Designing for conservation success: a critical analysis and review of the related literature surrounding marine protection in the Mediterranean Sea

Matthew Cox, University of Edinburgh, Department of Biomedical Science, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are commonly cited as effective tools for the protection of biodiversity and related ecosystem services within marine environments around the world. The benefits of MPAs are many, but not applicable to all species and all ecosystems in the same way. Conservation success therefore depends on dynamic management, cooperation amongst stakeholders and design features that are fit for purpose and resources.

This study provides a review of the literature surrounding Mediterranean Sea protected area design and management since 1990 to support a critical analysis of the current status of MPAs in the Mediterranean Sea. Their key features are analysed temporally in-line with recommendations from the literature and geographically in relation to cultural and political borders. Relevant regional and international legislation are discussed and shortcomings of this and the current Mediterranean MPA network are measured within a global context.

Mediterranean marine protection is not geographically representative and shows a significant north-westerly and European bias. Publications relating to MPAs in the region are also predominantly European and primary studies focus on the Western Mediterranean basin, leaving large areas such as the Levantine and Aegean Seas under-studied and under-protected. The two most common recommendations from the

literature were ‘improved management and planning’ and ‘greater cooperation among stakeholders’. Results show that only 15% of Mediterranean designations have a reported management plan and less than one percent are given IUCN category Ia status. Over 80% of sites are designated as part of the Natura 2000 network. However, questions over the effectiveness of the network are raised. Results show that features of MPAs, key for achieving conservation objectives, are lower for Mediterranean sites than for global designations.