Does Size Matter? Rationales for Large Marine Reserves

February 11, 2010

Stuart L. Pimm, (919) 613-8141,; Tim Lucas, (919) 613-8084,

DURHAM, N.C. – Research has demonstrated the value of the world's great terrestrial parks, from Yellowstone to the Serengeti, in preserving ecosystems, protecting wide-ranging species, and supporting non-extractive industries. Do large ocean reserves offer similar benefits?

Five of the world’s leading conservation ecologists, including Duke University’s Stuart L. Pimm, will address that question in a seminar February 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego. The seminar, scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m, is part of a daylong program on marine conservation and science.

Pimm is Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. He will present an overview of recent findings from his research, “Large Terrestrial Protected Areas and Lessons for the Marine Environment.”

Pimm and his fellow presenters will examine the successes of large terrestrial parks, compare marine and terrestrial reserves of similar scale, and explore conservation benefits of large marine reserves, including increased resilience to climate change. They will discuss what is being learned from existing large, no-take marine reserves, and review ongoing and potential efforts to establish additional large protected areas.

The seminar was organized by Emily Frost and Angela T. Bednarek of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Terry Hughes of James Cook University in Australia.

Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, will serve as moderator. Other presenters or discussants include Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University, Jay Nelson of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Hughes.

The AAAS meeting is the largest general science conference of the year. It attracts thousands of researchers, policy makers, students and reporters from around the world. Being invited to present or moderate a symposium at AAAS is widely viewed as a measure of a researcher’s high stature in his or her field.

Pimm is widely respected for his research on biodiversity, species extinction and habitat loss in Africa, South America and Central America, as well as the Everglades. His work has contributed to new practices and policy for species preservation and habitat restoration in many of the world’s most threatened ecosystems.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In recognition of his lifetime contributions to science and conservation, in 2006 he was awarded two of the environmental science community’s most prestigious honors – the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Edward T. LaRue III Memorial Award from the Society for Conservation Biology. He received a Pew Scholarship for Conservation and the Environment in 1993 and an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship in 1999. The Institute of Scientific Information recognized him in 2002 as one of the world’s most highly cited scientists.

In addition to Pimm, other presenters from the Nicholas School at this year’s meeting are Larry Crowder, Stephen Toth Professor of Marine Biology and director of the Duke Center for Marine Conservation, and PhD students Morgan Gopnik and Mary Turnipseed.

Crowder and Turnipseed will both present in a seminar, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. February 20, on marine spatial planning. The session was organized by Turnipseed and Gopnik, who will also moderate it.

Crowder will make a second AAAS presentation, an overview of “Next Steps on Marine Spatial Planning,” in a symposium at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 21.