Understanding the ecological and anthropogenic drivers of population dynamics requires detailed studies on habitat selection and spatial distribution. Although small pelagic fish aggregate in large shoals and usually exhibit important spatial structure, their dynamics in time and space remain unpredictable and challenging. In the Gulf of Lions (north-western Mediterranean), sardine and anchovy biomasses have declined over the past 5 years causing an important fishery crisis while sprat abundance rose. Applying geostatistical tools on scientific acoustic surveys conducted in the Gulf of Lions, we investigated anchovy, sardine and sprat spatial distributions and structures over 10 years. Our results show that sardines and sprats were more coastal than anchovies. The spatial structure of the three species was fairly stable over time according to variogram outputs, while year-to-year variations in kriged maps highlighted substantial changes in their location. Support for the McCall's basin hypothesis (covariation of both population density and presence area with biomass) was found only in sprats, the most variable of the three species. An innovative method to investigate species collocation at different scales revealed that globally the three species strongly overlap. Although species often co-occurred in terms of presence/absence, their biomass density differed at local scale, suggesting potential interspecific avoidance or different sensitivity to local environmental characteristics. Persistent favourable areas were finally detected, but their environmental characteristics remain to be determined.
Changes in ocean chemistry and climate induced by anthropogenic CO2 affect a broad range of ocean biological and biogeochemical processes; these changes are already well underway. Direct effects of CO2 (e.g. on pH) are prominent among these, but climate model simulations with historical greenhouse gas forcing suggest that physical and biological processes only indirectly forced by CO2 (via the effect of atmospheric CO2 on climate) begin to show anthropogenically-induced trends as early as the 1920s. Dates of emergence of a number of representative ocean fields from the envelope of natural variability are calculated for global means and for spatial ‘fingerprints’ over a number of geographic regions. Emergence dates are consistent among these methods and insensitive to the exact choice of regions, but are generally earlier with more spatial information included. Emergence dates calculated for individual sampling stations are more variable and generally later, but means across stations are generally consistent with global emergence dates. The last sign reversal of linear trends calculated for periods of 20 or 30 years also functions as a diagnostic of emergence, and is generally consistent with other measures. The last sign reversal among 20 year trends is found to be a conservative measure (biased towards later emergence), while for 30 year trends it is found to have an early emergence bias, relative to emergence dates calculated by departure from the preindustrial mean. These results are largely independent of emission scenario, but the latest-emerging fields show a response to mitigation. A significant anthropogenic component of ocean variability has been present throughout the modern era of ocean observation.
Remote tissue biopsy sampling and satellite tagging are becoming widely used in large marine vertebrate studies because they allow the collection of a diverse suite of otherwise difficult-to-obtain data which are critical in understanding the ecology of these species and to their conservation and management. Researchers must carefully consider their methods not only from an animal welfare perspective, but also to ensure the scientific rigour and validity of their results. We report methods for shore-based, remote biopsy sampling and satellite tagging of killer whales Orcinus orca at Subantarctic Marion Island. The performance of these methods is critically assessed using 1) the attachment duration of low-impact minimally percutaneous satellite tags; 2) the immediate behavioural reactions of animals to biopsy sampling and satellite tagging; 3) the effect of researcher experience on biopsy sampling and satellite tagging; and 4) the mid- (1 month) and long- (24 month) term behavioural consequences. To study mid- and long-term behavioural changes we used multievent capture-recapture models that accommodate imperfect detection and individual heterogeneity. We made 72 biopsy sampling attempts (resulting in 32 tissue samples) and 37 satellite tagging attempts (deploying 19 tags). Biopsy sampling success rates were low (43%), but tagging rates were high with improved tag designs (86%). The improved tags remained attached for 26±14 days (mean ± SD). Individuals most often showed no reaction when attempts missed (66%) and a slight reaction–defined as a slight flinch, slight shake, short acceleration, or immediate dive–when hit (54%). Severe immediate reactions were never observed. Hit or miss and age-sex class were important predictors of the reaction, but the method (tag or biopsy) was unimportant. Multievent trap-dependence modelling revealed considerable variation in individual sighting patterns; however, there were no significant mid- or long-term changes following biopsy sampling or tagging.
