Cacabelos, E., Martins, G.M., Faria, J., Prestes, A.C.L., Costa, T.M.M., Moreu, I. & Neto, A.I. (2020) Limited effects of marine protected areas on the distribution of invasive species, despite positive effects on diversity in shallow-water marine communities.Biological Invasions, 22, 1169-1179. DOI:10.1007/s10530-019-02171-x (IF2020 3,133; Q1 Biodiversity Conservation)
Marine protected areas (MPAs) can be an effective tool for the conservation and management of marine coastal habitats. MPAs have been shown to halt habitat degradation, enhance the biomass of exploited species and diversity in general. Yet, we still know little about its role in halting the spread of non-native species. In this study, we assessed the role of MPAs in the structure of shallow subtidal communities around São Miguel Island, in general, and particularly on distribution of the two species of genus Asparagopsis: A. armata and A. taxiformis. In the Azores, the former is a well-established invasive species, whereas the status of A. taxiformis is still questionable. Overall, there was a significant greater diversity in terms of both species richness and number of macroalgal functional groups within MPAs. However, when considering the relative abundance of the various macroalgal functional groups, or the assemblage as a whole (multivariate analysis), there was no significant difference between areas within and outside MPAs. The cover of A. taxiformis was significantly greater within MPAs but not its biomass, whereas no significant variation was observed for A. armata. Overall, results suggest that surveyed MPAs had a positive effect on the diversity of shallow-water macroalgal communities. However, they have a limited role on the distribution of both Asparagopsis spp. and negligible effects when considering the relative abundances of macroalgal functional groups.