Placing marine protected areas onto the ecosystem-based management seascape

The rapid increase in the science and implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world in the past 15 years is now being followed by similar increases in the science and application of marine ecosystem-based management (EBM). Despite important overlaps and some common goals, these two approaches have remained either separated in the literature and in conservation and management efforts or treated as if they are one and the same. In the cases when connections are acknowledged, there is often little assessment of if or how well MPAs can achieve specific EBM goals. Here we start by critically evaluating commonalities and differences between MPAs and EBM. Next, we use global analyses to show where and how much no-take marine reserves can be expected to contribute to EBM goals, specifically by reducing the cumulative impacts of stressors on ocean ecosystems. These analyses revealed large stretches of coastal oceans where reserves can play a major role in reducing cumulative impacts and thus improving overall ocean condition, at the same time highlighting the limitations of marine reserves as a single tool to achieve comprehensive EBM. Ultimately, better synergies between these two burgeoning approaches provide opportunities to greatly benefit ocean health.