A theory for optimal monitoring of marine reserves

Leah Gerber, Maria Beger, Michael A. McCarthy, Hugh P. Possingham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Monitoring of marine reserves has traditionally focused on the task of rejecting the null hypothesis that marine reserves have no impact on the population and community structure of harvested populations. We consider the role of monitoring of marine reserves to gain information needed for management decisions. In particular we use a decision theoretic framework to answer the question: how long should we monitor the recovery of an over-fished stock to determine the fraction of that stock to reserve? This exposes a natural tension between the cost (in terms of time and money) of additional monitoring, and the benefit of more accurately parameterizing a population model for the stock, that in turn leads to a better decision about the optimal size for the reserve with respect to harvesting. We found that the optimal monitoring time frame is rarely more than 5 years. A higher economic discount rate decreased the optimal monitoring time frame, making the expected benefit of more certainty about parameters in the system negligible compared with the expected gain from earlier exploitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-837
Number of pages9
JournalEcology letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Conservation
  • Cost
  • Marine reserve
  • Monitoring
  • Optimization
  • Profit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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