Designing marine reserves for interacting species: Insights from theory

Marissa L. Baskett, Fiorenza Micheli, Simon Asher Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


The primary goals of marine reserves include protecting biodiversity and ecosystem structure. Therefore, a multispecies approach to designing and monitoring reserve networks is necessary. To gain insight into how the interactions between species in marine communities may affect reserve design, we synthesize marine reserve community models and community models with habitat destruction and fragmentation, and we develop new extensions of existing models. This synthesis highlights the potential for species interactions to alter reserve design criteria; in particular, accounting for species interactions often leads to an increase in reserve size necessary to protect populations. Accounting for species interactions also indicates the need to base reserve design and monitoring on a variety of species, especially long-distance dispersers, inferior colonizers, and specialists. Finally, the new model extensions highlight how, given dispersal, source populations outside reserves as well as increases in fished populations after reserve establishment may negatively affect reserve populations of competitors or prey. Therefore, multispecies harvest dynamics outside reserves and before reserve establishment are critical to determining the appropriate reserve size, spacing, and expectations after establishment. These models highlight the importance of species interactions to reserve design and provide guidelines for how this complexity can begin to be incorporated into conservation planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-179
Number of pages17
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


  • Community models
  • Competition
  • Habitat loss
  • Marine protected areas
  • Mutualism
  • Predation


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