Assessing the effects of habitat patches ensuring propagule supply and different costs inclusion in marine spatial planning through multivariate analyses
Marine Protected Areas are considered key tools for conservation of coastal ecosystems. However, many reserves are characterized by several problems mainly related to inadequate zonings that often do not protect high biodiversity and propagule supply areas precluding, at the same time, economic important zones for local interests. The Gulf of Naples is here employed as a study area to assess the effects of inclusion of different conservation features and costs in reserve design process. In particular eight scenarios are developed using graph theory to identify propagule source patches and fishing and exploitation activities as costs-in-use for local population. Scenarios elaborated by MARXAN, software commonly used for marine conservation planning, are compared using multivariate analyses (MDS, PERMANOVA and PERMDISP) in order to assess input data having greatest effects on protected areas selection.
MARXAN is heuristic software able to give a number of different correct results, all of them near to the best solution. Its outputs show that the most important areas to be protected, in order to ensure long-term habitat life and adequate propagule supply, are mainly located around the Gulf islands. In addition through statistical analyses it allowed us to prove that different choices on conservation features lead to statistically different scenarios. The presence of propagule supply patches forces MARXAN to select almost the same areas to protect decreasingly different MARXAN results and, thus, choices for reserves area selection.
The multivariate analyses applied here to marine spatial planning proved to be very helpful allowing to identify i) how different scenario input data affect MARXAN and ii) what features have to be taken into account in study areas characterized by peculiar biological and economic interests.