Ecoregionalization of the ocean is a necessary step for spatial management of marine resources. Previous ecoregionalization efforts were based either on the distribution of species or on the distribution of physical and biogeochemical properties. These approaches ignore the dispersal of species by oceanic circulation that can connect regions and isolates others. This dispersal effect can be quantified through connectivity that is the probability, or time of transport between distinct regions. Here a new regionalization method based on a connectivity approach is described and applied to the Mediterranean Sea. This method is based on an ensemble of Lagrangian particle numerical simulations using ocean model outputs at 1/12° resolution. The domain is divided into square subregions of 50 km size. Then particle trajectories are used to quantify the oceanographic distance between each subregions, here defined as the mean connection time. Finally the oceanographic distance matrix is used as a basis for a hierarchical clustering. 22 regions are retained and discussed together with a quantification of the stability of boundaries between regions. Identified regions are generally consistent with the general circulation with boundaries located along current jets or surrounding gyres patterns. Regions are discussed in the light of existing ecoregionalizations and available knowledge on plankton distributions. This objective method complements static regionalization approaches based on the environmental niche concept and can be applied to any oceanic region at any scale.
Worldwide, fishery managers strive to maintain fish stocks at or above levels that produce maximum sustainable yields, and to rebuild overexploited stocks that can no longer support such yields. In the United States, rebuilding overexploited stocks is a contentious issue, where most stocks are mandated to rebuild in as short a time as possible, and in a time period not to exceed 10 years. Opponents of such mandates and related guidance argue that rebuilding requirements are arbitrary, and create discontinuities in the time and fishing effort allowed for stocks to rebuild due to differences in productivity. Proponents, however, highlight how these mandates and guidance were needed to curtail the continued overexploitation of these stocks by setting firm deadlines on rebuilding. Here we evaluate the statements made by opponents and proponents of the 10-year rebuilding mandate and related guidance to determine whether such points are technically accurate using a simple population dynamics model and a database of U.S. fish stocks to parameterize the model. We also offer solutions to many of the issues surrounding this mandate and its implementation by recommending some fishing mortality based frameworks, which meet the intent of the 10-year rebuilding requirement while also providing more flexibility.
Understanding the patterns of spatial and temporal distribution in threshold habitats of highly migratory and endangered species is important for understanding their habitat requirements and recovery trends. Herein, we present new data about the distribution of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in neritic waters off the northern coast of Peru: an area that constitutes a transitional path from cold, upwelling waters to warm equatorial waters where the breeding habitat is located. Data was collected during four consecutive austral winter/spring seasons from 2010 to 2013, using whale-watching boats as platforms for research. A total of 1048 whales distributed between 487 groups were sighted. The spatial distribution of humpbacks resembled the characteristic segregation of whale groups according to their size/age class and social context in breeding habitats; mother and calf pairs were present in very shallow waters close to the coast, while dyads, trios or more whales were widely distributed from shallow to moderate depths over the continental shelf break. Sea surface temperatures (range: 18.2–25.9°C) in coastal waters were slightly colder than those closer to the oceanic realm, likely due to the influence of cold upwelled waters from the Humboldt Current system. Our results provide new evidence of the southward extension of the breeding region of humpback whales in the Southeast Pacific. Integrating this information with the knowledge from the rest of the breeding region and foraging grounds would enhance our current understanding of population dynamics and recovery trends of this species.
Ecosystems in the tropical coastal zone exchange particulate organic matter (POM) with adjacent systems, but differences in this function among ecosystems remain poorly quantified. Seagrass beds are often a relatively small section of this coastal zone, but have a potentially much larger ecological influence than suggested by their surface area. Using stable isotopes as tracers of oceanic, terrestrial, mangrove and seagrass sources, we investigated the origin of particulate organic matter in nine mangrove bays around the island of Phuket (Thailand). We used a linear mixing model based on bulk organic carbon, total nitrogen and δ13C and δ15N and found that oceanic sources dominated suspended particulate organic matter samples along the mangrove-seagrass-ocean gradient. Sediment trap samples showed contributions from four sources oceanic, mangrove forest/terrestrial and seagrass beds where oceanic had the strongest contribution and seagrass beds the smallest. Based on ecosystem area, however, the contribution of suspended particulate organic matter derived from seagrass beds was disproportionally high, relative to the entire area occupied by mangrove forests, the catchment area (terrestrial) and seagrass beds. The contribution from mangrove forests was approximately equal to their surface area, whereas terrestrial contributions to suspended organic matter under contributed compared to their relative catchment area. Interestingly, mangrove forest contribution at 0 m on the transects showed a positive relationship with the exposed frontal width of the mangrove, indicating that mangrove forest exposure to hydrodynamic energy may be a controlling factor in mangrove outwelling. However we found no relationship between seagrass bed contribution and any physical factors, which we measured. Our results indicate that although seagrass beds occupy a relatively small area of the coastal zone, their role in the export of organic matter is disproportional and should be considered in coastal management especially with respect to their importance as a nutrient source for other ecosystems and organisms.
