Categorizing global MPAs: A cluster analysis approach

For the week of 09 September 2019

Greetings OpenChannels Community Members,

Marine Policy has published, Categorizing global MPAs: A cluster analysis approach.

Abstract: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a widely used and flexible policy tool to help preserve marine biodiversity. They range in size and governance complexity from small communally managed MPAs, to massive MPAs on the High Seas managed by multinational organizations. As of August 2018, the Atlas of Marine Protection ( had catalogued information on over 12,000 Marine Protected Areas. We analyzed this global database to determine groups of MPAs whose characteristics best distinguished the diversity of MPA attributes globally, based upon our comprehensive sample. Groups were identified by pairing a Principal Components Analysis (PCA) with a k-means cluster analysis using five variables; age of MPA, area of MPA, no-take area within MPA, latitude of the MPA's center, and Human Development Index (HDI) of the host country. Seven statistically distinct groups of MPAs emerged from this analysis and we describe and discuss the potential implications of their respective characteristics for MPA management. The analysis yields important insights into patterns and characteristics of MPAs around the world, including clusters of especially old MPAs (greater than 25 and 66 years of age), clusters distributed across nations with higher (HDI ≥ 0.827) or lower (HDI ≤ 0.827) levels of development, and majority no-take MPAs. Our findings also include statistical verification of Large Scale Marine Protected Areas (LSMPAs, approximately >180,000km2) and a sub-class of LSMPA's we call “Giant MPAs” (GMPAs, approximately >1,000,000km2). As a secondary outcome, future research may use the clusters identified in this paper to track variability in MPA performance indicators across clusters (e.g., biodiversity preservation/restoration, fish biomass) and thereby identify relationships between cluster and performance outcomes. MPA management can also be improved by creating communication networks that connect similarly clustered MPAs for sharing common challenges and best practices.

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– Allie Brown, Raye Evrard, and the rest of the OpenChannels Team

Aquaculture, Seafood, and Food Security

OA: Nekouei, O. et al. Comparison of infectious agents detected from hatchery and wild juvenile Coho salmon in British Columbia, 2008-2018PLOS ONE 14,e0221956 (2019).

Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and Ocean Warming

OA: Kottuparambil, S., Jin, P. & Agusti, S. Adaptation of Red Sea Phytoplankton to Experimental Warming Increases Their Tolerance to Toxic Metal ExposureFrontiers in Environmental Science 7, (2019).


OA: Fordyce, A. J., Ainsworth, T. D., Heron, S. F. & Leggat, W. Marine Heatwave Hotspots in Coral Reef Environments: Physical Drivers, Ecophysiological Outcomes, and Impact Upon Structural ComplexityFrontiers in Marine Science 6, (2019).

Ecosystem Services and Uses

OA: Ahtiainen, H. et al. Cultural ecosystem services provided by the Baltic Sea marine environmentAmbio (2019). doi:10.1007/s13280-019-01239-1

Fisheries and Fisheries Management

OA: Galbraith, E. D., Le Mézo, P., Hernandez, G. Solanes, Bianchi, D. & Kroodsma, D. Growth Limitation of Marine Fish by Low Iron Availability in the Open OceanFrontiers in Marine Science 6, (2019).

Governance and Legal Frameworks

Preprint: Jones, P. J. S. A governance analysis of Ningaloo and Shark Bay Marine Parks, Western Australia: Putting the ‘eco’ in tourism to build resilience but threatened in long-term by climate change?Marine Policy 103636 (2019). doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103636

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

OA: Bohorquez, J. J., Dvarskas, A. & Pikitch, E. K. Categorizing global MPAs: A cluster analysis approachMarine Policy 108, 103663 (2019).

OA: Murray, S. & Hee, T. T. A rising tide: California's ongoing commitment to monitoring, managing and enforcing its marine protected areasOcean & Coastal Management 104920 (In Press). doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2019.104920

Soundscapes and Acoustics

OA: Pagniello, C. M. L. S., Cimino, M. A. & Terrill, E. Mapping Fish Chorus Distributions in Southern California Using an Autonomous Wave GliderFrontiers in Marine Science 6, (2019).


OA: Drew, J. A. & McKeon, M. Shark-based tourism presents opportunities for facultative dietary shift in coral reef fishPLOS ONE 14, e0221781 (2019).