An explicit ecosystem-based approach to evaluate the effect of different levels of MPA protection on the marine invertebrate communities living on hard substrate on the French Catalan Coast (Western Mediterranean Sea)

Marine Benthic Invertebrate Communities (MBICs) living on the hard substrates show complex dynamics due to the high number of processes to which they are subjected, among which competition, spatial interactions and predation act as major stabilizing factors. Despite the efforts of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect biodiversity, negative effects on MBICs have been noticed. MPAs show positive results regarding the fish stocks recovery. However, they create differential gradients of pressure along the coast from unprotected to fully protected zones, modifying the predation and competition pressures with protection. Ecosystem-Based methods are necessary to study the direct and indirect impacts of reserves on the assemblages along the protection gradients. Under this approach, our aim was to study the protection impacts of the Marine Natural Reserve of Cerbère-Banyuls. Unexpected MBIC structures were found in the field related to the modelling predictions, confirming the complexity of the mentioned processes, in particular the spatial interactions within the food chain. We concluded that natural spatio-temporal habitat variability and the high fragmentation of hard bottom habitats complicate the study of the impacts of protection measures. Reserve management plans should consider these characteristics in order to apply protection measures that protect effectively ecosystems’ structure and functions.

Promotor(s) & Supervisor: Jean-Marc Guarini

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0511 - Biology