Growing awareness of threats to marine ecosystems has led to the search for new conservation and management tools (Palumbi 2002; Palumbi et al. 2003). Increasingly, attention has focused on integrated ecosystem-based approaches, including marine protected areas. These tools are used to address a suite of goals such as conserving biodiversity, supporting fisheries, protecting natural and cultural heritage values, and maintaining economic viability (Airam´e et al. 2003). Much has been published about the science that underpins successful marine protection (see Lubchenco et al. 2003), but to date little emphasis has been placed on evaluating effective implementation and management strategies. The diversity of approaches employed worldwide to implement and manage marine protected areas and their relative successes can inform future conservation efforts. This special section provides background on marine protected area selection and implementation processes and synthesizes the various approaches conductedworldwide. Examples are given from developing and developed countries, spanning tropical and temperatewaters and varying from community-based processes to government-led implementation and management strategies. Successful marine conservation requires identifying practical ways to integrate ecological, social, cultural, political, and economic objectives. Although science provides the foundation for marine protection, the unifying theme of these manuscripts is that socioeconomic, cultural, and political factors are critically important to the success of marine protected areas. This process-oriented approach to implementing marine protected areas is often ignored in theoretical models for designing effective marine protected areas based solely on biological processes. Ignoring the human dimension often leads to shortcomings in support by local stakeholders and failure in the implementation stage. By educating stakeholders on the social, economic, cultural, and ecological benefits of marine protected areas and integrating stakeholder views into the process of identifying marine conservation solutions, fewer difficulties are likely in the negotiation stage. Similarly, conservation efforts benefit because scientists and managers are educated on the social, economic, and political ramifications of marine conservation and on the effects of marine protected areas on stakeholder livelihoods. The papers in this special section aim to inform future conservation efforts by defining a suite of processes to assist in the development, implementation, and monitoring of marine protected areas and other forms of marine conservation.
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