Aim: Connectivity structures populations, communities and ecosystems in the sea. The extent of connectivity is, therefore, predicted to also influence the outcomes of conservation initiatives, such as marine reserves. Here we review the published evidence about how important seascape connectivity (i.e. landscape connectivity in the sea) is for marine conservation outcomes. Location:Global. Methods:We analysed the global literature on the effects of seascape connectivity on reserve performance. Results:In the majority of cases, greater seascape connectivity inside reserves translates into better conservation outcomes (i.e. enhanced productivity and diversity). Research on reserve performance is, however, most often conducted separately from research on connectivity, resulting in few studies (< 5% of all studies of seascape connectivity) that have quantified how connectivity modifies reserve effects on populations, assemblages or ecosystem functioning in seascapes. Nevertheless, evidence for positive effects of connectivity on reserve performance is geographically widespread, encompassing studies in the Caribbean Sea, Florida Keys and western Pacific Ocean. Main conclusions: Given that research rarely connects the effects of connectivity and reserves, our thesis is that stronger linkages between landscape ecology and marine spatial planning are likely to improve conservation outcomes in the sea. The key science challenge is to identify the full range of ecological functions that are modulated by connectivity and the spatial scale over which these functions enhance conservation outcomes.
Global Ecology and Biogeography / Vol. 25, No. 1, pp.3-16