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Marine protected areas for demersal elasmobranchs in highly exploited Mediterranean ecosystems

AuthorsGiménez, Joan ; Cardador, Laura; Mazor, Tessa; Kark, Salit; Bellido, José M.; Coll, Marta ; Navarro, Joan
Issue DateSep-2020
CitationMarine Environmental Research 160: 105033 (2020)
AbstractMarine ecosystems are complex socio-ecological systems where sustainable solutions can be best gained by satisfying both conservation and socioeconomic demands. Concretely, the Mediterranean Sea is facing a huge demand of resources and marine activities while hosting abundant and unique biodiversity. It is considered an important elasmobranch hotspot where seventy-two elasmobranch species are present in the basin. Despite the recognised importance of elasmobranchs as umbrella species, to date only a small number of marine protected areas have been designated towards their protection. The paucity of spatially-explicit abundance data on elasmobranchs often precludes the designation of these areas to protect these marine predators. Here, we aimed to identify marine areas to protect elasmobranch species by means of a systematic spatial planning approach. We first estimated the spatial distribution of five elasmobranch species (three sharks and two rays) in the western Mediterranean Sea and then applied Marxan decision support tools to find priority marine conservation areas. We found that the five elasmobranchs are distributed in coastal and slope areas of the southern waters of the study area while in the northern region they are abundant in the continental slope and towards offshore waters. Conservation priority areas were identified in the southern part of the western Mediterranean. Adding more complex cost layers and zoning to the analysis did not alter conservation priority areas, confirming such areas are highly consistent and highly important for elasmobranch protection. The marine conservation priority areas identified here can contribute to designate a proactive area-based protection strategy towards elasmobranch conservation, related species and the habitats that they depend in the western Mediterranean Sea
Description10 pages, 5 figures, 2 tables, supplementary data https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2020.105033
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2020.105033
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