Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a global conservation and management tool designed with the aim of conserving biodiversity and providing ecosystem services for sustainable use. However, MPAs implemented worldwide include a large variety of zoning and management schemes from single to multiple-zoning and from no-take to multiple-use areas.
The current IUCN categorization of MPAs is based on management objectives which many times have a significant mismatch to regulations causing a strong uncertainty when evaluating global MPAs effectiveness.
A novel global classification system for MPAs based on regulations of uses as an alternative or complementing the current IUCN system of categories has been developed. Each zone within an MPA is scored and an MPA index integrates the zone scores. This system classifies MPAs as well as each MPA zone individually, is globally applicable and unambiguously discriminates the impacts of uses.