Miss Isabel García-Barón1, Dr Maite Louzao1, Dr M. Begoña Santos2
1AZTI Foundation, Donostia, Spain, 2Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), Vigo, Spain
As threats to biodiversity increase, conservation managers require increasingly sophisticated tools for decision-making; above all, ways to prioritize conservation actions that are efficient, accountable and transparent. Typically, the design of Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks has been focused on sessile organisms but in recent times the application of MPAs also encompass highly-mobile species, such as seabirds or cetaceans. However, obtaining accurate spatial abundance predictions of highly-mobile species requires more than one year of data. Monitoring programmes, such as oceanographic surveys, are being used increasingly to assess spatial and temporal trends of biological diversity. However, the costs and logistics involved in developing these programmes difficult the gathering of time-series data. This work aims to explore whether priority areas for the conservation of the species remain consistent regardless of the time period that our ecological and threats-related data covered. Within this framework, we used data on oceanographic surveys, which are carried out over the Bay of Biscay (BoB). Here, cetacean and seabird sightings are recorded, and their abundance and distribution estimated based on Distance Sampling methodology. Then, using the decision-support tool Marxan we developed several conservation plans, for each of which we used data that covered different time periods and where fishing effort was included as a proxy to predator-fishery interactions. Our study contributes to the identification of important candidate areas for protection in the BoB and could help design reserve networks considering data collection constraints. This work is one of the first analysing the value of time-series for spatial conservation planning.
Isabel García-Barón has a BSc in Environmental Science (University of León) and MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology (Pablo de Olavide University – CSIC). Currently, she is a PhD student in AZTI Foundation (Spain) funding by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Her research focuses on ecological spatial modelling, systematic conservation planning, the identification and study of anthropogenic threats and their applications in biodiversity and conservation management in marine ecosystems.