Abstract: Networks of marine protected areas (MPA) are believed, and to some extent have been proven, to provide higher ecological, social and economic benefits than small, isolated MPAs. However, MPA networks are more complex compared to single MPAs and this complexity includes spatial, ecological, socioeconomic and institutional considerations. Hence, MPA networks can be more challenging to establish and implement, particularly in countries with high resource dependence and small, numerous and disparate governance units. The Philippines is known for its extensive local implementation of MPAs, and efforts to scale up MPAs to form networks are currently facilitated by institutional collaborations. The aim of my thesis was to use the Philippines as a case study to: 1) describe the role of institutional collaborations in scaling up to form networks; 2) determine the benefits of scaling up to form networks; 3) evaluate the management performance of these networks; and 4) identify and examine the factors that influence the management performance of networks. I first conducted a literature review and complemented with interviews with MPA experts to map out the history of MPA networks and institutional collaborations in the Philippines. I found that there are 40 networks with varying histories, objectives, numbers of members, and areas of jurisdiction. I then used the Verde Island Passage as a case study to describe future MPA expansion scenarios and compared these scenarios in terms of achievement of habitat representation objectives. The scenarios protected different locations of the passage which resulted to variations in the habitat types protected. I also found that the current network achieved more than 20% of representation objectives for some of the habitats in the passage. I then used multiple methods including management performance tools, interviews and surveys to evaluate the management performance of three MPA networks and determine the factors that influence performance. Performance varied between the three networks and was influenced by the objectives, histories and structures of the networks and the diversity and complexity of governance (e.g. more diverse interests with increasing institutional participation). I found that the performance of networks and individual MPAs were interdependent. Networks depend on the individual functions of the MPA, and MPAs are enhanced by being parts of networks. My research supports the proposal that establishing MPA networks has value-added benefits for marine management. These benefits include better design and accelerated establishment of MPAs and improved management due to shared learning, resources and responsibilities of the collaborating local governments. However, my research also emphasises the need to understand and consider local-scale governance complexity to improve approaches to sustaining MPA networks.
Biography: Vera was planning to pursue a career in the arts until she had a change of heart and decided to become a marine biologist instead. After graduating from the Philippine High School for the Arts, she did her B.Sc. in Biology (Major in Zoology) at the University of the Philippines, and did an honours project on roundscads. Under an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship she earned a joint M.Sc. degree in Water and Coastal Management from Universidad de Cadiz in Spain and University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom. From then on, she focused her research on how to improve planning and sustain management of marine protected areas. Vera is supervised by Prof. Bob Pressey, Dr. Simon Foale, Dr. Mike Fabinyi and Prof. Perry Aliño of the Marine Science Institute. Her research aims to determine and understand the benefits and challenges of scaling up to form MPA networks in the Philippines.