Marine Protected Areas Classification System and Management | - CCMAR -

Marine Protected Areas Classification System and Management

The urgent need to protect the ocean and its biodiversity has led to the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which are used as conservation tools. However, to understand the role of MPAs it is essential to have a common language to understand, promote, and evaluate the results, as well as to clarify the common goal of protecting these areas.

Our researchers led the development of a classification system for MPAs, based on permitted uses, that is being recognized and used globally. Distinguishing different types of MPAs is to recognize that the level of protection matters, and that was the conclusion of a global meta-analysis conducted by our researchers. This system was also applied to national MPAs, and the conclusion is that, in the Portuguese seas, there is still much to do to improve the level of protection and the percentage of coverage of their MPAs to fulfil international agreements. At this moment, our researchers are preparing the launch of a second improved version (with the incorporation of user feedback) of this MPA classification system, in collaboration with MPAtlas. At CCMAR we have a very active collaboration with MPAtlas managed by the Marine Conservation Institute.

This classification system has been used in several tools and distinguished with best practice awards for MPAs - Blue Parks - in which one of the criteria for winning this distinction is that the area has a high level of protection. Within this initiative, CCMAR plays an important role, being part of the scientific board of these awards. This classification system also served as the basis for the MPA guide and another classification system for ocean areas (not only MPAs) from Protected Seas. 

Our researchers also integrated the task force of the previous Minister of the Sea for the creation of an efficient national MPA network - the MPA Network Working Group.

In addition, we are also very involved in the development of the MPA guide. "The MPA Guide: A Framework to Achieve Global Goals for the Ocean" was written by 42 scientists from 38 institutions over the 6 continents. It is the result of 10 years of collaborative research and has been published in the magazine SCIENCE. Among the authors of this publication is Bárbara Horta e Costa, CCMAR researcher at the University of Algarve. 

Scientific Papers:


  • BUFFER - Partially protected areas as buffers to increase the linked social-ecological resilience
  • MARSW - Sistemas de informação e monitorização da biodiversidade marinha das Áreas Classificadas do Sudoeste Alentejo e Costa Vicentina