The Human Dimensions of Large MPAs

The Human Dimensions of Large MPAs Project ( arose in response to the latter and examines the emergence, form, and function of large MPAs as a governance tool, generally as articulated by proponents and specifically at 5 sites around the world. Although promoted as remote and unpeopled, LMPAs have social, political, and economic impacts (their human dimensions) and these are understudied and potentially far-reaching, with implications for the populations of entire nations.  In one of the case study sites, Bermuda, lead site researcher Leslie Acton analyzed how the attempt to establish a LMPA within Bermuda’s EEZ intersected (in time and space) with efforts to protect the Sargasso Sea, most of which lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The intersection of these two policy processes had unintended consequences for both efforts, and lessons from the case that can inform efforts to implement high seas MPAs in the future.  In addition to Acton, PhD student Sarah Bess Zigler led research at Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile, where she continues her dissertation research on indigenous visions of marine conservation and the LMPA.

Lisa Campbell’s lab is interested broadly in oceans governance across scales and how governments and non-state actors are working to reshape ocean territory for both conservation and development purposes. A variety of research projects Campbell has led or participated in can inform our thinking about the possibilities for governing the high seas.  For example, with a large group of international collaborators and students, Campbell has been tracking the emerging agenda for global ocean conservation in institutions like the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the UN General Assembly. Understanding policy debates as they have unfolded over the past 1.5 decades can inform expectations for negotiations for a new high seas implementing agreement.  In particular, marine protected areas have been central to oceans conservation and drove initial interests in an implementing agreement.  Campbell and colleagues have traced how global MPA targets have evolved over time and some of the related processes they have sparked, like the Convention on Biological Diversity’s EBSA process and the trend to very large MPAs.