Rafael Magris is lead author on a new paper published in Conservation Letters. The paper offers new insights into the design of marine protected areas. Currently much of the conservation planning literature uses one set of goals: either connectivity, demographic persistence, or representation of species. An analysis combining all three approaches was long overdue, so this study fills an important gap and provides findings that are highly relevant to the design of marine protected areas:

1) combining species geographic distributions and connectivity modelling provides the best strategy for biodiversity persistence;

2) including connectivity in planning is fundamental for the persistence of small-ranged species; and

3) including connectivity does not necessarily increase the total area under protection but provides strong benefits for species over the long-term.

The approach provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the benefits of integrating connectivity into conservation planning by including all fish species with known distributions at a biogeographical scale (the Mediterranean Sea). For the first time, the study shows the relationships between objectives for representation and connectivity and the resulting demographic effects on species, a link that can help improve the biological effectiveness of future conservation practices and policies globally.

FIGURE: Priorities for protection in the Mediterranean Sea when aiming to promote the persistence of fish species. In the upper panel (A) is a fragmented system of proposed reserves that increases effective protection in terms of biodiversity persistence by about 40% on average across species. In the lower panel (B) is a more compact network of proposed reserves that doubles the increase in effectiveness for biodiversity conservation despite having the same total area as reserves in the upper panel.

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