Ecological coherence in marine reserve network design: an empirical evaluation of sequential site selection using genetic structure

C.E. McInnerney, A.L. Allcock, M.P. Johnson, P. A. Prodöhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological coherence is a multifaceted conservation objective that includes some potentially conflicting concepts. These concepts include the extent to which the network maximises diversity (including genetic diversity) and the extent to which protected areas interact with non-reserve locations. To examine the consequences of different selection criteria, the preferred location to complement protected sites was examined using samples taken from four locations around each of two marine protected areas: Strangford Lough and Lough Hyne, Ireland. Three different measures of genetic distance were used: FST, Dest and a measure of allelic dissimilarity, along with a direct assessment of the total number of alleles in different candidate networks. Standardized site scores were used for comparisons across methods and selection criteria. The average score for Castlehaven, a site relatively close to Lough Hyne, was highest, implying that this site would capture the most genetic diversity while ensuring highest degree of interaction between protected and unprotected sites. Patterns around Strangford Lough were more ambiguous, potentially reflecting the weaker genetic structure around this protected area in comparison to Lough Hyne. Similar patterns were found across species with different dispersal capacities, indicating that methods based on genetic distance could be used to help maximise ecological coherence in reserve networks. ⺠Ecological coherence is a key component of marine protected area network design. ⺠Coherence contains a number of competing concepts. ⺠Genetic information from field populations can help guide assessments of coherence. ⺠Average choice across different concepts of coherence was consistent among species. ⺠Measures can be combined to compare the coherence of different network designs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-270
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • conservation-planning genetic-diversity marine-protected-areas marine-reserves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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