Most studies examining effects of marine protected areas (MPAs) on fish assemblages are potentially confounded, either because they are once off comparisons between fished and unfished locations, or because they are snapshot studies over a fixed period. Here we compare long-term changes within fully protected Tasmanian marine reserves with changes at external reference sites on an annual basis over the first ten years of protection. The results highlight the importance of long-term datasets for differentiating changes occurring over differing time scales.
Notable results include a statistically significant increase in abundance of Latridopsis forsteri and large fish (> 300Â mm) when examined across all reserves relative to controls, and a 10-fold increase in the abundance of large fish and a doubling of per site species richness of large fish within the Tinderbox Marine Reserve relative to controls. Short-term resident species that recruit sporadically show very different patterns in reserves compared to those that recruit regularly and have long-term age-class storage.
While several recent reviews have suggested size of MPAs and duration of protection has little influence on the extent of recovery, our results suggest this is not the case and that responses can be slow, complex and species-specific. The extent of localised fishing pressure appeared to have a substantial influence on the degree of change detected, potentially confounding meta-analyses of recovery rates in MPAs if overlooked as a relevant parameter. Â© 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Barrett N. S., Edgar G. J., Buxton C. D., Haddon M.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology