Using community-level metrics to monitor the effects of marine protected areas on biodiversity
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are used to protect species, communities, and their associated habitats, among other goals. Measuring MPA efficacy can be challenging, however, particularly when considering responses at the community level. We gathered 36 abundance and 14 biomass data sets on fish assemblages and used meta-analysis to evaluate the ability of 22 distinct community diversity metrics to detect differences in community structure between MPAs and nearby control sites. We also considered the effects of 6 covariates—MPA size and age, MPA size and age interaction, latitude, total species richness, and level of protection—on each metric. Some common metrics, such as species richness and Shannon diversity, did not differ consistently between MPA and control sites, whereas other metrics, such as total abundance and biomass, were consistently different across studies. Metric responses derived from the biomass data sets were more consistent than those based on the abundance data sets, suggesting that community-level biomass differs more predictably than abundance between MPA and control sites. Covariate analyses indicated that level of protection, latitude, MPA size, and the interaction between MPA size and age affect metric performance. These results highlight a handful of metrics, several of which are little known, that could be used to meet the increasing demand for community-level indicators of MPA effectiveness.