Developing marine protected area networks in the Philippines: reconciling regional-scale planning with community-based implementation

Weeks, Rebecca (2010) Developing marine protected area networks in the Philippines: reconciling regional-scale planning with community-based implementation. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The aim of this thesis is to identify an approach to developing no-take marine protected area (MPA) networks in the Philippines that will effectively meet both broad-scale objectives for biodiversity conservation, and the needs of local fishing communities. A national system of comprehensive, ecologically representative, connected and resilient MPA networks is required both to conserve the Philippines' extraordinary marine biodiversity, and to safeguard the livelihoods of coastal communities who are largely dependent upon fisheries for income and subsistence. Although the Philippines is widely regarded as a success story for community-based marine conservation, the current MPA system does not achieve broad-scale biodiversity conservation objectives. In this thesis I explore the need for a more systematic, science-based approach to MPA network design in the Philippines, and identify opportunities to integrate such an approach with proven community-based approaches to implementation.

The structure of the thesis reflects the hierarchical spatial nature of conservation planning. I start with broad analyses conducted at the national scale, which assess the effectiveness of existing MPAs in the Philippines in terms of broad-scale objectives for biodiversity conservation. As I then focus on progressively smaller spatial scales, I gradually increase the complexity of the analyses, incorporating socioeconomic constraints, and addressing complex trade-offs between competing objectives.

Quantifying the extent to which existing reserves meet conservation objectives and identifying gaps in coverage are vital stages in the development of systematic protected area networks. Yet, despite widespread recognition of the Philippines as a global priority for marine conservation, limited work has been undertaken to evaluate the conservation effectiveness of Philippine MPAs. Targets for MPA coverage in the Philippines have been specified in the 1998 Fisheries Code legislation, which calls for 15% of coastal municipal waters (within 15 km of the coastline) to be protected within no-take MPAs, and the Philippine Marine Sanctuary Strategy (2004), which aims to protect 10% of coral reef area in no-take MPAs by 2020. In Chapter 2, I use a newly compiled database of nearly 1000 MPAs to measure progress toward these targets and assess MPA effectiveness for biodiversity conservation. I first determined the degree to which marine bioregions and conservation priority areas are represented within existing MPAs. I then assessed the size and spacing patterns of reserves in terms of best-practice recommendations. I found that the current extent and distribution of MPAs does not adequately represent biodiversity. At present just 0.5% of municipal waters and 2.7-3.4% of coral reef area in the Philippines are protected in no-take MPAs. Moreover, 85% of no-take area is in just two protected areas, with 90% of MPAs smaller than 1 km2. Nevertheless, distances between existing MPAs should ensure larval connectivity between them, providing opportunities to develop regional-scale MPA networks. This analysis represents the most rigorous and comprehensive assessment of the conservation effectiveness of Philippine MPAs to date, and provides a clear indication of gaps that need to be addressed.

In Chapter 4, I seek to determine whether community-based efforts can produce ecologically functional MPA networks in the Philippines, or whether a systematic approach to MPA network design is required. My study region for this analysis is the Western Bohol Sea. This region was identified in Chapter 2 as having the highest concentration of existing MPAs in the Philippines, and thus represents an optimistic scenario for community-based MPA establishment. I first reviewed existing literature to assess the extent to which these MPAs achieve 15 local-scale objectives for fisheries management, conservation and socioeconomic development. I then conducted a series of new spatial analyses, using biogeographic classifications developed from reef fish survey data (Chapter 3), to assess whether the MPA system as a whole possesses the characteristics of an ecologically connected and functional MPA network. I found that whilst the 90 MPAs in this region fulfil a range of local-scale objectives for fisheries management, biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic development, they do not form a comprehensive, adequate and representative MPA network. This work demonstrates that even in regions where they have been applied extensively, community-based approaches to MPA establishment have not been sufficient to develop ecologically functional MPA networks.

