Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Burdens of evidence and the benefits of marine reserves: putting Descartes before des horse?

  • T.J. Willis (a1) (a2), R.B. Millar (a2), R.C. Babcock (a1) and N. Tolimieri (a1) (a3)

An extensive literature has appeared since 1990 on the study of ‘no-take’ marine reserves and their potential to make significant contributions to the conservation and management of fisheries, especially in tropical environments (see Polunin 1990; Roberts & Polunin 1991; DeMartini 1993; Roberts 1997; Allison et al. 1998; Guénette et al. 1998). The literature describes many potential benefits of marine reserves to fisheries, including increases in spawner-biomass-per-recruit and increases in larval supply from protecting ‘source’ populations (Jennings 2000). The important word here is ‘potential’. Some claims made by advocates of marine reserves might be regarded as optimistic, whereas critics of reserves might sometimes have been unduly harsh. Conservation goals for marine reserves are often poorly defined, and differences of opinion regarding the efficacy of reserves for fulfilling any of their stated goals can frequently be attributed to a lack of good information with which to predict their effects. Here, we critically examine the literature from 1990–2001 to determine (1) the relative effort put into empirical and theoretical approaches to predict reserve effects, and (2) the quality of empirical evidence available to support theoretical predictions. It is not the purpose of this article to single out particular studies for criticism (although this is sometimes inevitable to provide examples), nor to draw conclusions concerning the efficacy of marine reserves.

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Dr Trevor Willis, Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze Ambientali di Ravenna, Università di Bologna, Via Tombesi dall'Ova 55, I-48100 Ravenna, Italy. e-mail:
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 101 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 392 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.