Project: Evaluating and managing connectivity in a network of Marine Protected Area to maintain genetic diversity and deliver fish beyond protected limits

Acronym RESERVEBENEFIT (Reference Number: 21)
Duration 31/12/2016 - 30/12/2020
Project Topic Marine fisheries constitute a major source of provisioning services (proteins), and it is estimated that about 45% of the world’s fisheries and 90% of fishing employment are linked to small-scale artisanal fisheries. Nevertheless, artisanal fisheries are declining globally due to overexploitation, and the Mediterranean is no exception. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are thought to sustain stocks and artisanal fisheries through larval dispersal and adult spillover beyond their boundaries. However the Mediterranean Sea lags behind the Aichi Conservation Target 11 from the Convention on Biological Diversity (10% of sea surface protected by 2020) with only 1% of sea surface currently covered by MPAs. There is an urgent need to increase conservation efforts and improve practices that allow exploited species to persist and sustain artisanal fisheries. Yet, the extent to which larvae and adults disperse outside of MPA boundaries and contribute to sustain local artisanal fisheries are largely unknown. Indeed, studies on marine connectivity, fisheries and spatial conservation planning are largely decoupled and tend to be conducted at either local (one MPA) or large (regional network of MPAs) spatial scales. With the advent of next-generation DNA sequencing, we have entered a new phase of biological exploration in which data from non-model organisms can be collected on a genomic scale, providing the opportunity to clarify the role played by MPAs from an ecological, conservation, management and socioeconomic perspective. Using a cluster of 9 MPAs along the Mediterranean French-Spanish coast as a model system the project RESERVEBENEFIT aims to assess the capacity of MPAs to deliver marine resources for artisanal fisheries (direct service) and maintain genetic diversity (indirect service). The project focuses on four species targeted by artisanal fisheries in the study area (and in the Western Mediterranean more generally) encompassing a variety of life histories and ecologies: the striped red mullet (Mullus surmuletus), the white seabram (Diplodus sargus), the comber (Serranus cabrilla) and the spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas). RESERVEBENEFIT will address specifically 4 main objectives in relation to the BIODIVERSA call: 1) evaluate dispersal and connectivity in a regional cluster of Mediterranean MPAs for 4 exploited species with different biological traits ; 2) evaluate the potential benefit of the cluster of MPAs in terms of genetic diversity; 3) evaluate the potential benefit outside MPAs in terms of biomass exportation, and the socioeconomic implications from an artisanal fisheries perspective and 4) define new locations and configurations of future MPAs using a multi-criteria approach (connectivity, distance from fishing location, fishing pressures) to optimize these benefits. The originality of the project relates to the integration of scientists from various disciplines (ecology, population genetics, socio-economy, oceanography) as well as fishermen and managers right from the start (kick-off meeting), as opposed to classical top-down approaches; to target a regional cluster of MPAs with a highly replicated sampling design (3 regions, 3 MPAs per region, 4 species) involving >160 sampling sites at spatial scales ranging of <1 km to >1000 km, and to use the most up-to-date genomic tools. These approaches are still technically and analytically demanding, but they provide a level of resolution that was unrealistic only a few years ago. We expect from this project to evaluate the spatial scale of dispersal in a connected network of MPAs, genetic diversity inside and outside MPAs, the contribution of MPAs to local artisanal fisheries, and to define locations and configurations of new MPAs to maintain a sustainable and efficient network of MPAs. RESERVEBENEFIT involves 6 main partners and 3 subcontracting partners with essential and completely skills (marine and evolutionary ecology, genomics, socio-economics). Strong links (collaboration and engagement) will be developed with stakeholders (fisherman, reserve managers, ...). The project has been divided into 8 work packages, 22 tasks, 15 milestones and 30 deliverables. One researcher will supervise and coordinate each work package. These WP leaders will constitute with two external members the scientific Advisory Group (SAG). The stakeholders engaged in the project will constitute de Stakeholder Panel (SP). A strong and well-defined dissemination plan will be adopted to inform scientists and stakeholders in the most efficient way.
Network BiodivERsA3
Call BiodivERsA3 Joint Call 2015

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Coordinator France
2 Mediterranean Protected Areas Network Partner France
3 GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel Partner Germany
4 Instituto Español de Oceanografía Partner Spain
5 MARBEC Partner France
6 University of Perpignan Partner France
7 Stockholm University Partner Sweden
8 Universidad de Murcia Partner Spain
9 University of Alicante Partner Spain