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Marine reserves can enhance ecological resilience.

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The goals of ecosystem-based management (EBM) include protecting ecological resilience, the magnitude of a perturbation that a community can withstand and remain in a given state. As a tool to achieve this goal, no-take marine reserves may enhance resilience by protecting source populations or reduce it by concentrating fishing in harvested areas. Here, we test whether spatial management with marine reserves can increase ecological resilience compared to non-spatial (conventional) management using a dynamic model of a simplified fish community with structured predation and competition that causes alternative stable states. Relative to non-spatial management, reserves increase the resilience of the desired (predator-dominated) equilibrium state in both stochastic and deterministic environments, especially under intensive fishing. As a result, spatial management also increases the feasibility of restoring degraded (competitor-dominated) systems, particularly if combined with culling of competitors or stock enhancement of adult predators.

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