New study suggests over 17,000 marine species are unprotected at the global level, with marine protected areas (MPAs) covering only minimal swaths of habitat.
The study, an international collaborative effort including scientists from the Australian Research Council Center for Excellence for Environmental Decisions, the University of Queensland, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Imperial College London as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society, is published in the Scientific Reports journal.
With valuable scientific input, the new study suggests over 17,000 marine species are unprotected currently. The U.S. ranks low on supporting sufficient marine protected areas enabling a safe habitat for these species and a future for marine biodiversity.
More specifically, the research team looked at 17,348 marine species and classified them according to their habitat range. Whales, fish species, sharks and rays alike were included in the study. Overall, the researchers found that 97.4 percent of the marine species considered in the study have under 10 percent of the range included in marine protected areas. Brazil, the U.S. and Canada were found to be home to marine species the habitat of which is fully unrepresented in marine protected areas.
The new study offers a departure point for improvements under the Convention on Biological Diversity. One of the goals envisioned in the Convention states that 10 percent of marine biodiversity should be protected by 2020. Overall, the marine species that had less than 2 percent of their range represented by marine protected areas are located in exclusive economic zones.
This alone signals the crucial role that individual states and regional organizations play in protecting marine biodiversity. According to Doctor Carissa Klein with the University of Queensland as well as the Australian Research Council Center for Excellence for Environmental Decisions and lead author on the study, establishing marine protected areas should not be taken trivially.
There marine areas are a guarantee of several species’ livelihood as well as a stepping stone for protecting marine biodiversity. The new study should guide authorities in the sense of creating more MPAs in a strategic and synergistic manner. A synergistic approach to achieving one of the main goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity should take into consideration other marine protected areas already established, the costs of implementing policies and regulation for protecting marine biodiversity as well as feasibility reports.
The study acknowledges the importance of the already established marine protected areas. Nonetheless, the researchers have stated that while their impact is certainly felt, it may be misleading. The already established MPAs are large areas and due to their sheer size, they may shadow the fact that not all the species are included in them.
Photo Credits: Flickr