodiversa RESERVEBENEFIT project (2017-2021) was to quantify the distance traveled by fish leaving a marine reserve: do they stay close to the reserve or do they travel long distances (>40km) as suggested in the scientific literature (Manel et al. 2019)?

To answer this question, 4 species of fish and crustaceans (comber, red mullet, white seabream and spiny lobster) were sampled with the help of fishers in 7 marine reserves in the western Mediterranean.

To quantify the distance traveled by fish and crustaceans leaving marine reserves, sampled individuals are characterised by a large number of genetic variants (>13,000) to measure their genetic connectivity. This is called a genomic approach. The fish targeted by this study are indeed poorly structured genetically, and the use of a genomic approach allows to distinguish differences between individuals. Genetic distances were then used to quantify the distance traveled by fish and crustaceans (Benestan et al. 2021). For example, genetics detected 2 pairs of closely related comber fish individuals sampled over 292 km apart, illustrating that the benefit of marine reserves does not stop at their borders. The project also contributed to the development of 3 exploited fish genomes that were used to improve the quality of genetic variant data (Fietz et al. 2020), and subsequently could be used to search for genes of interest in, for example, climate change response. Genomic methods can also help quantify other services provided by reserves such as maintenance of genetic diversity (Marcos et al. 2021). This project has shown the importance of genetics to characterise the benefits provided by marine reserves (export distance, genetic diversity) and work is underway with Biodiversa to finalise recommendations for planning new reserves.

The RESERVEBENEFIT project was conducted by 7 partners: Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EHE), GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR), Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO), University of Montpellier, (MARBEC), Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Universidad de Murcia (UM), University of Allicante (UA), MedPAN. It was supported by Biodiversa. 

More info :


Marcos, C., Díaz, D., Fietz, K., Forcada, A., Ford, A., García-Charton, J. A., . . . Pérez-Ruzafa, A. (2021). Reviewing the Ecosystem Services, Societal Goods, and Benefits of Marine Protected Areas. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8(504). doi:10.3389/fmars.2021.613819 

Manel, S., Loiseau, N., Andrello, M., Fietz, K., Goñi, R., Forcada, A., . . . Mouillot, D. (2019). Long-Distance Benefits of Marine Reserves: Myth or Reality? Trends In Ecology & Evolution, 34(4), 342-354. doi:

Fietz K, Trofimenko E, Guerin PE, Arnal V, Montserrat T-O, Lobréaux S, Pérez-Ruzafa A, Manel S, Puebla O (2020) New genomic resources for three exploited Mediterranean fishes. Genomics. 112, 4297-4303.  

Benestan L, Fietz K, Loiseau N, Guerin PE, Trofimenko E, Rühs S, Schmidt C, Rath W, Biastoch A, Perez-Rufaza A, Baixauli P, Forcada A, Arcas E, Lenfant P, Goni R, Velez L, Höppner M, Kininmonth S, Mouillot D, Puebla O, Manel S (2021) Restricted dispersal in a sea of gene flow. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 288. 

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