There are many types of protected areas (PAs) including national parks, marine parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas, nature reserves and privately owned reserves. IUCN defines a PA as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (IUCN, 2008).

Today, there are approximately 200,000 PAs in the world, providing a wide range social, environmental and economic benefits to people and communities. These PAs cover around 14.6% of the world’s land and around 2.8% of the oceans. Planning for, and subsequent declaration, of a PA are only two of many important steps for effective ongoing PA implementation; periodic assessment of management effectiveness and adaptive management are also critical. Assessing management effectiveness is a challenge facing the managers of most PAs who need to be able to demonstrate that their PA is achieving its goals and objectives, but is also cost-effective. Consequently management effectiveness needs to be assessed in a systematic way that will allow useful comparisons over time and also be pro-active.

Planning and managing the Great Barrier Reef: Lessons learnt for the future planning of the reef and implications for MPAs and elsewhere
Research led by Jon Day

Many of the lessons learnt in the extensive rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park have implications for more effective management of marine protected areas (MPAs) elsewhere but to date some key aspects, such as the role of leadership and politics, have yet to be effectively analysed or documented. In addition, there are many misunderstandings/challenges about planning and managing large MPAs so key elements will be analysed along with their implications for new/emerging large MPAs elsewhere in the world. Jon’s project aims to utilise experience from the GBR in order to 1) assess the significant lessons learnt over 30+ years of conservation planning and management in the GBR, and in particular reflect on the lessons from the Representative Areas Program (RAP) and the consequent rezoning which today are widely recognized as an effective approach to broad-area marine conservation; and 2) predict what should be considered prior to any future zoning programs in the GBR.

Things to get right for conservation planning in the Coral Triangle
Research led by Dr Rebecca Weeks

Systematic conservation planning increasingly underpins the conservation and management of marine and coastal ecosystems worldwide. Amongst other benefits, conservation planning provides transparency in decision-making, efficiency in the use of limited resources, the ability to minimise conflict between diverse objectives, and to guide strategic expansion of local actions to maximise their cumulative impact. The Coral Triangle has long been recognised as a global marine conservation priority, and has been the subject of huge investment in conservation during the last five years through the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security. Yet conservation planning has had relatively little influence in this region. This research project set out to investigate why this is the case, and what we (as conservation planners and practitioners) need to do better, if conservation planning is to effectively inform management actions in the Coral Triangle.

Modelling protected-area management costs in Queensland
Research led by Dr Ian Craigie

One of the pervasive realities of protected areas globally is under-funding of their
management, jeopardising the natural values for which they were established to conserve.
Our project with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) has two main goals: 1. estimating the gap between funding needs and spending on protected areas; and 2. modelling the relationship between management costs and their drivers (within and outside protected areas) so that costs can be explained and predicted. The results of the project will allow QPWS to make a case for improved resourcing, adjust the distribution of its resources across the State, and anticipate the increased management costs arising from new protected areas or changes, including surrounding land use, to established protected areas. The project established a workshop protocol with small groups of protected-area managers, focused on a few reserves at a time, and breaking down questions to address individual management activities such as weed control, liaison with neighbours, and maintenance of infrastructure. Out of these workshops came reliable estimates of required funding for varying levels of management adequacy, as well as estimates of current spending. Publications on the project are underway, including a methods paper, a review of studies that have modelled management costs, and empirical papers on funding shortfalls and predictive models of costs.


Day, JC. (2002)  Zoning – Lessons from the Great Barrier Reef Marine ParkOcean & Coastal Management  45: 139-156

Day, JC, Laffoley, D. and Zischka, K. (2015) ‘Chapter 21 – Marine Protected Area Management’ in (eds) Worboys, G.L., Lockwood, M., Kothari, A., Feary, S. and Pulsford, I. (2015) Protected Area Governance and Management, Australian National University Press, Canberra

Weeks, R., Pressey, R.L., Wilson, J.R., Knight, M., Horigue, V., Abesamis, R., Acosta, R., and Jompa, J.. 2014. Ten things to get right for marine conservation planning in the Coral Triangle. F1000Research 2014, 3:91

Weeks, R., et al. 2014. Developing Marine Protected Area Networks in the Coral Triangle: Good Practices for Expanding the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area System. Coastal Management. Coastal Management 42 (2): 183-205

Grorud-Colvert, K, Claudet, J, Tissot, BN, Caselle, JE, Carr, MH, Day JC, et al. (2014). Marine protected area networks: Assessing whether the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  PLoS ONE 9(8): e102298

Pressey, R. L., M. Mills, R. Weeks, and J. C. Day. 2013. The plan of the day: Managing the dynamic transition from regional conservation designs to local conservation actions. Biological Conservation 166:155–169.

Weeks, R. and Jupiter, S.D., 2013. Adaptive Comanagement of a Marine Protected Area Network in Fiji. Conservation Biology 27: 1234-1244

Day J.C., Dudley N., Hockings M., Holmes G., Laffoley D., Stolton S., S. Wells., 2012. Guidelines for applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Gland, Switzerland, 36 pp

Osmond, M., Airame., S, Day, J.C., Caldwell, M., 2010. Lessons for Marine Spatial Planning: A comparison of three Marine Protected Area processes. Ocean & Coastal Management. 53 (2): 41-51

Mills, M., Pressey, R.L., Weeks, R., Foale, S., Ban, NC., 2010. A mismatch of scales: challenges in planning for implementation of marine protected areas in the Coral Triangle. Conservation Letters 3(5): 291-303

Wenger, A., Ahmadia, G.N., Álvarez-Romero, J.G., Barnes, M., Blythe, J., Brodie, J., Day, J.C., Fox, H.E., Gill, D., Gomez, N.A., Gurney, G.G., Holmes, K.E., Jupiter, S.D., Lamb, J.B., Mangubhai, S., Matthews, E., Matthews, K., Pressey, R.L., Teneva, L., Tewfik, A., Wells, S., Darling, E., 2017. Coral Reef Conservation Solution-Scape White Paper. Wildlife Conservation Society, NY, USA


  • Bob Pressey
  • Rebecca Weeks
  • Jon Day
  • Morena Mills
  • Ian Craigie
  • Kaylan Carrlson