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Assessing the Ecological Coherence of the Channel MPA Network

Author : Nicola L Foster, Marija Sciberras, Emma L Jackson, Benjamin Ponge, Vincent Toison, Sonia Carrier, Sabine Christiansen, Anaelle Lemasson, Edward Wort et Martin Attrill
Date : 03/03/2015

Both France and the UK have committed to a number of European and International agreements to contribute to ecologically coherent networks of MPAs. Using 6 published criteria and 3 methodologies, we assessed the ecological coherence of the MPA network spanning the English Channel. This is the first attempt to conduct a cross-border analysis of the ecological coherence of MPAs often designated individually to form a network of conservation areas using multiple methods. Despite the challenges experienced through a lack of data and universal reporting systems, and the general limitations of such a desk-based study, we were able to draw some conclusions about the conservation potential of the current Channel MPA network. We found that the 222 MPAs designated in the region effectively cover 89 sites, which provide good representation and replication of the habitats and species within the nearshore region. Within the PANACHE study region, MPA designations cover 31% of French waters, 10% of English waters and 3% of Channel Island waters, providing relatively good coverage of coastal and inshore waters, with a few exceptions. However, there is a noticeable lack of MPAs in offshore areas and in deeper waters, which were frequently highlighted as important areas for a number of habitats and species, in particular those with pelagic or migratory behaviour. The size of MPAs was also of concern, with only 33% in the optimal size range of 10-100 km2 and just 4 MPAs greater than 1000 km2, implying that the network is unlikely to support wide-ranging species or those with long distance dispersal. The potential connectivity of a number of habitats within MPAs along the coastline was found to be adequate, particularly along the French coast, but connectivity among MPAs across the Channel was unlikely to exist. Ninety-eight percent of 149 MPAs assessed for management status were found to have medium to high levels of management. However, the level of management status was found to vary for individual MPAs depending on which authority responded to the questionnaire. Based on the results of the overall assessment, the Channel MPA network cannot be considered to be ecologically coherent. Thus, we recommend the designation of larger MPAs in offshore areas and in deeper water to improve protection to offshore habitats and species and to better take into account cross-Channel connectivity.

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updated on 03/05/2015
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