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Benefits and gaps in area-based management tools for the ocean Sustainable Development Goal


Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 provides a vision for the world’s oceans; however, the management interventions that are needed to achieve SDG 14 remain less clear. We assessed the potential contributions of seven key area-based management tools (such as fisheries closures) to SDG 14 targets. We conducted a rapid systematic review of 177 studies and an expert opinion survey to identify evidence of the ecological, social and economic outcomes from each type of tool. We used these data to assess the level of confidence in the outcomes delivered by each tool and qualitatively scored how each tool contributes to each target. We demonstrate that a combination of tools with diverse objectives and management approaches will be necessary to achieve all of the SDG 14 targets. We highlight that some tools, including fully and partially protected areas and locally managed marine areas, may make stronger contributions to SDG 14 compared with other tools. We identified gaps in the suitability of these tools to some targets, particularly targets related to pollution and acidification, as well as evidence gaps for social and economic outcomes. Our findings provide operational guidance to support progress toward SDG 14.

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Fig. 1: ABMTs and their potential ecological, social and economic outcomes assessed in this study.
Fig. 2: A confidence assessment framework, adapted from IPBES, was used to determine confidence in the delivery of ABMT outcomes on the basis of evidence from a rapid systematic review and expert opinions.
Fig. 3: Expert opinions (n = 75) on the expected effects of ABMTs on ecological, social and economic outcomes.
Fig. 4: Confidence assessment of literature-based and expert opinion evidence for the delivery of ecological, social and economic outcomes from ABMTs.
Fig. 5: Potential contributions of ABMTs to SDG 14 targets on the basis of confidence assessments of ABMT outcomes.

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Data availability

Data supporting the analyses and results of this study are available in the Supplementary Information.


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We thank N. Ban for her support in this work, including survey development and comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was supported by the Mitacs Globalink Research Award and a Discovery Grant of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada awarded to R.D.; J.C. was supported by BiodivERsA (METRODIVER) and Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-14-CE03-0001-01). Icons used in Figs. 1 and 35 are attributed to Becris (LMMA), Freepik (FPA, PPA), Mavadee (PSSA), Smashicons (FC), Surang (GRA) and Wichai.wi (TURF) from

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All of the authors contributed to the conception of this research, study design and editing the manuscript. J.M.R. reviewed the literature, conducted the expert opinion survey, performed analyses and drafted the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Julie M. Reimer.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–6, Figs. 1–4 and references.

Supplementary Data

Supplementary Data, including rapid systematic review data, condensed survey data, confidence assessment and ABMT scoring.

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Reimer, J.M., Devillers, R. & Claudet, J. Benefits and gaps in area-based management tools for the ocean Sustainable Development Goal. Nat Sustain 4, 349–357 (2021).

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