Monday, September 23, 2013

Using GIS to evaluate the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in Hawaii

One of the world's most important ecosystems is the offshore marine ecosystem.  However, this ecosystem often also gets overlooked and is underrepresented in our conservation efforts.  This article illustrates how GIS is used to confirm the effectiveness of marine conservation efforts in Hawaii.

In order to conserve and protect marine life, Hawaii has set up eleven MLCD's (Marine Life Conservation Districts) around the islands.  These districts were originally set up to encourage public interaction with the marine environment, and therefore have varying size, management regimes, and habitat quality.  The figure below shows how the marine environment has been mapped to divide the ecosystem into its various parts.

What they were able to discover through this use of benthic habitat maps in conjunction with the location of the MLCD's, is that overall fish biomass is 2.6 times higher in the protected areas than in open waters.  Apex predators and other species were also found to be larger and more abundant in the MLCD's.  In this scenario, GIS was instrumental in proving the effectiveness of the MLCD's in achieving the end goal of a healthier marine ecosystem in Hawaii's coastal waters.

Alan M. Friedlander, Eric K. Brown, and Mark E. Monaco 2007. COUPLING ECOLOGY AND GIS TO EVALUATE EFFICACY OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS IN HAWAII. Ecological Applications 17:715–730.


  1. In this map, I am interested in exactly why they chose to map the specific groups they did. In particular, macroalgea. I don't know the role of macroalgae in an ecosystem and would like to know why it was worth mapping.

  2. The MLCD's sound interesting, does Hawaii attempt to treat those districts like natural ecosystems, or do they attempt to control or influence the ecosystems in order to boost population growth? Although it sounds nice that the marine species are increasing in size and population, do they need to be?

  3. I am wondering if we can use this model to measure the effectiveness of other protected land sites such as national parks and international buffer zones. The map itself is a bit confusing, it has a lot of different things going on making it hard for the user to determine what is going on. For example, why did the map artist feel that they needed to include microalgae?

  4. I am not a huge fan of the map, it seems very cluttered. I feel like the map is trying to tell us too much, rather than focus on the MCLD's. I'd also like to see the actual shore line, I think that the other variables are useless to the information that we are given. I do think the FMA is important to map out, to distinguish where fishing is allowed, and where it is not, and whether or not the MLCD and FMA cross over somehow.