Spatially congruent sites of importance for global shark and ray biodiversity
Many important areas identified for conservation priorities focus on areas of high species richness, however, it is unclear whether these areas change depending on what aspect of richness is considered (e.g. evolutionary distinctiveness, endemicity, or threatened species). Furthermore, little is known of the extent of spatial congruency between biodiversity measures in the marine realm. Here, we used the distribution maps of all known marine sharks, rays, and chimaeras (class Chondrichthyes) to examine the extent of spatial congruency across the hotspots of three measures of species richness: total number of species, evolutionarily distinct species, and endemic species. We assessed the spatial congruency between hotspots considering all species, as well as on the subset of the threatened species only. We consider three definitions of hotspot (2.5%, 5%, and 10% of cells with the highest numbers of species) and three levels of spatial resolution (1°, 4°, and 8° grid cells). Overall, we found low congruency among all three measures of species richness, with the threatened species comprising a smaller subset of the overall species patterns irrespective of hotspot definition. Areas of congruency at 1° and 5% richest cells contain over half (64%) of all sharks and rays and occurred off the coasts of: (1) Northern Mexico Gulf of California, (2) USA Gulf of Mexico, (3) Ecuador, (4) Uruguay and southern Brazil, (5) South Africa, southern Mozambique, and southern Namibia, (6) Japan, Taiwan, and parts of southern China, and (7) eastern and western Australia. Coarsening resolution increases congruency two-fold for all species but remains relatively low for threatened measures, and geographic locations of congruent areas also change. Finally, for pairwise comparisons of biodiversity measures, evolutionarily distinct species richness had the highest overlap with total species richness regardless of resolution or definition of hotspot. We suggest that focusing conservation attention solely on areas of high total species richness will not necessarily contribute efforts towards species that are most at risk, nor will it protect other important dimensions of species richness.