University Of Tasmania

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Mapping species richness and human impact drivers to inform global pelagic conservation prioritisation

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 11:51 authored by Rowan TrebilcoRowan Trebilco, Halpern, BS, Mills Flemming, J, Field, C, Blanchard, W, Worm, B
Given the widely recognized need to better protect the oceans but limited resources to do so, methods for prioritizing potential protected area sites are important. This is particularly true for the open oceans, where few protected areas currently exist and data availability is limited. Here, we examine the relationship between the distributions of tuna and billfish species richness (an indicator of pelagic biodiversity), the human impact drivers of fishing pressure (quantified as cumulative removals) and sea surface temperature increase (quantified as the increase in large positive anomalies) in tropical to temperate oceans at the scale of a 5° × 5° grid. We investigate relationships using Generalised Additive Models and Regression Tree analysis, and identify the top 50 “hotspot” cells for species richness and each of the two impact drivers. We find that both impact drivers significantly overlap with high species richness, but relationships are complex, non-linear and ocean-basin specific. Higher fishing pressure is associated with higher species richness in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and this overlap is particularly prominent in the central Pacific, and in the Indian Ocean around Sri Lanka. In the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, species richness is generally higher in areas that have seen lower levels of change in sea surface temperature and only one cell, near Easter Island, is a hotspot for species richness and sea surface temperature increase. While species richness and impact drivers overlap in some areas, there are many areas with high species richness and limited apparent impact. This suggests that area-based conservation strategies that aim to protect areas of high pelagic biodiversity may be achievable with limited displacement of fishing effort.


Publication title

Biological Conservation










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Sci Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox5 1Gb

Rights statement

?© 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Rehabilitation or conservation of marine environments