Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto
This project aims to determine the optimal size and spacing of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) networks for commercially important species on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts both under current and future climate conditions. The size of MPAs is important because smaller MPAs may not adequately protect species with ranges that are larger than the MPA. Conversely, the spacing of MPAs is critical in limiting/promoting how many individuals disperse from one MPA to another.
To optimize the location of MPAs we will: (1) model species distributions to identify the potential best locations of MPAs (nodes of the spatial network); and (2) create optimal links between nodes based on species dispersal abilities according to their life-stages (egg/larvae, juvenile, adult) and different fishery pressures (no take zones, fishing quota. Locations of the larger ‘node’ MPAs will be optimized based mostly on static habitat features and current species distribution maps, as well as available information on previously identified Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas. Then, to compensate for the consequences of climate change, a few smaller ‘link’ MPAs will be sited near the large ‘node’ MPAs to ensure the protection of dispersal/migration pathways. This two-tier optimization of spacing will reduce isolation among MPAs to favour colonization rescue among populations. The key optimization component of MPA spacing is linking as many ‘node’ MPAs for as many species as possible. The project will provide scientifically informed data to help guide the establishment of effective Marine Protected Areas in Canada.
Guideline for integrating ecosystem connectivity to MPA design strategies in Canada is near completion for BC coast.
Modelling larval connectivity according to the current and future conditions based on three climate change scenarios is done for BC and in progress for the Atlantic.
Proposing protected areas optimized for ecosystem functions (e.g. secondary production, stability, resilience) of multi-species dynamics (dynamical meta-community models) for the Pacific is done and Atlantic is in progress.
Dynamic particle tracking model (LTRANS v.2b) coupled with regional ocean modelling system used for assessing hydrodynamic and spatial connectivity of the study areas for the Atlantic and Pacific projects.
The most widely used decision support tool for conservation planning (Marxan) used for mapping proposed protected areas in the Pacific.