A decision framework for the adaptive management of an exploited species with implications for marine reserves

Leah Gerber, Jeffrey Wielgus, Enric Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Marine reserves have both conservation and fishery benefits. Nevertheless, there are no general criteria about when and where to establish new reserves, how to evaluate their efficacy, and how to conduct adaptive management to achieve conservation goals. We applied a decision-theory framework to optimally allocate conservation resources between improving data on population status and establishing a reserve for species conservation. Our goal was to maximize reserve benefits given the constraints of a population growth rate that would permit sustainability of resources. We illustrate our decision framework with a retrospective analysis of a 7-year time series on abundance of the leopard grouper (Mycteroperca rosacea) in the Sea of Cortés, Mexico. We used the lower bound of the distribution of the population growth rate (λ) as a decision rule for determining how many years of monitoring are needed to detect reserve effects. We determined the minimum time frame needed to estimate λ based on a stated level of risk tolerance for four sites. As expected, the coefficient of variation for the λ declined with the number of years of data. This increased precision with additional years of data resulted from the high degree of annual variability in the system. Where populations were slow to respond to reserves, more data were needed to detect a positive λ value. For the leopard grouper case study, confidence in the estimate of λ increased with the number of years of data. Our decision framework may be used to identify the minimum number of years of data needed before a management decision about reserve establishment could be made that is reasonably likely to meet its management objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1594-1602
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Adaptive management
  • Decision theory
  • Leopard grouper
  • Marine reserve
  • Sea of Cortés
  • Species monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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