Integrating distribution models and habitat classification maps into marine protected area planning

Last modified: 
January 15, 2019 - 3:52pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2018
Date published: 11/2018
Authors: Renata Ferrari, Hamish Malcolm, Joe Neilson, Vanessa Lucieer, Alan Jordan, Tim Ingleton, Will Figueira, Nicola Johnstone, Nicole Hill
Journal title: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Volume: 212
Pages: 40 - 50
ISSN: 02727714

Effective conservation planning requires biotic data across an entire region. In data-poor ecosystems conservation planning is informed by using environmental surrogates (e.g.temperature) predominantly in two ways: to develop habitat classification schemes (1) or develop species distribution models (2). We test the utility of both approaches for conservation planning of marine ecosystems, and rank environmental surrogates, such as depth and distance from shore, according to their power to predict the distribution and abundance of biotic species. Specifically, we compared a habitat classification scheme; based on coarse levels of habitat types derived from depth and distance from shore; against species distribution models, which predict fish abundance and prevalence as a function of environmental surrogates (depth, distance from shore, latitude, reef area, zoning, and several metrics of habitat structural complexity). We consistently set conservation target levels to 21% of each conservation feature, following global standards and a sensitivity analyses. Thus when running scenarios to protect fish species we aimed to protect at least 21% of each species, and when running scenarios of habitat classes, we aimed to protect at least 21% of each habitat class. We found that when aiming to protect 21% of the chosen conservation targets, distribution models protected 21% of the predicted abundance/occurrence of all modelled species and functional groups, but did not protect most habitats. Contrastingly, using a habitat classification scheme protected 21% of all habitat types and 34% of all species and functional groups, but required protecting three times more area. Thus, using only distribution models as targets in data-poor ecosystems could be a risky conservation planning strategy. Ultimately the best conservation outcomes were achieved by incorporating local knowledge to synthesize the conservation outcomes of both scenarios.modelled species and functional groups, but did not protect most habitats. Contrastingly, using a habitat classification scheme protected 21% of all habitat types and 34% of all species and functional groups, but required protecting three times more area. Thus, using only distribution models as targets in data-poor ecosystems could be a risky conservation planning strategy. Ultimately the best conservation outcomes were achieved by incorporating local knowledge to synthesize the conservation outcomes of both scenarios.

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