Student Research Paper
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Marine protected areas are a relatively new conservation tool intended to remove harmful anthropogenic practices and influences to enable ecological processes to occur normally, but they cannot protect ecosystems from global impacts like climate change. One such MPA, Rapa Nui Marine Park in Chile, is home to the Masked Booby, Sula dactylatra. Though not currently endangered, their population numbers decrease annually, and seabirds are among the most threatened species in the face of climate change. This study seeks to examine the spatial ecology of the Sula dactylatra against the context of the MPA and examines whether increasing sea surface temperatures (SST) will render the protected area insufficient. This study used statistical analyses in R using open datasets from the World Database on Protected Areas, Movebank, and NOAA. Our findings indicate that on average, SST increased 0.1 degrees per year from 2010 to 2020, culminating in a 1-degree increase over that decade. There is no indication this pattern will subside. The global nature of climate change, evidence of local SST increase, and lack of MPA management suggests that the boundaries of Rapa Nui Marine Park do nothing to protect enclosed masked booby foraging range from climate change effects. As climate conditions continue to change, it is likely that the spatial ecology of the masked booby and other species in Rapa Nui will be impacted in some way. There needs to be more research done to evaluate how ENSO or seasonal changes contribute to increasing SST in this area, as well as what effect this may have on the prey species of the Sula dactylatra. It may also be valuable to understand the varying management needs across Rapa Nui, as many islets are subjected to different conditions and may require different oversight. Aside from climactic factors, park effectiveness is still dependent upon funding and to what extent the regulations are enforced.
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Soctto d'Antuono, Flavia and Dubniczki, Hayden E., "Implications of Increased SST on Sula Dactylatra in Rapa Nui Marine Park" (2021). Student Publications. 942.