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Global marine protected areas to prevent extinctions


One goal of global marine protected areas (MPAs) is to ensure they represent a breadth of taxonomic biodiversity. Ensuring representation of species in MPAs, however, would require protecting vast areas of the global oceans and does not explicitly prioritize species of conservation concern. When threatened species are considered, a recent study found that only a small fraction of their geographic ranges are within the global MPA network. Which global marine areas, and what conservation actions beyond MPAs could be prioritized to prevent marine extinctions (Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 12), remains unknown. Here, we use systematic conservation planning approaches to prioritize conservation actions for sharks, rays and chimaeras (class Chondrichthyes). We use chondrichthyans as they have the highest proportion of threatened species of any marine class. We find that expanding the MPA network by 3% in 70 nations would cover half of the geographic range of 99 imperilled endemic chondrichthyans. Our hotspot analysis reveals that just 12 nations harbour more than half (53) of the imperilled endemics. Four of these hotspot nations are within the top ten chondrichthyan fishing nations in the world, but are yet to implement basic chondrichthyan fisheries management. Given their geopolitical realities, conservation action for some countries will require relief and reorganization to enable sustainable fisheries and species protection.

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Figure 1: Representation of the most imperilled and endemic chondrich­thyans in the world’s MPAs.
Figure 2: Spatial conservation options for two systematic conservation planning approaches.
Figure 3: Fisheries management and conservation needs beyond MPAs.
Figure 4: Priority countries, conservation likelihood, and the presence and strength of the chondrichthyan management.


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We thank all of the IUCN SSG members and all additional experts who have contributed data and their expertise to IUCN Red List assessments. We also thank I. Côté, M. Krawchuk, J. Brogan, J. Bigman, S.V. Fordham (Shark Advocates International), A. Kissel, J. Lawson, C. Mull, R. Murray, S. Pardo, W. Stein, R. Walls, past Dulvy Lab members and Earth to Ocean Research Group. This project was funded by the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada Research Chairs Program, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Disney Conservation Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

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L.N.K.D. and N.K.D. conceived the project, designed the study, analysed the data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lindsay N. K. Davidson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Davidson, L., Dulvy, N. Global marine protected areas to prevent extinctions. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0040 (2017).

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