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Vulnerable, but still poorly known, marine ecosystems: how to make distribution models more relevant and impactful for conservation and management of VMEs?

Gros, C, Jansen, J ORCID: 0000-0001-5896-365X, Dunstan, PK, Welsford, DC and Hill, NA ORCID: 0000-0001-9329-6717 2022 , 'Vulnerable, but still poorly known, marine ecosystems: how to make distribution models more relevant and impactful for conservation and management of VMEs?' , Frontiers in Marine Science, vol. 9 , pp. 1-12 , doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.870145.

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Abstract

Human activity puts our oceans under multiple stresses, whose impacts are alreadysignificantly affecting biodiversity and physicochemical properties. Consequently, there isan increased international focus on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, includingthe protection of fragile benthic biodiversity hotspots in the deep sea, identified as vulnerablemarine ecosystems (VMEs). International VME risk assessment and conservation efforts arehampered because we largely do not know where VMEs are located. VME distributionmodelling has increasingly been recommended to extend our knowledge beyond sparseobservations. Nevertheless, the adoption of VME distribution models in spatial managementplanning and conservation remains limited. This work critically reviews VME distributionmodelling studies, and recommends promising avenues to make VME models more relevantand impactful for policy and management decision making. First, there is an importantinterplay between the type of VME data used to build models and how the generated mapscan be used in making management decisions, which is often ignored by model-builders.Overall, there is a need for more precise VME data for production of reliable models. Weprovide specific guidelines for seven common applications of VME distribution modelling toimprove the matching between the modelling and the user need. Second, the current criteriato identify VME often rely on subjective thresholds, which limits the transparency,transferability and effective applicability of distribution models in protection measures. Weencourage scientists towards founding their models on: (i) specific and quantitative definitionsof what constitute a VME, (ii) site conservation value assessment in relation to VME multitaxonspatial predictions, and (iii) explicitly mapping vulnerability. Along with the recentincrease in both deep-sea biological and environmental data quality and quantity, thesemodelling recommendations can lead towards more cohesive summaries of VME’s spatialdistributions and their relative vulnerability, which should facilitate a more effective protectionof these ecosystems, as has been mandated by numerous international agreements.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Gros, C and Jansen, J and Dunstan, PK and Welsford, DC and Hill, NA
Keywords: Southern Ocean, vulnerable marine ecosystems, species distribution model, habitat suitability model, marine conservation, environmental impact assessment
Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in Marine Science
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN: 2296-7745
DOI / ID Number: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.870145
Copyright Information:

© 2022. The Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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