Incorporating seascape connectivity in conservation prioritisation

Weeks, Rebecca (2017) Incorporating seascape connectivity in conservation prioritisation. PLoS One, 12 (7). e0182396.

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In conservation prioritisation, it is often implicit that representation targets for individual habitat types act as surrogates for the species that inhabit them. Yet for many commercially and ecologically important coral reef fish species, connectivity among different habitats in a seascape may be more important than any single habitat alone. Approaches to conservation prioritisation that consider seascape connectivity are thus warranted. I demonstrate an approach that can be implemented within a relatively data-poor context, using widely available conservation planning software. Based on clearly stated assumptions regarding species' habitat usage and movement ability, this approach can be adapted to different focal species and contexts, or refined as further data become available. I first derive a seascape connectivity metric based on area-weighted proximity between juvenile and adult habitat patches, and then apply this during spatial prioritisation using the decision-support software Marxan. Using a case study from Micronesia, I present two applications: first, to inform prioritisation for a network of marine protected areas to achieve regional objectives for habitat representation; and second, to identify nursery habitat patches that are most likely to supply juveniles to adult populations on reefs within existing protected areas. Incorporating seascape connectivity in conservation prioritisation highlights areas where small marine protected areas placed on coral reefs might benefit from proximity to other habitats in the seascape, and thus be more effective. Within the context of community tenure over resources, identification of critical nursery habitats to improve the effectiveness of existing marine protected areas indicates where collaboration across community boundaries might be required. Outputs from these analyses are likely to be most useful in regions where management is highly decentralised, imposing spatial constraints on the size of individual protected areas.

Item ID: 50367
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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Copyright: © 2017 Rebecca Weeks. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 08:19
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 80%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 50%
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