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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 2;6(2):e16552. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016552.

Accommodating dynamic oceanographic processes and pelagic biodiversity in marine conservation planning.

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  • 1The Ecology Centre and Centre for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia.


Pelagic ecosystems support a significant and vital component of the ocean's productivity and biodiversity. They are also heavily exploited and, as a result, are the focus of numerous spatial planning initiatives. Over the past decade, there has been increasing enthusiasm for protected areas as a tool for pelagic conservation, however, few have been implemented. Here we demonstrate an approach to plan protected areas that address the physical and biological dynamics typical of the pelagic realm. Specifically, we provide an example of an approach to planning protected areas that integrates pelagic and benthic conservation in the southern Benguela and Agulhas Bank ecosystems off South Africa. Our aim was to represent species of importance to fisheries and species of conservation concern within protected areas. In addition to representation, we ensured that protected areas were designed to consider pelagic dynamics, characterized from time-series data on key oceanographic processes, together with data on the abundance of small pelagic fishes. We found that, to have the highest likelihood of reaching conservation targets, protected area selection should be based on time-specific data rather than data averaged across time. More generally, we argue that innovative methods are needed to conserve ephemeral and dynamic pelagic biodiversity.

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