Prioritising search effort to locate previously unknown populations of endangered marine reptiles

Udyawer, Vinay, Somaweera, Ruchira, Nitschke, Charlotte, d'Anastasi, Blanche, Sanders, Kate, Webber, Bruce L., Hourston, Mathew, and Heupel, Michelle R. (2020) Prioritising search effort to locate previously unknown populations of endangered marine reptiles. Global Ecology and Conservation, 22. e01013.

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Abstract

Strategies aimed to conserve and manage rare species are often hindered by the lack of data needed for their effective design. Incomplete and inaccurate data on habitat associations and current species distributions pose a barrier to effective conservation and management for several species of endemic sea snakes in Western Australia that are thought to be in decline. Here we used a correlative modelling approach to understand habitat associations and identify suitable habitats for five of these species (Aipysurus apraefrontalis, A. foliosquama, A. fuscus, A. l. pooleorum and A. tenuis). We modelled species-specific habitat suitability across 804,244 km(2) of coastal waters along the North-west Shelf of Western Australia, to prioritise future survey regions to locate unknown populations of these rare species. Model projections were also used to quantify the effectiveness of current spatial management strategies (Marine Protected Areas) in conserving important habitats for these species. Species-specific models matched well with the records on which they were trained, and identified additional regions of suitability without records. Subsequent field validation of the model projections uncovered a previously unknown locality for A. fuscus within the mid-shelf shoal region, outside its currently recognised global range. Defining accurate geographic distributions for rare species is a vital first step in defining more robust extent of species occurrence and range overlap with threatening processes.

Item ID: 64889
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2351-9894
Keywords: Conservation prioritisation, MaxEnt, Habitat suitability, Environmental correlates, Marine protected areas, Hydrophiinae, Marine snake, Range expansion
Copyright Information: © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC-BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Funders: National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Marine Biodiversity Hub
Projects and Grants: NESP Project A8
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2020 07:30
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 100%
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