CIE Spotlight: Accounting for habitat and seafloor structure characteristics on southern rock lobster assessment in a small marine reserve

Mary Y., Daniel I. and Alexandre S.
Mary Y., Daniel I. and Alexandre S.

Authors: Young, Mary A.; Ierodiaconou, Daniel; Edmunds, Matt; Hulands, LachlanSchimel, Alexandre C. G.

Source: MARINE BIOLOGY, 163 (6), JUN 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Where to place marine protected areas (MPAs) and how much area they should cover are some of the most basic questions when designing MPAs. Based on the theory of island biogeography, larger reserves are likely to protect more species and individuals but smaller reserves have been shown to positively influence populations.

In this study, we assess a localised population of the ecologically and economically important southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) inside and outside a small reserve. We used standardised fishery assessment trapping methods to sample J. edwardsii populations inside a reserve and an adjacent area outside the reserve. The population characteristics of the captured individuals were compared inside and outside the reserve using t tests (male size, female size, number of reproductive females, number of individuals and biomass), and we found that there were significantly greater numbers and larger individuals and biomass inside the reserve.

However, many assessments of MPA effectiveness are confounded by differences in habitat. To account for possible differences in habitat, we collected multibeam bathymetry data to allow us to characterise seafloor structure and video data to assign each sampling location to a biotope class based on macroalgae assemblages. Then, using generalised linear models (GLMs), we assessed differences in populations while accounting for habitat.

The GLMs revealed that there was still a significant difference in populations inside the reserve despite habitat differences inside and outside the reserve. We demonstrate a methodological approach to provide a baseline data set to assess MPA effectiveness through time and measure how habitat may respond to indirect consequences of fishing or other human impacts at the species or ecosystem level.

We also highlight some of the limitations in sampling design and data availability common in MPA studies and resulting implications for assessment.