Thursday, January 13, 2011

Marine Protected Areas Need More Science

People concerned about oceans should check their expectations of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) , according to scientists in Nature.com. Scientists say there is not have enough data on whether or not MPA accomplish everything we hope they do.

No one says marine lovers should not support MPA, just hold off on giving them panacea status for now. It's good food for thought. After all, we would not want to assume something blue is protected and when in fact it is not. 

According to the story, "Tundi Agardy, an environmental consultant based in Colrain, Massachusetts, is the lead author of a paper published in Marine Policy, which warns of a "blind faith" in the ability of MPAs to stem biodiversity loss. She told Nature that she can name only "a handful" of areas that actually work as advertised. Her paper identifies five possible shortcomings in MPAs: many are too small to be effective; they may simply drive fishing into other areas; they create an illusion of protection when none is actually occurring; many are poorly planned or managed; and they can fail all too easily because of environmental degradation of waters just outside the protected area." 

Read the full story here.

1 comment:

Ron Huber said...

They don't need more science; they need better data management and access.

What is needed is to take the already available data about most MPAs - seafloor and seamount geography, seasonality and behavior of top predators and top prey species, speeds and directions of currents, tides, and other changing or stable parts of the marine protected area's biogeography

- and load the whole mass of data into computer game software.

Then one enters one's avatar into the game scene...It could be a deepwater coral MPA off Alaska, or the USS Monitor Marine Sanctuary off the Atlantic coast, a Hawaiian coastal MPA or Australia's reefs etc.

The difference is that instead of the bogus mountains, valleys and buildings of the typical entertainment game, here you are gliding through actual landscapes, with the actual species that live there eyeballing you as potential chow, or themselves looking tasty to the gamer.

Being a game, one gains points each time one "wins" (survives) one of those ecological encounters.
Survival won't be easy - 99% of marine wild organisms born or hatched don't die of old age.But being a human gamer WILL give one some advantage - even avatar'd as a jellyfish.

Gamers can select their avatar from among the species mapped into that gamed MPA: a human POV, an orca, swordfish, giant squid, mackerel or plankton (whatever's "local").

If the data is reasonably accurate and capable of easy revision with incoming new data, the ecology of that MPA's geographic area will become intuitively as well as intellectually evident.

The student, fishery manager, researcher or expert can swim around the simulated MPA's geography and water column.

As eco-gamers, they must carry out their avatar species' ecological duties and risk suffering their usual ecological fates from bigger or smarter species.

What benefit? The reasons for a drop or increase in one species abundance or in habitat of a certain type, or changes in water currents, will become intuitively obvious.

I am no game expert (Doom95 was my last "new" game) but know that an entire generation is coming of age entirely at ease in the world of simulations. Presenting them with marine protected area science data in a gaming format will yield an incalculable boost in understanding of our marine environments, as they make evident the ecological and environmental flows that yield sustainability or acceptable change. And ID-ing what not to do, fishery- or pollution-wise.

Better management, in short.