Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 1:56 pm | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 
Advice

New Study Offers Strategic Guidance on Marine Protected Area Placement to Meet Conservation Goals

Found in coral reef habitats, the Hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered species.
Found in coral reef habitats, the Hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered species. (XL Catlin Seaview Survey)
Ben Halpbern Click to view larger
Ben Halpbern (James Badham / UCSB photo)

Thousands of marine species with mapped locations worldwide remain largely unprotected, according to a new study by a team of international marine scientists, including UC Santa Barbara’s Ben Halpern.

The research also shows that the United States ranks near the bottom in terms of supporting formal marine protected areas (MPAs) that could safeguard marine biodiversity.

The first comprehensive assessment of how much coverage MPAs provide for marine life worldwide examined the ranges of 17,348 species with known distributions, including whales, sharks, rays and fish. The findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers found that 97.4 percent of marine species have less than 10 percent of their range represented in MPAs. According to co-author Halpern, these species are likely representative of the protection status of all marine species.

He noted that nations with the largest numbers of “gap species," those whose range lies entirely outside of protected areas, include the U.S., Canada and Brazil.

“The increase in the number of MPAs in recent years is encouraging, but most of this increase has come from a few very large MPAs,” said Halpern, a professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and an associate of the campus’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. 

“Those very large MPAs provide important value, but they can mislead us into thinking that biodiversity is being well protected because of them. Species all around the planet need protection, not just those in some locations," he said. "Our results point out where the protection gaps exist.”

The study’s findings spurred the investigators to outline opportunities for achieving the conservation goal set by the Convention on Biological Diversity of protecting 10 percent of marine biodiversity by 2020.

For example, the majority of species considered very poorly represented (with less than 2 percent of their range in MPAs) are found in exclusive economic zones — ocean areas over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources. This suggests an important role for individual nations in better protecting biodiversity.

“The process of establishing MPAs is not trivial, as they impact livelihoods,” said the study’s lead author, Carissa Klein of the University of Queensland in Australia and a UCSB alumna who earned her master’s degree at the Bren School in 2006. “It is essential that new MPAs protect biodiversity while minimizing negative social and economic impacts. The results of this study offer strategic guidance on where MPAs could be placed to better protect marine biodiversity.”

The study underscores the imperative that new MPAs be systematically identified, taking into account what has already been protected in other places as well as the socioeconomic costs of implementation, the feasibility of success and other aspects of biodiversity such as endemism, species unique to a defined geographic location, and extinction risk. 

“As most marine biodiversity remains extremely poorly represented, the task of implementing an effective network of MPAs is urgent,” noted co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland. “Achieving this goal is imperative not just for nature but also for humanity, as millions of people depend on marine biodiversity for important and valuable services.”

— James Badham writes for the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

 

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.