The coastal Runnelstone Reef, off southwest Cornwall (UK), is characterised by complex topography and strong tidal flows and is a known high-density site for harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena); a European protected species. Using a multidisciplinary dataset including: porpoise sightings from a multi-year land-based survey, Acoustic Doppler Current Profiling (ADCP), vertical profiling of water properties and high-resolution bathymetry; we investigate how interactions between tidal flow and topography drive the fine-scale porpoise spatio-temporal distribution at the site. Porpoise sightings were distributed non-uniformly within the survey area with highest sighting density recorded in areas with steep slopes and moderate depths. Greater numbers of sightings were recorded during strong westward (ebbing) tidal flows compared to strong eastward (flooding) flows and slack water periods. ADCP and Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) data identified fine-scale hydrodynamic features, associated with cross-reef tidal flows in the sections of the survey area with the highest recorded densities of porpoises. We observed layered, vertically sheared flows that were susceptible to the generation of turbulence by shear instability. Additionally, the intense, oscillatory near surface currents led to hydraulically controlled flow that transitioned from subcritical to supercritical conditions; indicating that highly turbulent and energetic hydraulic jumps were generated along the eastern and western slopes of the reef. The depression and release of isopycnals in the lee of the reef during cross-reef flows revealed that the flow released lee waves during upslope currents at specific phases of the tidal cycle when the highest sighting rates were recorded. The results of this unique, fine-scale field study provide new insights into specific hydrodynamic features, produced through tidal forcing, that may be important for creating predictable foraging opportunities for porpoises at a local scale. Information on the functional mechanisms linking porpoise distribution to static and dynamic physical habitat variables is extremely valuable to the monitoring and management of the species within the context of European conservation policies and marine renewable energy infrastructure development.
IMPAC3 was a milestone in defining actions, in promoting cooperation, and in inspiring new ways of thinking in order to address the ever-increasing complexity of challenges now facing the ocean. Over the duration of the Congress initiatives emerged to protect vulnerable resources and emblematic areas, ranging in size from less than one square kilometre to several million square kilometres. The Congress sought to challenge perceptions through adopting a cultural and economic approach founded around the notion of a ‘blue society’ – alongside the often more frequently referred to ‘blue economy’. The blue society is a philosophical vision for a sustainable ocean that IMPAC 3 referred to as ‘Oceankind’ – a cultural marine concept shared by mankind. Oceankind represents a new paradigm for preservation and management of marine life with the view to maintaining the ocean's integrity. Effective restoration and conservation require the sharing of knowledge and cooperation between relevant stakeholders. To this end, awareness raising and education of all stakeholders offers the potential for reinforcing a sense of common responsibility towards the conservation of the ocean, meeting not only today's needs but those of future generations.
- Most of the people working in the field of marine protection share a common goal: that decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public should see marine protection as a priority and dedicate a portion of their attention and resources to it, making decisions and taking actions that reflect the value of marine protection to ecological and human well-being.
- If this goal is to be achieved, the field of marine protection needs to embrace the field of communication in a more concerted manner.
- This paper outlines some of the latest trends, principles and issues relevant to communication in marine protection and illustrates these with a range of examples. Some of the key themes emerging from this review are discussed.
- A number of strategies for strengthening the role of communications are discussed, including means for those involved in marine protection communications to connect with each other, increased testing and sharing of examples, the use of grounded theory methods to continuously define lessons and principles, and ways to increase coordination between marine protection organizations.
- It is the intention that this paper will mark the beginning of a stronger cross-disciplinary field of study, and that such a field will in turn advance marine protection locally and globally.
- Readers can contribute to this goal and emerging field by connecting with each other around strategies, ideas and examples.
- Long-term and well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) can, under the right circumstances, contribute to biodiversity conservation and fisheries management, thus contributing to food security and sustainable livelihoods.
