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Ecological coherence of Marine Protected Area networks: A spatial assessment using species distribution models
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Limnology.
2011 (English)In: Journal of Applied Ecology, ISSN 0021-8901, E-ISSN 1365-2664, Vol. 48, no 1, 112-120 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The juvenile stages of fish are often dependent on specific habitat types for their survival. Protecting these habitats may be crucial for maintaining strong adult stocks. The Natura 2000 network of the European Union offers protection of marine habitats that are essential for the recruitment of many fish species. By protecting these critical habitats the network may be important for maintaining the stocks of these fish species. 2.We present a spatially explicit, GIS-based, assessment of two important components of the ecological coherence of Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks: representativity and connectivity. Representativity can be measured as the proportion of each conservation feature that is protected, whereas connectivity assesses the spatial configuration of the network. We apply these analyses to study the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network in a 30 000-km2 archipelago in the Baltic Sea, with respect to a coastal fish assemblage and associated habitats. The analyses are based on fish distribution maps that have been constructed by statistically relating life stage specific occurrence to environmental variables, and thereafter making spatial predictions based on maps of the environmental variables. 3.The map-based analyses show that both the representativity and the connectivity of the network are poor with respect to the studied fish species. In total, 3.5% (11 km2) of the assemblage recruitment habitat was protected and 48% of the potentially connected habitats were included in the MPA network. 4.The assessment explicitly identified geographical areas, visually communicated using maps, where the network should be improved to ensure ecological coherence. 5.Synthesis and applications.Many MPA networks around the world, such as the Natura 2000 network in Europe, have recently come into effect. Establishment of the networks has often been governed by opportunity rather than by strict ecological analyses, primarily because distribution maps of species and habitats have been unavailable. Map-based assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of evolving MPA networks, such as the one presented here, are needed in adaptive management. They can provide an efficient tool for visualising and communicating the results to stakeholders and policy makers in the process of working towards ecological coherence.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 48, no 1, 112-120 p.
Keyword [en]
Baltic Sea, Connectivity, Essential fish habitats, Habitat modelling, Habitats directive, Marine reserves, Natura 2000
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-132619DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01892.xISI: 000286000100014OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-132619DiVA: diva2:358602
Available from: 2010-10-22 Created: 2010-10-22 Last updated: 2011-02-15Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Spatial Modelling of Coastal Fish – Methods and Applications
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Spatial Modelling of Coastal Fish – Methods and Applications
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Environmental factors influence species and habitats on multiple scales creating a mosaic of distribution patterns. Studying factors shaping these patterns are central to our understanding of population dynamics and ultimately ecosystem functioning. Information on the distribution of resources and conservation values are also highly needed in marine management as coastal areas are increasingly influenced by human activities.

In this thesis, large-scale field data is used to explore how strong environmental gradients found on multiple scales in the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea influence fish habitats. The underlying concepts are based in the field of species distribution modelling, whereby habitat maps can be produced using environmental layers in a geographic information system. Distribution modelling is further used to address both ecological and applied questions by examining effects of habitat limitation on fish population sizes and to evaluate management actions aimed at habitat conservation.

I show that specific habitat requirements for fish species of both freshwater and marine origin can be described using environmental variables and that species-environment relationships can be used to predict the distribution of early life-stages of fish in the Baltic Sea archipelagos. Further, predicted habitat availability of a specific life-stage was directly related to adult population size of Eurasian perch Perca fluviatilis, signifying that the abundance of large predatory fish can be limited by specific recruitment habitats. Lastly, by predicting the distribution of an assemblage of coastal fish species and their associated habitats, an assessment of a network of marine protected areas was performed. Results revealed large gaps in the current network and identified areas suitable for future protection. By demonstrating how current habitat protection can be improved by including critical habitats for coastal fish population sizes this thesis points to the benefits of integrating nature conservation and fisheries management.

Based on these findings I conclude that species distribution modelling provides a suitable analytical framework for assessing the habitat requirements of organisms. An increased understanding of habitat-population relationships and an ability to accurately map ecologically important features will be of great value for an ecosystem-based marine management. ­



Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 43 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 779
habitat, niche, species distribution modelling, juvenile, fish, larvae, spawning
National Category
Ecology Natural Sciences Ecology Biological Sciences
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Limnology; Biology with specialization in Animal Ecology; Limnology
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-132620 (URN)978-91-554-7928-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-12-10, Friessalen, Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC), Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18, 752 36 Uppsala, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Felaktigt tryckt som Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology 709Available from: 2010-11-19 Created: 2010-10-22 Last updated: 2011-03-21Bibliographically approved

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