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A regulation-based classification system for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a global conservation and management tool to enhance the resilience of linked social-ecological systems with the aim of conserving biodiversity and providing ecosystem services for sustainable use. However, MPAs implemented worldwide include a large variety of zoning and management schemes from single to multiple-zoning and from no-take to multiple-use areas. The current IUCN categorisation of MPAs is based on management objectives which many times have a significant mismatch to regulations causing a strong uncertainty when evaluating global MPAs effectiveness. A novel global classification system for MPAs based on regulations of uses as an alternative or complementing the current IUCN system of categories is presented. Scores for uses weighted by their potential impact on biodiversity were built. Each zone within a MPA was scored and an MPA index integrates the zone scores. This system classifies MPAs as well as each MPA zone individually, is globally applicable and unambiguously discriminates the impacts of uses