- This article emphasizes (1) the potential utility of MPAs as a fisheries management tool, (2) the costs and benefits of MPAs for fishing communities, and (3) the foundations of good governance and management processes for creating effective MPAs with a dual fisheries and conservation mandate.
- This article highlights case studies from numerous regions of the world that demonstrate practical and often successful solutions in bridging the divide between MPA management and fisheries sustainability, with a focus on small-scale coastal fisheries in order to emphasize lessons learned.
- To be an effective fisheries management tool, MPAs should be embedded in broader fisheries management and conservation plans. MPAs are unlikely to generate benefits if implemented in isolation. The spatial and temporal distribution of benefits and costs needs to be taken into account since proximal fishery-dependent communities may experience higher fishing costs over the short and long-term while the fisheries benefits from MPAs may only accrue over the long-term.
- Key lessons for effectively bridging the divide between biodiversity conservation and fisheries sustainability goals in the context of MPAs include: creating spaces and processes for engagement, incorporating fisheries in MPA design and MPAs into fisheries management, engaging fishers in management, recognizing rights and tenure, coordinating between agencies and clarifying roles, combining no-take-areas with other fisheries management actions, addressing the balance of costs and benefits to fishers, making a long-term commitment, creating a collaborative network of stakeholders, taking multiple pressures into account, managing adaptively, recognizing and addressing trade-offs, and matching good governance with effective management and enforcement.
- Marine ecosystems provide critically important goods and services to society, and hence their accelerated degradation underpins an urgent need to take rapid, ambitious and informed decisions regarding their conservation and management.
- The capacity, however, to generate the detailed field data required to inform conservation planning at appropriate scales is limited by time and resource consuming methods for collecting and analysing field data at the large scales required.
- The ‘Catlin Seaview Survey’, described here, introduces a novel framework for large-scale monitoring of coral reefs using high-definition underwater imagery collected using customized underwater vehicles in combination with computer vision and machine learning. This enables quantitative and geo-referenced outputs of coral reef features such as habitat types, benthic composition, and structural complexity (rugosity) to be generated across multiple kilometre-scale transects with a spatial resolution ranging from 2 to 6 m2.
- The novel application of technology described here has enormous potential to contribute to our understanding of coral reefs and associated impacts by underpinning management decisions with kilometre-scale measurements of reef health.
- Imagery datasets from an initial survey of 500 km of seascape are freely available through an online tool called the Catlin Global Reef Record. Outputs from the image analysis using the technologies described here will be updated on the online repository as work progresses on each dataset.
- Case studies illustrate the utility of outputs as well as their potential to link to information from remote sensing. The potential implications of the innovative technologies on marine resource management and conservation are also discussed, along with the accuracy and efficiency of the methodologies deployed.
- This paper explores how criteria to identify important marine mammal areas (IMMAs) could be developed, and nested in existing global criteria. This process would consider 134 species of marine mammals.
- Particular attention is given to two suites of global criteria to identify areas important for the persistence of marine biodiversity: Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) developed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in revision through the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are seen as mutually complementary in the development of IMMAs.
- The specificities necessary for identifying important areas at scales below the global level may vary according to the region, the biophysical requirements of distinct populations, and available data. Refining and testing the applicability of these global criteria on marine mammals at both regional and national scales will be necessary.
- Combining area-based measures with non-spatial management actions will likely be the optimal approach for ensuring marine mammal persistence given their highly migratory nature and widespread life-history stages.
- Capacity to enact IMMAs is strengthened by the existence of professional marine mammal associations and networks, and the recently formed IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force (MMPATF). The MMPATF is planning further development of IMMA criteria through joint work with the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA).
- The paper comprises recommendations presented and discussed at several workshops of the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (Marseille, France, 21–27, October, 2013) to achieve effective management of marine protected areas in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.
- It highlights the similarities but also differences between the two areas as a result of their distinct biogeographic and cultural characteristics.
- The biophysical setting, socioeconomic scenario and issues related to marine protected areas in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas are summarized and case studies from both regions are presented that illustrate the level of success thus far achieved by MPAs.
- Factors contributing to MPA success are related to ecological conditions, the involvement of stakeholders in decision-making processes, and to better governance, as well as improved communication and training.
- The SPAW and SPA regional environmental agreements administered by the UNEP Regional Seas Programmes in collaboration with government and non-government partners and the MPA managers' networks have provided technical assistance that has led to improved management.
