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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 513:187-199 (2014)  -  DOI:

Assessing hotspots within hotspots to conserve biodiversity and support fisheries management

Mara Schmiing*, Hugo Diogo, Ricardo Serrão Santos, Pedro Afonso

Centre of IMAR/Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of the Azores, LARSyS—Associated Laboratory, Rua Prof. Doutor Frederico Machado 4, 9901-862 Horta (Azores), Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The decline of marine biodiversity can negatively affect the ocean’s resilience, goods and services. Consequently, the identification and protection of biodiversity hotspots is often a priority in marine spatial planning. Marine protected areas (MPAs) can also be designated as fisheries management tools to promote sustainable fisheries. However, the integration of fisheries and  biodiversity objectives is still the cause of much debate, and challenging to achieve in a simple, straightforward manner. In this study, generalised additive models of (1) various biodiversity indices and (2) an intrinsic vulnerability index of fishes to fishing were applied to produce predictive maps to identify hotspots of biodiversity and fisheries vulnerability, respectively, and combined hotspots of both parameters for shallow coastal fish assemblages surrounding 2 islands in the Azores archipelago, northeast Atlantic Ocean. Individually, hotspots of biodiversity and vulnerability covered up to half of the study area and were quantitatively well represented in the existing MPA network. Although similar levels of representativeness were found for shared hotspots that included both criteria, more importantly, they were substantially smaller than individual hotspots, highlighting the importance of their complete protection to ensure the ecological functioning of multi-objective MPAs. This case study demonstrates a novel use of a fish vulnerability index in support of marine spatial planning. It can be combined with biodiversity patterns that alone may not represent well the areas of higher need for conservation. MPA design and adaptive management processes may use this straightforward approach to identify hotspots within larger areas of high conservation value, especially in data-limited situations that may benefit from predictive modelling.

KEY WORDS: Intrinsic vulnerability index · Predictive model · Distribution patterns · Marine protected area · Generalised additive model · GAM · Azores

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Cite this article as: Schmiing M, Diogo H, Santos RS, Afonso P (2014) Assessing hotspots within hotspots to conserve biodiversity and support fisheries management. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 513:187-199.

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