Designing marine protected areas off Mexico

Researchers look at methods to determine the ideal spacing between protected areas in the Gulf of California, ensuring connectivity based on the distances covered by larvae of fish species identified through GBIF.

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 64 regional fish species identified

Researchers from the United States and Spain looked at methods of designing networks of marine protected areas in a way that enables species to move between the areas.

As a measure of this connectivity, the research focussed on the distance covered by the larvae of fish species, indicating whether species would be able to recover from local extinctions. It used data from GBIF and its Mexican partner CONABIO to identify 64 fish species occurring in the Gulf of California, and studied distribution patterns of larvae for each of those species. Based on this information, the paper assessed proposals for 54 priority conservation areas off the Mexican coast, and various rules that can be applied on minimum and maximum recommended distances between protected areas.

The research concluded that the current proposals would provide connectivity for most of the studied species, but recommended that spacing rules should be specific to each habitat to ensure efficient marine conservation planning.

Gulf of California. NASA's Earth Observatory. CC BY 2.0

Anadón, J.D. et al., 2013. Habitat-specific larval dispersal and marine connectivity: implications for spatial conservation planning. Ecosphere, 4(7), p.art82. Available at: