Soft-bottom fishes and spatial protection: findings from a temperate marine protected area

Abstract : Numerous studies over the last decades have focused on marine protected areas (MPAs) and their effects on fish communities. However, there is a knowledge gap regarding how species that live associated with soft-substrates (e.g., sand, mud) respond to spatial protection. We analyzed abundance, biomass and total lengths of the soft-bottom fishes in a multiple-use MPA in the north-eastern Atlantic, the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park (Portugal), during and after the implementation of its management plan. Data were collected by experimental fishing in areas with three different levels of protection, during the implementation period and for three years after full implementation of the MPA. Univariate analysis detected significant biomass increases between the two periods. Fish assemblages were mainly structured by depth and substrate, followed by protection level. Community composition analyses revealed significant differences between protection levels and between the two periods. Species exhibited a broad variation in their response to protection, and we hypothesize that factors such as species habitat preferences, body size and late maturity might be underlying determinants. Overall, this study provides some evidence of protection effectiveness in soft-bottom fish communities, supported by the significant increase in biomass in the protected areas and the positive trends of some species.
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Inês Sousa, Jorge Goncalves, Joachim Claudet, Rui Coelho, Emanuel Gonçalves, et al.. Soft-bottom fishes and spatial protection: findings from a temperate marine protected area. PeerJ, PeerJ, 2018, 6, pp.e4653. ⟨10.7717/peerj.4653⟩. ⟨hal-01960386⟩

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