Integrating climate change and human impacts into marine spatial planning: A case study of threatened starfish species in Brazil
Network expansion of marine protected areas in a changing world is a difficult task for conservation planners. Brazil experiences a combination of low and uneven protection of marine environmets, increasing anthropogenic pressures, climate change, and gaps in information regarding the geographical distribution of many species (Wallacean shortfall). Here, we addressed these issues and present a strategy for identifying priority marine areas for conservation in Brazil that would contribute to increasing species representation and achievement of conservation targets. Within this strategy, we accounted for (i) species range shifts due to climate change and their influence on species distribution, (ii) the lack of species geographical distribution data, and (iii) anthropic pressures on oceans. First, we built ecological niche models (ENMs) for 12 threatened starfish species in both present and future (2100) times using Maxent. We also quantified and mapped species range shifts. Second, we developed three conservation spatial solutions and compared the 10% top-ranked areas. The results showed that ENMs had a good performance in representing the distribution of species, even those that had few occurrence records. Our models forecasted a significant range expansion for the majority of species (10 out 12) by 2100. We found that the priority sites covering the top-ranked 10% in the study area identified in ours conservation spatial solutions would protect between 10.41% and 15.88%, on average, of suitable areas for the starfish species. Our results indicated priority sites for conservation less affected by anthropic pressures (~2%) when data on human impacts on oceans were incorporated into the spatial prioritization process. We identified a network of priority marine sites for conservation that minimized human influence and considered the effects of climate change on species distribution. We used threatened starfish species as a case study for illustrating our approach; however, such an approach could be applied to any taxonomic group, which supports the development of more effective conservation actions that represent biodiversity under such threats.
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