- The experience of the last 3 years of contacts between both regional networks of MPA scientists and practitioners (i.e. MedPAN and CaMPAM) highlights the benefits of such an initiative and suggests the need to develop a robust transoceanic Exchange Programme to facilitate knowledge transfer.
- Five case studies from around the world illustrate key lessons in integrating top-down and bottom-up approaches to stakeholder and community engagement in the planning and implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs).
- Community resistance to MPA proposals from centralized agencies can be addressed through effective participatory processes with consistent engagement over time, transparency, and the incorporation of benefits for communities.
- Indigenous communities in particular are becoming key actors of some conservation initiatives (e.g. MPAs) and recognition of their inherent rights, traditional knowledge and deep connections to the marine environment can become the foundations for collaborative management of MPAs.
- True participation requires empowerment for engagement, and this in turn requires education and capacity building for local people to get involved in the process of planning, implementing, and managing MPAs.
- How bottom-up and top-down approaches are used should consider the scale of the MPA (e.g. small vs. large), the geographic scenario (e.g. coastal vs. remote), the level of anthropogenic influence, the conservation objectives (e.g. species, habitats, ecosystems), the political and governance context, and specific cultural conditions, such as the presence of indigenous communities.
- Migratory marine species (MMS) include many of the world's most charismatic organisms such as marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, sharks, and tuna. Many are now among the most threatened due to the diverse range of pressures they encounter during their extensive movements. This paper shows that 21% of MMS are classified as threatened (i.e. categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable). Sea turtles are the most threatened group (85%), followed by seabirds (27%), cartilaginous fish (26%), marine mammals (15%) and bony fish (11%). Taken together 48% of MMS are threatened, Near Threatened or Data Deficient.
- As well as being threatened they share in common being wide-ranging animals, travelling through the waters of multiple nations as well as in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) during different times of the year. This makes their conservation a challenge, requiring coordinated action by many nations, international organizations, Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and other stakeholders if their populations are to recover to healthy levels and be safeguarded into the future.
- Even though they are wide-ranging, long-term studies reveal considerable site fidelity and well-defined habitats for many species and areas. These sites are prime candidates for enhanced management such as via Marine Protect Area (MPA) designations. However, existing management frameworks do not yet contribute sufficiently to MMS conservation, MPA networks need to be expanded to capture key areas, in many cases through the application of new dynamic management techniques such as time area closures.
- Data on the distribution, abundance, behaviours and threats faced by many MMS are now available. These data should be used to inform the design of effective management regimes, such as MPAs, both within and beyond national jurisdictions. MEAs should ensure a full complement of MMS are included within species listings, and encourage further action to safeguard their populations.
- Connectivity is a crucial process underpinning the persistence, recovery, and productivity of marine ecosystems. The Convention on Biological Diversity, through the Aichi Target 11, has set the ambitious objective of implementing a ‘well connected system of protected areas’ by 2020.
- This paper identifies eight challenges toward the integration of connectivity into MPA network management and planning. A summary table lists the main recommendations in terms of method, tool, advice, or action to address each of these challenges. Authors belong to a science–management continuum including researchers, international NGO officers, and national MPA agency members.
- Three knowledge challenges are addressed: selecting and integrating connectivity measurement metrics; assessing the accuracy and uncertainty of connectivity measurements; and communicating and visualizing connectivity measurements.
- Three management challenges are described: integrating connectivity into the planning and management of MPA networks; setting quantitative connectivity targets; and implementing connectivity-based management across scales and marine jurisdictions.
- Finally, two paths toward a better integration of connectivity science with MPA management are proposed: setting management-driven priorities for connectivity research, bridging connectivity science, and MPA network management.
- There is no single method to integrate connectivity into marine spatial planning. Rather, an array of methods can be assembled according to the MPA network objectives, budget, available skills, data, and timeframe.
- Overall, setting up ‘boundary organizations’ should be promoted to organize complex cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdiction interactions that are needed between scientists, managers, stakeholders and decision-makers to make informed decision regarding connectivity-based MPA planning and management.
- Regional approaches to protecting the marine environment have gathered momentum over the past 40 years. Pioneered by UNEP's Regional Seas Programme, such approaches have broadened their remit from pollution prevention to the conservation of biodiversity, promoting management tools such as networks of marine protected areas (MPAs).
- Formal intergovernmental approaches are increasingly complemented by a range of regional projects committed to ambitious targets to establish MPAs and Local Marine Managed Areas (LMMAs). These regional efforts have been inspired by political leaders, non-governmental organizations, coastal communities and committed individuals.
