Effectiveness of a small marine reserve in southern China in protecting the harvested sea urchin Anthocidaris crassispina: A mark-and-recapture study

Dickey C.C. Lau, Clement P. Dumont, Gilbert C.S. Lui, Jianwen QIU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Assessment of the effectiveness of protected areas requires information on population characteristics of the target species. This study used a mark-and-recapture approach to examine the population structure, individual growth, and mortality of the commercially harvested short-spined sea urchin Anthocidaris crassispina in a small (18ha) no-take marine reserve and two nearby non-protected sites. Sea urchins were tagged with fluorochrome and recaptured 1 year later. The size-at-age relationship was modelled using the Tanaka function, and mortality estimated using an exponential decay function coupled with the Tanaka growth parameters. The urchin population in the reserve consisted of a higher proportion of older individuals than populations in the two non-protected areas, however, large sea urchins (>50mm) were absent in the reserve. Sea urchins occurring at high densities (>15ind.m-2) in the reserve grew much slower than those outside the reserve, suggesting a density-dependant effect on growth. Growth ring analysis from the rotulae supported the mark-and-recapture results with the maximum number of rings being higher in the reserve than in non-protected sites. Urchins with the same number of growth rings inside the reserve were smaller than those outside the reserve. Within the reserve, urchins with the same number of growth rings were smaller at locations with higher urchin density. Annual mortality rate was lower in the reserve population than in the non-protected populations. These results illustrate the effectiveness of this small reserve in protecting A. crassispina from fishing. However, further study is required to examine whether a high density of small/old individuals is better than a medium density of large individuals in order to maximize the potential spillover of larvae by such small urchin refugia to the surrounding overfished areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2674-2683
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

User-Defined Keywords

  • Anthocidaris crassispina
  • Growth model
  • Marine protected area
  • Mortality rate
  • Sea urchin
  • Southern China


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