Functionality and Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in Southeastern Brazilian Waters for Demersal Elasmobranchs

Thamíris C. Karlovic, Renata R. Gomes, Paulo C. Paiva, Elizabeth A. Babcock, June F. Dias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ensuring the efficacy of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) requires that adequate management strategies be implemented according to the MPA’s objectives. Within the scope of species conservation, achieving MPA objectives demands understanding of the role played by MPAs for the target species. In 2014, Brazilian stakeholders and experts set the action plan for elasmobranchs’ conservation, which intended to create new protected areas and expand the existing ones. Nevertheless, more than 65% of Brazilian elasmobranch species are threatened by anthropogenic pressures such as fisheries and habitat loss. In addition, their ecological aspects are not well studied, which might jeopardize the success of the proposed actions. To assess the functionality and effectiveness of two no-take MPAs for sixteen demersal species, the Wildlife Refuge of Alcatrazes (WRA) and the Tupinambás Ecological Station (TES), we evaluated the community structure, space-time variations in functional diversity and changes in fishery indicators. Community dynamics were driven by inshore intrusion and time persistent effects of a cold and nutrient-rich water mass, the South Atlantic Central Water, which increased the relative abundance of species, functional groups, and overall diversity. Spatially, the heterogeneity of benthic habitats, due to the action of stronger waves in specific parts of the MPAs, reflects a diverse community of benthic invertebrates, explaining differences in relative abundance and similarities in space use by the functional groups. Regarding effectiveness, the MPAs make up a key network with the surrounding protection areas to support the ecosystem maintenance on the central and northern coast of the São Paulo state. The establishment of the TES has positively influenced the community throughout the years while the recent creation of the WRA may have promoted some improvements in fisheries indicators for a threatened guitarfish. We propose different functions of the Alcatrazes archipelago for each species and suggest some measures to enhance not only elasmobranch conservation but also the MPAs’ effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number694846
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Alcatrazes archipelago
  • community structure
  • elasmobranch conservation
  • fishery indicators
  • functional diversity
  • habitat use
  • management strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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