- Regional networks of MPA managers have drawn together professionals to share good practice and further develop management tools. They focus on partnerships and capacity building opportunities with support from international donors and implementing agencies.
- Collective ecosystem-based management delivered using a regional approach is identified as a preferred solution to environmental challenges in polar regions. Crossing boundaries and fostering regional synergies can help ensure ecologically coherent regional networks and support resilience. There is also the potential to reap tangible rewards from applying such a regional approach in many other areas.
- Regional coherence of MPA network design, compliance and enforcement policies, and information sharing is an optimal way to understand and counter commercial and industrial resource extraction forces actively working against sustainable development.
- The World Heritage Convention provides the potential for a comprehensive policy framework that allows for identification, management, governance, and protection of the world ́s most outstanding natural marine areas.
- Benefits of World Heritage (WH) listing include increased international attention and technical cooperation, governmental support and improvements to management, and enhanced funding opportunities.
- There are currently only 46 (of 981 or 4.7%) World Heritage Sites (WHS) that have been inscribed for their outstanding marine values, and these marine WHS (mWHS) represent predominantly tropical as opposed to temperate and polar ecosystems.
- Forty-seven (76%) of the world's 62 nearshore biogeographic provinces do not contain any mWHS or contain a low (<1%) coverage that is unlikely to capture the full range of values and features present in these provinces. A large proportion of the world's offshore provinces, representing 40% of the global ocean, do not contain any mWHS.
- To fulfill the World Heritage Committee's Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List, States are encouraged to increase efforts to identify and nominate marine sites of potential Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), especially in biogeographic regions that are not yet represented, or underrepresented, on the WH List.
- However, as the criteria and guidance for the Convention are based primarily on terrestrial systems, further guidance on using them in the marine context is provided here. It is proposed that physical oceanographic features be considered under criterion (viii) ‘geology and oceanography’, while biological oceanographic features be considered under criterion (ix) ‘ecological and biological processes’. Use of criteria (vii) ‘superlative phenomena’ and (x) ‘species’ can follow current guidance for terrestrial systems.
- Potential approaches that can help address gaps in biogeographic representation of marine WHS and create a more balanced and representative marine World Heritage List are outlined here.
- Creating representative networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) as part of an ecosystem-based management approach is generally advocated to protect the full spectrum of marine ecosystems and vulnerable species. Core objectives for designing MPA networks incorporate issues of scale, size and spacing. Ascertaining when such objectives have been met, and thus when a network can be judged to be ecologically coherent, presents an ongoing challenge. This paper presents a broad-scale approach to assess the degree of ecological coherence within one such network.
- In 2013 an independent ecological coherence assessment was requested by OSPAR, the Regional Seas Convention for the North-east Atlantic, of the ecological coherence of its regional MPA network. As is often the case in the marine environment, the data were not sufficiently comprehensive or spatially inclusive to allow for a thorough assessment for the entire region. Consequently two levels of testing were applied: (1) basic tests applied to the whole OSPAR maritime area; and (2) a more sophisticated second level of tests directed at specific OSPAR regions and subregions for which more complete datasets were available. The former considered major gaps based on basic distribution thresholds and representativity (both biogeographic and bathymetric). The latter focused on broad-scale habitat presence to determine replication, adequacy and connectivity.
- On the basis of these tests it was concluded that while the OSPAR MPA network as a whole is not ecologically coherent, nonetheless significant progress towards global targets, such as protection of 10% of marine and coastal environments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been made. Gaps in the distribution of MPAs were identified, particularly under-representation of certain biogeographic provinces and bathymetric zones of depths greater than 75 m including bathyal (200–3000 m) and abyssal (3000–6000 m) depths.
- To address such gaps, a cooperative region by region approach will be required by the OSPAR Parties to identify where positioning new MPAs can enhance ecological coherence.
- A limitation of the 2013 assessment was that it did not consider which MPAs are designated and managed for the protection of specific features; rather, it assumed that all features that fall within an MPA are protected. With a redevelopment of the OSPAR MPA database underway it is hoped that reporting of such details by Parties will improve, allowing for more specificity in future analyses. However, as the first such assessment of its kind our two-level approach serves as a case study of a pragmatic example of how assessments of ecologically coherent networks might be undertaken using GIS to contribute to systematic conservation planning.