MPA networks designed without consideration of the interests of local fishing communities are likely to fail. However, in many regions where conservation action is needed most urgently, socioeconomic data are not available at spatial scales relevant to conservation planning. In Chapter 5, I investigated the effects of using different surrogates for small-scale fishing effort at the local scale in the systematic design of an MPA network for Siquijor Province, in the Bohol Sea. Using the conservation planning software Marxan, I compared a reserve selection scenario in which socioeconomic data were not considered with scenarios that included four different surrogates for fishing effort and with empirical data on the spatial distribution of fishing effort collected through interviews. Surrogates modelled on the number of fishers or boats in each community consistently outperformed those based on population census data. However, none of the surrogates I tested were able to accurately predict fine-scale resource use patterns. Whilst socioeconomic surrogates may be able to assist conservation planners to identify regional-scale opportunities where conservation objectives may be met more easily, they cannot act as a shortcut for comprehensive consultation with fishing communities, which will be required to identify actual sites for MPA implementation.

Whilst the importance of incorporating socioeconomic factors into conservation planning is increasingly recognised, there are few examples demonstrating how such factors can be practically included in the design of protected area networks. In Chapter 6, I demonstrate for the first time how spatial zoning software (Marxan with Zones) can be used to consider local marine tenure explicitly in the design of MPA networks. By setting 'socioeconomic targets' for each local fishing community that stipulate the minimum area of fishing grounds that must remain open, I was able to design MPA networks that impact local resource users more equitably, and are therefore more likely to be socioeconomically viable. MPA networks that considered local tenure boundaries had a greater overall area and cost than those that sought to minimise costs to small-scale fishers as a single stakeholder group. Although it appears counter-intuitive that larger MPA networks may be more socially acceptable, in this context, minimising costs to each fishing community individually is likely to be more important than overall spatial 'efficiency'.

Results from this thesis indicate that neither regional-scale systematic conservation planning nor community-based MPA establishment provide an effective approach to develop MPA networks in the Philippines. Whilst community-based approaches have been successful in establishing MPAs to achieve local-scale objectives, they lack the scientific basis and spatial context required to develop ecologically functional MPA networks. Systematic conservation planning approaches provide this perspective, but are likely to be hindered by a lack of appropriate data, and may ultimately fail if they are not accepted by local stakeholders. In Chapter 7, I propose a new planning framework that incorporates elements of both regional-scale conservation planning and community-based implementation. Although yet to be empirically tested, this approach is most likely to achieve a satisfactory trade-off between achieving regional-scale objectives for biodiversity conservation and addressing the concerns of local fishing communities. The proposed framework provides an insight to local practitioners and international NGOs as to how to move towards developing systems of comprehensive, ecologically representative, connected and resilient MPA networks in regions with a similar social, economic, political and ecological context to the Philippines.

Item ID: 19005
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: marine protected areas, systematic conservation planning, coral reefs, Philippines, community-based conservation, design and effectiveness of marine protected area networks, biodiversity conservation, no-take marine reserves, marine fisheries management, local tenure
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Mills, M., Pressey, R.L., Weeks, R., Foale, S., and Ban, N.C. (2010) A mismatch of scales: challenges in planning for implementation of marine protected areas in the Coral Triangle. Conservation Letters, 3(5): 291-303.

Chapter 2: Weeks, R., Russ, G.R., Alcala, A.C., and White, A.T. (2010) Effectiveness of marine protected areas in the Philippines for biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology, 24(2): 531-540.

Chapter 5: Weeks, R., Russ, G.R., Bucol, A.A., and Alcala, A.C. (2010) Shortcuts for marine conservation planning: the effectiveness of socioeconomic data surrogates. Biological Conservation, 143(5): 1236-1244.

Chapter 6: Weeks, R., Russ, G.R., Bucol, A.A., and Alcala, A.C. (2010) Incorporating local tenure in the systematic design of marine protected area networks. Conservation Letters, 3(6): 445-453.

Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2011 23:07
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 33%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 33%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 34%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 34%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960606 Rights to Environmental and Natural Resources (excl. Water Allocation) @ 33%
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