Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Biological Conservation






Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established across the globe to mitigate the effects of multiple stressors on marine communities. In many locations, MPAs have generated positive effects on fish communities, but the impacts of fishing pressure—the primary stressor MPAs seek to manage—have not been well investigated. We examined changes in fish biomass inside and outside of no-take MPAs over 14 years in central California, USA. Using data from the community-based science program, the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program, we tested which environmental and human-induced stressors most influence the strength of MPA responses. While temperature and productivity were included in the best fit model, we found that fine-scale fishing effort data, following reserve implementation, best explained the spatial variation in fish community responses to MPAs. Specifically, differences in fish biomass between MPAs and sites open to fishing were larger for reserves near heavily fished locations and these areas exhibited the highest rate of change in fish biomass, indicating strong positive effects of the MPA on the most heavily exploited fish communities. As MPAs continue to be used as a prominent conservation strategy in coastal systems, managers should consider both the suite of human-induced (socio-ecological interactions) and environmental conditions that may alter MPA success as well as establish long-term monitoring programs to fully assess the functionality of marine reserves into the future.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

David and Lucile Packard Foundation


Anthropogenic stressors, Community-based science, Environmental conditions, Fisheries, Marine reserves, Socio-ecological interactions

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories